Democrats worry about pro-Clinton PAC sitting out 2014 elections

 

McClatchy Washington Bureau

As the two major parties prepare for an epic battle for control of the Senate this year, some Democrats are questioning the decision by one of their richest political action committees to sit out the campaign and hold its money for Hillary Clinton’s expected campaign for the White House in 2016.

Some Democrats argue that the decision could help the Republicans seize control of the Senate next fall, making it impossible for President Barack Obama to get anything done and perhaps setting the stage to do the same for Clinton even if she wins the presidency. Others counter that the committee always was devoted to presidential campaigns – first for Obama and now for Clinton – and that congressional Democrats will still have plenty of money this year for hard-fought campaigns.

At the center is Priorities USA Action, once Obama’s big campaign fundraising group. Since it helped him win re-election in 2012, the political action committee has morphed into an important fundraising vehicle for Clinton’s potential campaign and is devoting its dollars and energy to promoting her.

The group raised $79.6 million for the 2012 campaign. Taking it out of the action “removes the top echelon,” said Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

This comes as Democrats worry that they’ll need all the help they can get this year. They see themselves up against big GOP spending in a year when Republicans are well-positioned to win control of the Senate. The GOP needs a net gain of six seats.

As many as seven are seen as potential Republican pickups: Alaska, Arkansas, West Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Montana and South Dakota.

A Republican-led Senate not only would handcuff Obama during his last two years but also would mean that 2016’s presidential winner is likely to start with a sizable Republican Senate caucus. Analysts expect that Republicans will continue to control the House of Representatives.

”If we lose the Senate and don’t try to retake the House in 2014 it will further erode the ability of President Obama to get anything done for the people,” says a petition posted to the website of the liberal group MoveOn.org.

The petition, posted by supporters, urges Priorities USA Action to reconsider its decision. MoveOn.org itself has taken no position on the PAC’s decision.

“If you don’t help to keep the Senate and regain the House . . . what good will it do you to elect Hillary Clinton in 2016?” wrote one signer, who identified herself as Diane Olson of Santa Monica. “She won’t be able to get anything done as a Democrat. She will have to join the Republicans.”

Former Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod has jumped in as well, tweeting earlier this month, “With the Senate seriously at risk, and the Koch Brothers spending prodigiously, shouldn’t Dem funders be focused on ’14 and not ’16 races?”

Priorities USA Action didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Many Democratic campaign officials and donors said they weren’t too concerned.

“I’m going to be of assistance this year for people who are trying to help advance the causes I’ve been associated with,” said Mitchell Berger, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., attorney and fundraiser. “I would hope that people understand today is what matters.”

At the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, spokesman Justin Barasky boasted about fundraising so far. “Democrats have consistently outraised our Republican counterparts both at the committee and candidate level,” he said.

The committee raised $52 million last year, well above the Republicans’ $36.6 million.

Priorities USA Action’s decision won’t prevent large donors from being active this year, said Robert Borosage, the president of the liberal group Campaign for America’s Future. He noted that a retired hedge fund investor, Tom Steyer, has pledged to spend as much as $100 million to champion climate change measures in the 2014 election.

Political committees supporting certain types of candidates are not unusual. The Democrats’ Senate Majority PAC, for instance, has given money this cycle to help the party’s Senate candidates. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s PAC to the Future has helped 28 House and one Senate candidate this cycle.

Since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that corporations, unions and associations could contribute unlimited dollars to political committees, wealthy donors have been flooding political campaigns with their cash.

Non-political party “outside” spending, generally funds from wealthy donors or special interests, topped $1 billion during the 2011-12 election cycle, about three times as much as was spent four years earlier, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Those donors were more generous to Republicans. The top spender in the 2012 election cycle was Restore Our Future, which supported Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and raised $153 million. Next was American Crossroads, a group with ties to former Bush administration political guru Karl Rove. It raised $117.5 million. Priorities USA Action was third.

Spending big, though, is no guarantee of success. During the 2012 campaign, outside groups spent about $ 456 million attempting to defeat Obama, while $185 million was spent in the effort to re-elect him.

The more Democrats get active, the liberals said, the better. “If I were the Clintons I’d make sure I was using my influence to get donors active in lots of races and making big donations,” Borosage said. “So I assume if they don’t use Priorities to do that they’ll use some other vehicle. It’s just in her own interest if she’s going to run in 2016.”

Email: dlightman@mcclatchydc.com, lclark@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @lightmandavid, @lesley clark

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
FILE- In a May 7, 2014 file photo, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and his daughter Kelsey, left, scrub the streets with Holland mayor Kurt Dykstra in Holland, Mich. Gov. Snyder has accomplished much of what he said he set out to do when he was elected four years ago: That's more than many governors achieve in a single term. But instead of cruising to re-election on the fulfillment of his 2010 promises, Snyder’s bid has been met with ambivalence by parts of his own party. Some Republicans don’t know what to make of his neutrality on social issues and his reluctance to bash Democrats. And he’s made plenty of enemies among Democrats and organized labor, too.

    Michigan governor's campaign met with ambivalence

    Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has accomplished much of what he set out to do when he was elected four years ago. He's logged improvements in the state's economic health, presided over the creation of 250,000 private-sector jobs and confronted many of Detroit's worsening financial problems.

  • Study: 10M have gained coverage through health law

    A new study estimates that more than 10 million adults gained health insurance by midyear as the coverage expansion under President Barack Obama's law took hold in much of the country.

  • Obama supports Hawaii's governor in radio ad

    Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie is launching a radio ad featuring President Barack Obama supporting the governor's bid for re-election.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category