Democrats Blasted Karl Rove's Fundraising Group, Now Launch One Like It

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Six months ago, Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton demanded that a "bright light" be shined "on the shadowy activity" of Republican fundraising groups such as Karl Rove's American Crossroads, which helped direct millions in anonymous political donations to targeted congressional races.

"The President thinks that if you're going to participate in politics, you ought to be transparent about it," Burton told reporters traveling on Air Force One.

Today, having departed the White House, Burton formally announced his role in a new fundraising group, Priorities USA, which will in many respects be modeled after American Crossroads, and will provide donors the option of giving money without having to be identified publicly.

The emergence of the group is not a surprise -- Democrats knew they would be facing the potential of an even more robust effort from American Crossroads in 2012, and Congress has yet to respond to recent rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court that have opened this new avenue for wealthy donors, corporations, and unions to participate in politics.

But given the ferocity with which President Obama and Democrats in Congress objected to this new fundraising landscape, they are now being forced to explain how they could join a system they found so repugnant. American Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio was among the first to accuse the president of "brazen hypocrisy."

"Obama's brazen hypocrisy, in encouraging his own operatives to start groups exactly like the ones he demagogued last year, shows how cynical this President can be when it comes to perpetuating his own power," he said in a statement emailed to ABC News.

Burton argued that the Democrats have little choice but to join the system they had been fighting, saying the party's leaders were unwilling to unilaterally disarm.

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"While we agree that fundamental campaign finance reforms are needed, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers cannot live by one set of rules as our values and our candidates are overrun with their hundreds of millions of dollars," Burton said Friday. "We will follow the rules as the Supreme Court has laid them out, but the days of the double standard are over."

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On Topline Friday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Maryland Democrat who chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee until this January, said he believes a new law is needed that would require all such groups to disclose their donors. As head of the DCCC, Van Hollen had been vocal in his criticism of American Crossroads.

"In fact, I have filed a lawsuit challenging the Federal Election Commission's current regulations on this issue," said Rep. Van Hollen, "and I think whether you're a Republican-leaning group or a Democratic-leaning group, you should be required to disclose."

But asked whether he would tell Burton's group to stop buying ads for Democrats until disclosure was required, Rep. Van Hollen repeated that disclosure should be required of everyone, and then said it was Republicans who had stopped disclosure from becoming mandatory in the first place.

"What we really need is a law, and it's the Republicans who have blocked the law," said Van Hollen. "Unfortunately, it's the Republicans who continue to object to the idea of requiring all these groups, Democrat-leaning, Republican-leaning, to disclose this information."

Watch Rep. Chris Van Hollen on Topline

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