Democrats form House-focused outside group

at 10:03 AM ET, 04/13/2011

A group of Democratic strategists have formed a new outside organization aimed at influencing House races in the 2012 election.

Known as the House Majority PAC, the group will be run by Ali Lapp, a former campaign director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and longtime chief of staff to Washington Rep. Adam Smith.

“The goal is clearly to close the gap with Republican outside groups that have been spending money to win House races,” said Lapp. “We will hold Republican incumbents and candidates responsible for taking the country off in the wrong direction.”

Lapp’s organization, which filed incorporation paperwork with the Federal Election Commission this week, plans to run ads over the April congressional recess targeting Republican members.

The House Majority PAC is organized as a so-called “super PAC”, meaning that it can take contributions in unlimited amounts and directly advocate for or against a candidate’s election. The catch? The group must disclose the identities of all of its donors with the Federal Election Committee.

The new group is part of a broader effort among Democratic strategists to build an outside political network to rival American Crossroads, the conservative organization that spent tens of millions of dollars to influence the 2010 midterms and has set a goal of raising and spending $120 million on 2012.

Already a group of Senate Democratic strategists have formed the Majority PAC in hopes of raising money and running ads in critical Senate contests around the country.

And, at the presidential level the conservative-turned-liberal activist David Brock has created American Bridge to the 21st Century and hired on several top-tier operatives including Rodell Mollineau, a former staffer to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.).

A yet-to-be-named group organized by former White House staffers Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney is also expected to become a major player in the outside spending game in 2012.

In total, the Democratic-aligned outside groups have set a spending goal of $200 million for the coming election.

For its part, House Majority PAC will look to build on the efforts of America’s Families First Action Fund, a Democratic-aligned group formed in the summer of 2010 that wound up spending roughly $6 million on ads in House races.

Lapp is the only full-time employee at the moment but is being helped on a part time basis by fundraiser Nicole Runge, researcher Matt Fuentes and press adviser Ryan Rudominer.

It’s not clear how — or whether — more full-time staff will be added but Lapp insisted that House Majority PAC is being constructed to serve as a long-term vehicle for outside spending in House races not a single-cycle mechanism that will disappear after 2012.

Democrats need to net 25 seats in order to win back the majority they lost in 2010. While there are currently 61 districts represented by Republicans that President Obama carried in 2008, the nationwide redistricting process is expected to favor the GOP — making it difficult at this stage to predict whether the House is genuinely in play.

 
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