Democratic groups re-group to clear up confusion among frustrated donors



President Obama at a fundraiser in Seattle. 

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The proliferation of outside Democratic groups has sowed some confusion and frustration among donors. To sort out the maze and jumpstart lackluster fundraising, top Democrats are launching donor briefings nationwide to clarify the division of labor—and try to project unity.

The leaders of six Democratic and liberal groups that together are aiming to re-elect President Obama and help Senate and House Democrats win majorities in 2012 will participate in an Oct. 6 Boston breakfast briefing (shown in sidebar) with veteran fundraisers and donors.

The Beantown breakfast is the first of several joint donor pitches this fall expected to be held in cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, say Democratic fundraisers, some of whom are concerned about donor confusion.

“We’re making sure that Democratic donors and activists have a clear sense of what we’re doing,” Bill Burton, a co-founder of Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, which are working to re-elect President Obama, told iWatch News.

Burton said fundraising is going well, but stressed “all the Republican groups combined are going to have a tremendous amount of money.” Democrats won’t be able to match them dollar for dollar, Burton said, but “we’ll have enough to be competitive.”

So far, the Democratic groups combined have raised just $10 million. By comparison, the conservative Crossroads GPS spent double that amount just on ads this summer to hammer Democrats on taxes and spending.  

The groups sponsoring the Boston breakfast include four that were created after the 2010 election plus two that existed previously. The four new groups are all super PACs which can accept unlimited donations but must disclose their donors’ names publicly. These four also have 501(c)4 affiliates that aren’t required to disclose names.

Here’s a roadmap to the six:

  • Priorities USA Action was started in April by Burton and ex White House aide Sean Sweeney to focus on the President’s re-election.
  • The Senate Majority PAC was also launched this year by a group of former aides and allies of Majority Leader Harry Reid to preserve Democratic control of the chamber.
  • Similarly, House Majority PAC was started by close associates of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to help Democrats take back control of the House.
  • American Bridge 21st Century was created by David Brock, the former conservative firebrand turned liberal activist, to conduct opposition research for the other groups with a special focus on helping Burton’s group. Brock is slated to be a featured speaker at the Boston breakfast.

The two older liberal groups joining the Boston donor event are:

  • Emily’s List, a veteran pro Democrat group that raises funds for women candidates who champion abortion rights. Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List is also scheduled as a featured speaker in Boston.
  • America Votes, a liberal group comprised of some 300 state and national partners that was set up in 2004 to coordinate issue advocacy and increase voter participation. It was set up by Cecile Richards, the daughter of the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards.

The challenge facing the Democrats in their race to counter older groups such as the Karl Rove-linked American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS has been starkly underscored in recent months by fundraising and spending by both sides.

The Democratic groups are struggling with the weak economy and disenchantment among liberals about frequent White House buckling to House GOP leaders. They’re also competing with the Obama campaign, which raised $85 million for the candidate and the DNC in the last quarter and has a goal of $55 million for the period ending Sept. 30.

Further, as iWatch News first reported, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour will be helping Rove spearhead the 2012 fundraising for the two Crossroads groups when he leaves office early next year. Steven Law, the president of the two groups, said the groups have at least doubled their initial goal of raising $120 million, to $240 million.

The two groups that Burton co-founded, which are expected to pull in the most money of the Democratic groups, are aiming to raise about $100 million.

According to an invitation to the Boston event, its purpose is to “discuss the critical elements of independent political and progressive infrastructure that will be needed to assure Democratic victories in 2012.”

Among the donors and activists who are prominently listed as local sponsors of the invitation to the Boston breakfast are: Anne Peretz, the ex- wife of New Republic owner and editor-in-chief emeritus Marty Peretz, and Michael Thornton, a personal injury lawyer. 

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