Yesterday, the turmoil within Team Hillary seemed to have reached a new level with the resignation of David Brock from the board of the liberal super PAC Priorities USA. After The New York Times published a piece last week about the world of super PAC fundraising (namely the activities of the emerging Clinton fundraising machine seemingly led by fundraiser Mary Pat Bonner), Brock concluded that Priorities was planning “an orchestrated political hit job” against American Bridge and Media Matters. Brock is the founder of both organizations, the latter of which is dedicated to monitoring alleged misinformation disseminated by right-leaning media outlets.
It was also revealed that Bonner was paid a 12.5 percent commission fee for monies raised on behalf of Brock’s organizations; a point of contention with another group of wealthy liberal donors at Democracy Alliance. Bonner still works with the group, but as an “unpaid donor adviser,” according to the Times [emphasis mine]:
Early in the cycle, American Bridge wanted a larger portion of shared fund-raising so it could begin tracking and researching Republican candidates. The other groups thought that Ms. Bonner was seeking to establish her client as a central financial clearinghouse for other Democratic groups.
Mr. Brock credits Ms. Bonner with helping persuade donors that news media monitoring and opposition research deserve large-scale financial support. His groups brought in more than $28 million in 2014, entitling Ms. Bonner’s firm to about $3.5 million in fees. Her commission represented his entire fund-raising overhead, Mr. Brock said, which compared favorably with that of other nonprofit groups.
One Alliance donor, the billionaire Boston investor Vin Ryan, said that he had not been informed of Ms. Bonner’s commission before donating to Media Matters and later demanded a written guarantee from the group that his contributions would be exempt.
“I don’t know what her role in the D.A. is at this point, nor do I know who she actually is a donor adviser to, nor do I know what organizations she represents within the group of organizations who we are supporting,” Mr. Ryan said. “I think it’s outrageous.”
When Brock announced his exit, Priorities released a statement of their own saying they wanted to address the issues he had raised. Brock corroborated this angle of the story after discussions with several other members, saying he’s open to returning to the PAC (via Politico) [emphasis mine]:
In his letter to the co-chairs of Priorities’ board — former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina — Brock alleged that “current and former Priorities officials were behind this specious and malicious attack on the integrity of these critical organizations.”
The letter — and Brock’s resignation — offer a rare glimpse into a network of groups upon which Democrats are relying to keep the White House and stave off increasingly robust big-money efforts on the right. The public airing of dirty laundry comes as sources say Priorities is struggling to live up to the hopes of some Clinton allies, who had argued it should aim to raise as much as $500 million to eviscerate prospective Clinton rivals in the primary and general elections.
Priorities spokesman Peter Kauffmann denied that Priorities had anything to do with the Times story, which also noted that his group paid fundraising commissions on at least $2 million worth of checks, including contributions from California tech billionaire Irwin Jacobs. Sources say Jacobs was upset by the revelations.
Kauffmann said Priorities no longer pays fundraising commissions and that it maintains close working relationships with the other groups boosting Clinton.
“Priorities USA Action and allied organizations demonstrated a clear ability to work together effectively in 2012 and we look to replicate that success again in 2016,” he said.
By early evening — hours after POLITICO broke the news of Brock’s resignation — Priorities USA Action issued a conciliatory statement from Granholm saying that the group was “working to address” Brock’s concerns, while Brock issued one saying he was “open to returning to the board.”
American Bridge is the organization that wrote a 950-page opposition research file on Mitt Romney that was used by Priorities USA. The National Journal reported that nearly $70 million dollars worth of ads were generated because of it.
First, Team Hillary was fighting over when the former Secretary of State should make her 2016 announcement, one where almost everyone assumes she’s going to mount a presidential campaign. Now, key players are bolting due to conspiracy theories within their own ranks.
This break in the ranks surely provided a popcorn moment for conservatives.