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Politics

Super PAC ramps up for Clinton

Obama political veterans play key roles in group

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in December 2013.

Susan Walsh/AP

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in December 2013.

The largest liberal super political action committee in the country has begun raising money to elect Hillary Rodham Clinton president, formally aligning itself with Clinton’s undeclared presidential ambitions more than two years away from the election.

The group, Priorities USA Action, which played a pivotal role in helping reelect President Obama, also named new directors to steer the organization, appointments that will both cement the group’s pro-Clinton tilt and thrust veterans of Obama’s political and fund-raising operation into the center of the post-Obama Democratic Party.

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The move marks perhaps the earliest-ever start to big-dollar fund-raising in support of a nonincumbent presidential candidate, providing a fund-raising portal for wealthy Clinton supporters eager to help her White House prospects — and to the legions of others eager to ingratiate themselves with Clinton and her inner circle.

Six years after overwhelming Clinton with a superior grasp of small-donor fund-raising and grass-roots organizing, the Obama world is now conferring on her some of the fruits of Obama’s successful reelection: data analytics expertise, new voter targeting techniques, and experienced hands knitting it all together.

Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager in 2012, who has forged close ties with many Democratic donors, will serve as cochairman of the revamped super PAC and an affiliated nonprofit, along with Jennifer M. Granholm, the former governor of Michigan who is among the most persistent voices calling for Clinton to enter the 2016 race.

Unlike other pro-Clinton organizations, which have focused on recruiting small donors or building lists of grass-roots supporters, Priorities is seeking six- and seven-figure checks to power major advertising expenditures in support of Clinton — including, if necessary, responses to attacks by Republicans and conservatives in advance of a formal campaign declaration.

Like all super PACs, the group would be barred from coordinating spending and strategy with Clinton if she entered the presidential race.

“I think the numbers clearly show that she’s the strongest presidential candidate on the Democratic side,” Messina said in an interview. “And Priorities is going to be there for her if she decides to run.”

Messina is now the most high-profile member of Obama’s inner circle to openly back Clinton for president, a move that can only fuel perceptions that Clinton’s potential candidacy has the tacit endorsement of Obama himself.

Messina’s role also adds to the Priorities USA team a top-tier rainmaker, with close relationships to the donors and bundlers who powered Obama’s billion-dollar campaign effort.

Messina said he would focus on importing to Priorities some of the advances in television microtargeting developed by the Obama campaign in 2012, which allowed it to achieve an unprecedented level of precision and cost-efficiency in finding and reaching voters, out-hustling big-spending groups on the right.

Messina will join other Obama and Clinton veterans at the group, including Buffy Wicks, a former Obama field director now serving as Priorities’ executive director.

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