Former White House spokesman Bill Burton, co-founder of the Priorities USA Action super-political action committee that is devoted to helping re-elect President Barack Obama, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that the group raised more than $6 million in June, its best month yet.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the show with Bill Burton, co-founder of Priorities USA, a super PAC supporting President Obama. Bill, thank you for being with us.
BILL BURTON: Thank you, Al.
HUNT: A couple months ago, the Wall Street Journal said you were a bust. The New York Times magazine last weekend said, no, you’ve turned it all around. How much money have you raised? And how much money did you raise last month?
BURTON: Well, last month, we raised over $6 million, which is about $2 million more than we raised the month before, which was $2 million more than we’d raised the month before.
HUNT: So, so far, you’ve raised, what, about $20 million, over $20 million?
BURTON: Over $20 million. Over $20 million. And there’s actually another $20 million in commitments that are slowly rolling in, which is very helpful.
HUNT: So you have at least $40 million-plus in commitments.
BURTON: That’s right.
HUNT: What do you think you reasonably can expect to raise and spend over the next four months?
BURTON: Well, I think even more important than the number of what we’re going to raise and spend is how we spend it. If you look at what we’ve done over the course of the last six or seven weeks -
BURTON: - we’ve spent $10 million, $10 million talking about Mitt Romney’s career in business. It’s one of the only things that’s actually moved numbers in this race. You look at any public poll, any private poll, the focus groups, they all say that. What was supposed to be Mitt Romney’s biggest asset, his experience in business, has actually become one of his biggest liabilities.
HUNT: So you’re being effective. Any - any big donors that have come in that are going to be publicly identified?
HUNT: Any multi-million donors come in last month?
BURTON: Yeah, we did. We got a couple.
HUNT: Who? Who?
BURTON: Well, there’s Irwin and Joan Jacobs, who gave us $2 million, which was very helpful and went toward what our take was. I don’t want to give all the news from our -
HUNT: Oh, go ahead.
BURTON: - FEC filings too soon, but, you know, I think that people are really engaged in this race. And what they like about us is that, even though we’re not spending as much as some of the other folks, we’re really making a difference.
HUNT: Well, there’s been a change then, because Democrats said they don’t super PACs, they don’t like the system, they weren’t going to give, Obama didn’t take care of them. Do you think that mood has changed and that’s going to make it easier in the months ahead?
BURTON: Well, the other issue was that people didn’t think that Mitt Romney could possibly beat President Obama. They just looked at him and the juggernaut of Rick Santorum that he was able to stop in the Republican primary, and they thought there’s no way this guy can beat President Obama.
HUNT: Now people are a little bit scared?
BURTON: People look at the polls, and they see this is a tight race. And I think that they’re concerned about the hundreds of millions of dollars that’s coming in from the right in this election.
HUNT: Can you make $100 million by November?
BURTON: That’s our goal, and, yeah.
HUNT: And you think you’ll achieve it?
BURTON: I do.
HUNT: The Senate’s going to vote next week on something called the DISCLOSE Act, which would require all contributions be made public. Do you support that?
HUNT: Well, then -
BURTON: We all support reform in super PACs.
HUNT: But you have another, a 501(c)(4), which doesn’t disclose any of its donors. They can get - and you’ve served President Obama, who said he’s going to have the most open and transparent administration and campaign ever. How can you justify not disclosing donors?
BURTON: You know, I would say that there’s a lot more rules than just the disclosure requirements, or lack thereof, that we disagree with. But the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United that corporations and individuals could give unlimited sums, could engage in this race in ways that they’ve never done before, without even disclosing their names. We think that’s all wrong.
But to paraphrase Don Rumsfeld, you go to the election with the rules that you have, not all the rules you wish you had.
HUNT: No, but, first of all, the court ruled 8-1 in that. It was pro-disclosure. So the court said, in the Citizens United, you can disclose. And my question to you is not what the legalities of the FEC said, but you were the most - you worked for the most transparent, open administration - Barack Obama didn’t say, “I’ll only be transparent if others are transparent.” Why don’t you guys on the 40th anniversary of Watergate, spawned by secret money, why don’t you set an example and disclose all of your funds?
BURTON: You know, we don’t even think that groups like this should exist. So we engaged in this because Karl Rove, when me and Sean Sweeney, who I left the White House with in February of last year, Karl Rove said that he was going to raise and spend $120 million in this election. The Koch brothers said that they were going to cut a check for $88 million. Now Karl Rove says he’s going to raise and spend over $300 million, the Koch brothers are going to raise and spend $400 million. There’s going to be, besides that, other groups, $1 billion in outside money.
HUNT: And we’re not going to get any disclosure?
BURTON: Well, my thought is that, why would we give Karl Rove and the Koch brothers any advantages that they don’t already have from Wall Street, from the energy industry, the oil companies? We think that if - if we’re going to play by rules that we didn’t pick and we may not like, we’re not going to give any advantages to Karl Rove at all.
HUNT: OK. One more question about that. To have that 501(c)(4) by law, 51 percent of it has to go to social welfare. What’s your social welfare?
BURTON: It’s advancing an agenda for the middle class. And if you look at the things that we’ve done in the 501(c)(4), it’s been on tax policy, it’s been on education policy, it’s been on things that have a real impact on the middle class.
HUNT: Well, let me ask you about some of those ads that as you pointed out have been very effective, and I think almost everyone recognizes that. One of your ads criticizes Bain and Romney for buying GST Steel, I think is the name. Bain bought it in 1993. They did lay off workers. And then in 2001, it filed for bankruptcy, as your ad points out. But when Bain bought the company, it was about to close down, and they didn’t go bankrupt until Romney had - had left an active role in Bain. Isn’t that ad misleading?
BURTON: GS Steel is actually a great example of what Mitt Romney did when he was at Bain, because actually when they took over GS Steel, GS Steel was actually doing pretty well, in an economy where other companies like it weren’t doing -
HUNT: But wasn’t Aramco about to close it down?
BURTON: No, not - other companies weren’t doing as well as GS Steel was. But what Bain did - and with Mitt Romney at the helm - was loaded it up with debt until it could no longer sustain what was happening. And then it got shut down. Promises that were made to workers on their health care benefits were broken, on their pension benefits were broken, so taxpayers had to pick up the tab, and all those workers were fired.
And so, you know, Mitt Romney says that he’s proud of his experience in - in business and that’s what would make him a better president, but he hasn’t done a particularly good job of telling the American people, what is it about it that actually makes it an asset and not the liability that other people think it is?
HUNT: All right. Well, let me - let me try one more ad, the outsourcing ad, all those jobs that were shipped overseas.
BURTON: From the campaign ad, right.
HUNT: Yeah. Yeah, but you guys have seized on that, too.
HUNT: But those outsourcing took place after 1999, when Romney went to the Olympics. Now, he had an interest in Bain still, but do you have any proof that he was involved in any of those actual decisions to send jobs overseas?
BURTON: Here’s what we have proof of, is that he was the CEO, the chairman, and the sole shareholder of Bain, right up until 2001, 2002, so Bloomberg’s own reporting shows that. The SEC filings have his name on it, have his signature on it -
HUNT: Do you think -
BURTON: - and show that -
HUNT: Do you think he was involved in those decisions to outsource?
BURTON: I think if you’re the CEO and chairman, you’re responsible for the decisions that are made by your company. And at the time, his company was helping to advise people how they ship jobs to Mexico and China in order to save money.
HUNT: So you think he was involved in those decisions?
BURTON: I think that - I think that he’s responsible for those decisions. I - I wasn’t there. I don’t know exactly what he was doing day in, day out, but all reports say that he was actively involved in all the things that Bain was doing. And one of the things that they were doing, under his stewardship, was helping people ship jobs overseas.
HUNT: You’re perfectly allowed by law to use people from the administration, to use people from the Obama campaign to help you raise money. The other side does it, too. David Plouffe, I think, has already helped you. Are you going to get other people to help you from the Obama campaign or administration?
BURTON: I assume so. I think that we have had what has been a pretty -
HUNT: Do you expect any Cabinet members to help you?
BURTON: You know, I saw the announcement that they were available for help, and so I don’t see why that wouldn’t be the case. So, you know, we’ve had a pretty robust schedule of, you know, David Plouffe and Jim Messina helping to lend some urgency to the issue of the impact outside groups can have. And, you know, we’re going to continue to do that through the election.
HUNT: How about Bill Clinton? Is Bill Clinton raising any money for you?
BURTON: He has said that he will be helpful. And so, you know, we assume that that’s the case, as well.
HUNT: He hasn’t done anything yet?
BURTON: No, not yet.
HUNT: Will he actually go to a fundraiser for you?
BURTON: I think that’s a question for Bill Clinton.
HUNT: Would you like him to?
BURTON: Oh, sure. We’d love for everybody to do it. We’d love for you to do it. We’d love for, you know, a wide variety of folks to -
HUNT: You wouldn’t draw any money, and I couldn’t do it anyway. But you - but you expect Bill Clinton to be actively involved in - in Priorities’ fundraising?
BURTON: I think it’s very important to him that President Obama is re-elected. And I assume that he’s going to do everything he can to -
HUNT: So I take that as a yes. Bill Burton, thank you so much for joining us. And the only regret I have is you didn’t bring your son with you.
BURTON: Thanks, Al.
HUNT: Thank you very much.
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