After a tumultuous few months, officials with a super PAC pushing Hillary Clinton's White House candidacy have installed new leaders and are urging the Democratic Party's biggest donors to pony up campaign cash — fast.
"We are no longer in a campaign cycle in which the general election starts when you win the nomination," said Guy Cecil, the co-chairman of the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA Action. "Campaigns are becoming year-round efforts. Waiting until there is a nominee is waiting too long."
That doesn't mean the super PAC will come close to matching the sums already flowing to groups aligned with some of the best-known Republican contenders in the presidential field. Priorities is expected to collect between $10 million and $15 million in donations through the end of June, according to a person familiar with the group's fundraising efforts who was not authorized to discuss the figures publicly.
Super PACs can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations and unions but are barred from coordinating their spending with candidates.
After a sluggish start, Priorities USA Action has undergone a transformation. Cecil, a veteran Democratic operative who served as Clinton's political director during the 2008 campaign, formally moved to the super PAC this month. He joined former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm and Jim Messina, President Obama's 2012 campaign manager, at the board's helm. Cecil also serves as the super PAC's chief strategist.
Last week, Anne Caprara, a former top official at EMILY's List who worked with Cecil at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, became Priorities' executive director. And in a sign that intra-party rifts are healing, another Clinton loyalist, David Brock, has rejoined Priorities' board after resigning in February amid a public dispute over fundraising tactics.
The reorganization, Clinton's stepped-up campaign activity and the growing recognition that Priorities will serve as the main pro-Clinton super PAC are helping to open contributors' doors, Cecil said.
In just 10 days on the job, Cecil said he has met with about a dozen donors. "People are proactively asking us how they can help, and it's much easier getting meetings."
In one sign that top Democratic donors are giving Priorities a second look, a top aide to billionaire financier George Soros praised the reorganization this week. "I am impressed with the new leadership," Soros spokesman Michael Vachon told USA TODAY. "Guy Cecil is as able a Democratic operative as there is."
Vachon said Soros has been traveling abroad and has not yet taken up the issue of donating to Priorities.
Priorities USA Action, which was started by former Obama aides, raised nearly $78 million to help re-elect the president in 2012. It struggled to raise cash during the campaign's early months, and more than 80% of money did not show up until last six months of 2012, election records show.
Although the Republican presidential field is still taking shape, conservative billionaires already have committed to spend hundreds of millions to win back the White House — a point Clinton's allies are pressing with donors.
"We know we will be outspent by the right wing," Cecil said, "but it's critical we have the resources to communicate our own message about the differences in this election."