By MAGGIE HABERMAN and NICHOLAS CONFESSORE
Hillary Rodham Clinton will begin personally courting donors for a super PAC supporting her candidacy, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate has fully embraced the independent groups that can accept unlimited checks from big donors and are already playing a major role in the 2016 race.
Her decision marks another escalation in what is expected to be the most expensive presidential campaign in history. Mrs. Clinton’s allies hope that with her support, Priorities USA Action, the top Democratic super PAC, will be able to raise as much as $200 million to $300 million, on par with what the largest Republican organizations, such as the Karl Rove-founded American Crossroads super PAC and its nonprofit affiliate, spent in 2012.
Running for re-election that year, President Obama reluctantly endorsed fund-raising by the same super PAC now supporting Mrs. Clinton because of fears that he would be outspent by Republicans who were more aggressive in using what was then a new vehicle for raising large amounts of money that could be used in support of a campaign but not go directly to it. But he never appeared at any of its fund-raisers.
Mrs. Clinton planned to raise money for Priorities USA in her campaign but initially delayed doing so because of her desire for a slow ramp-up of her campaign, her pledge to make campaign finance reform a critical issue and a lack of clarity about the management structure at the super PAC.
But supporters became increasingly anxious in recent weeks that she was squandering the enthusiasm generated by her announcement, and Mrs. Clinton decided she could no longer delay. Two leading Republican contenders have delayed officially entering the campaign, devoting their time to personally soliciting money for super PACs set up by their aides. Some, like Jeb Bush, have moved to offload costs like policy research and voter data maintenance to skeins of nonprofits that are formally independent of their campaign efforts.
The Clinton campaign and Priorities officials would not confirm the California events, but a campaign official acknowledged that Mrs. Clinton and her aides planned to do what they could to help the super PAC, within the law.
“With some Republican candidates reportedly setting up and outsourcing their entire campaign to Super PACs and the Koch Brothers pledging $1 billion alone for the 2016 campaign, Democrats have to have the resources to fight back,” said one Clinton campaign official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to explain the campaign’s thinking. “There is too much at stake for our future for Democrats to unilaterally disarm.”
Mrs. Clinton has expressed frustration and astonishment at how Mr. Bush has gone about raising money, according to two people who have spoken with her about it. His aggressive fund-raising was one of the things that prompted her to push up her own schedule. And in the last week, the delicate transformation of Priorities from a pro-Obama organization to one designed to support Mrs. Clinton was furthered by bringing in Guy Cecil, a Clinton loyalist, to help oversee it and by increasing the role of her longtime adviser, Harold Ickes.
Mrs. Clinton is holding meetings with Priorities USA donors on her current fund-raising swing for her campaign, which involves a three-day trip through California. One meeting was scheduled for Wednesday in San Francisco and another in Los Angeles on Thursday, according to two people familiar with Mrs. Clinton’s schedule. (NY Times)