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White House press secretary changes tune on Super PACs

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says the president won't condemn a controversial Priorities USA ad because it has no control over outside groups.

Deflecting continued questions about a controversial ad from a Democratic-aligned super PAC, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted Friday that a candidates’ campaign is powerless over third-party ads.

But he took the opposite view in May when he urged Mitt Romney’s campaign to renounce a Republican donor who had considered running ads on the president’s ties to the controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright.

During Friday’s White House briefing Carney was asked whether the president agrees with an ad by pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA, run by former White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton, which links the shuttering of GST Steelworks, a company bought by Romney’s private equity group Bain Capital, with the death of a former GST employee’s wife six years later.

As he and campaign spokespeople have in the past few days, Carney maintained that the Obama camp has no say over outside groups’ ads.

“We do not control third-party ads,” Carney said, adding later, “I do not have any role in third-party groups that produce these ads.”

But Carney held a different view on campaigns’ responsibilities to mediate outside groups when, in May, Republican bundler Joe Ricketts was revealed to have considered investing in ads highlighting then-Sen. Obama’s ties to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his fiery former pastor.

In a briefing on May 17th, Carney suggested the Romney campaign should denounce the potential ad campaign, drafted by Republican consultant Fred Davis, but never actually implemented.

“And I think there are moments when you have to stand up and say that that's not the right way to go. And I would point to numerous comments that echo that, not just from Democrats and political observers, but by Republicans today,” he said of Davis’ proposal.