(01-23) 15:15 PST OAKLAND —
In the latest sign that Hillary Rodham Clinton will run for president, the nation’s largest left-leaning super PAC said Thursday that it is raising money for the former secretary of state – an effort that will be led in part by two Bay Area residents.
Jennifer Granholm, a former Michigan governor who now lives in Oakland and teaches public policy at UC Berkeley, will co-chair the Priorities Action USA political action committee, along with President Obama’s former campaign manager, Jim Messina. UC Berkeley law Professor Maria Echaveste, White House deputy chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, was also named Thursday to the PAC’s12-member board.
Messina’s presence is a sign that animosities that built up between the Clinton and Obama camps during the 2008 Democratic primaries have eased. Another indication of improved ties: The executive director of Priorities Action USA is Buffy Wicks, Obama’s 2008 California field director.
The group’s challenge, Granholm said Thursday, is to keep up with conservative-run super PACs. Priorities Action USA raised $ 79 million during the 2012 campaign, while the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future rallied $ 153 million and the Karl Rove-affiliated American Crossroads, $ 117 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Many liberals, however are uncomfortable with super PACS, saying they give wealthy donors more access to political power than other voters.
The committees, created as an outgrowth of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision of 2010, can raise an unlimited amount of money from unions, corporations, individuals and associations. Although barred from coordinating their actions directly with parties or candidates, they can spend unlimited amounts – and their bottomless coffers fueled some of the nastiest political ads of the 2012 campaign.
Cranking up a super PAC nearly three years before the 2016 presidential election for Hillary Clinton, who hasn’t even announced she’s running, is the latest escalation “of an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ type of campaign finance system,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to giving citizens a louder political voice.
Despite supporting calls for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens ruling, Obama followed the big donors. He attended 221 fundraisers during his first term, according to a count by CBS News, compared with 101 public rallies.
“Obama campaigned on changing the system, but he hasn’t done anything to change it,” Weissman said.
Granholm, who often railed against the Citizens United decision while hosting “The War Room with Jennifer Granholm” cable TV program,said that “ultimately, the goal (of the super PAC) is to work ourselves out of a job.”
“I want to elect a president who will appoint a Supreme Court justice who will overturn Citizens United so there is no necessity or no legality for this unfettered flow of money,” said Granholm, who will be serving as a volunteer on the committee.
“But you can’t unilaterally disarm,” Granholm said. If liberals don’t play by the existing rules, she said, “we would be laying down all weapons and forfeiting. And we’re not going to do that.”