An intense public struggle has erupted among loyalists to former secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with jockeying for influence in her widely anticipated presidential campaign, The New York Times
At issue is a fight over access to high-end donors whose backing is crucial to the groups that have been set up to support a presumed bid in the absence of a formal campaign organization, and tensions are emerging between former Obama operatives and longtime Clinton loyalists.
"It is 'The Dream Team,' but only five can start," John Morgan, a Florida lawyer who has raised money for Obama and hosted fundraisers with former President Bill Clinton, told the Times. "Who do you put at guard? Jordan, LeBron, Kobe, Magic, Bird, Derrick Rose? That is where it is."
Among the Obama veterans now working behind the scenes for Clinton is New York-based pollster Joel Benenson, who was chosen over several other pollsters that had longstanding Clinton ties.
In addition, Ready for Hillary super PAC has chosen a consulting firm founded by two Obama voter-turnout specialists, while Jim Margolis, who handled media-buying contracts for Obama, will also advise Clinton, the Times reported.
Priorities USA Action super PAC, which is positioned to be the main advertising vehicle for a Clinton campaign, is lead by Jim Messina, Obama's 2012 campaign manager.
Messina is one of a handful of former Obama campaign operatives that have been hired or courted by Clinton's tight circle of advisers, which has ruffled feathers among longtime Clinton supporters who are looking to establish prominent roles.
The tensions became public Monday after David Brock, a longtime Clinton ally
, accused Priorities of planting negative stories about Brock's organizations, prompting him to resign from the board in protest.
The move reignited tales of infighting from Clinton's 2008 campaign, the Times noted.
Meanwhile, Priorities is now struggling in its efforts to line up cash to reach its $500 million fundraising goal, Politico
reported. The aim was to secure 30 or more pledges of at least $1 million, but so far the group has only roughly 10 firm commitments and has met with some resistance from top donors who have given to other Clinton organizations, including Ready for Hillary and American Bridge 21st Century.
"The stumbles — and the slow fundraising start — raise doubts about a key assumption about Clinton's strength as a presidential candidate: that her allies will be able to rely on a seemingly bottomless well of support from rich supporters to build an historic political money juggernaut that will overwhelm prospective rivals," Politico said.
Over the past two years, American Bridge and Ready for Hillary raised a combined $29 million, Politico said.
Separately, the apolitical Clinton Foundation reported that it raised almost $250 million for an endowment it planned to complete before a campaign announcement, at which point the Clintons will likely have to step away from foundation activities.
By comparison, Priorities, created in 2011 to boost Obama's re-election, has raised just $364,000 over the last two years, but a spokesman for the group told Politico, "We are confident that we will have the resources necessary to execute our mission."
Nevertheless, the figures look weak compared to the GOP advertising network lead by the Koch brothers
, which has already pledged to spend at least $889 million on the 2016 campaign.
Some argue that Priorities must raise at least $500 million to effectively compete, Politico said, a figure that is likely out of reach, though many donors appear to be holding off until Clinton formally announces, and they may have already donated to other Clinton groups.
The Washington Post
said that it is Clinton's decision to delay an announcement that appears to be stymieing the ability of her PACs to get big-money commitments.
Other party fundraisers said that as soon as Clinton declares her candidacy, the money will begin flowing, and some have gone on the record to say that they will not consider making a donation until she is officially in the race.
"I'm waiting to see if Hillary announces a campaign and to see what it looks like," David desJardins, a San Francisco-based investor, told the Post.
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