The Washington Post

Jim Messina in talks to join Priorities USA as it prepares to back Clinton 2016 bid

Jim Messina, the hard-charging political strategist who ran President Obama’s successful reelection campaign, is in talks to join Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama super PAC being reconstituted as a group that would back a presidential bid by Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions.

Messina would be part of an expanded board that would include an array of Democratic power brokers and financiers, a sign of how a possible Clinton candidacy is already coalescing forces within the party. John Podesta, the former Clinton White House chief of staff who now serves as chair of the Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy group, is also in discussions with Priorities. The talks were first reported by BuzzFeed.

Podesta did not respond to a request for comment. A person close to Messina said that he does not have a formal role with Priorities and has not yet agreed to anything.

If Messina signs with the super PAC, it would give him a trifecta of prominent roles within the party. He already serves as chairman of Organizing for Action, the advocacy group backing Obama’s second-term agenda, and he has been doing consulting for the Democratic National Committee.

Paul Begala, a senior strategist for Priorities, said that the group has not yet finalized its plans.

“There is not a political operation in the free world that wouldn't love to have access to the brainpower and experience of Messina and Podesta,” he wrote in an e-mail. “And, of course, Priorities USA Action intends to play a pivotal role in 2016, just as we did in 2012. We simply do not have any personnel announcements to make at this juncture.”

Priorities officials have reached out to Messina and Podesta as they seek to position the group to serve as the main large-dollar advertising vehicle that would support a Clinton bid, as The Post first reported. The new focus of the super PAC has been a top priority of DreamWorks chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of Hollywood’s premier fundraisers, who played a singular role in raising money for Obama’s reelection and seeding Priorities with early money.

The super PAC was founded by two former Obama White House aides, Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, who at first struggled to get financial backing for their effort. But the group’s unsparing ads strafing Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 garnered it the respect of party donors.

Many of the same contributors are itching to get in early on a Clinton 2016 campaign and are already pouring funds into groups that come within her orbit. Ready for Hillary, a super PAC started early this year by Clinton supporters, has been the receptacle of much of the energy. Its rising profile has irked some Clinton allies, who fear the group is pushing her into a political context before she needs to announce and confusing donors who believe it serves as a stand-in for the campaign.

Representatives of Priorities and Ready for Hillary have held quiet talks in recent weeks to clarify the roles they would play if Clinton jumps in the race. Ready for Hillary has capped its donations at $25,000 and emphasized that it is seeking to build a grass-roots network of supporters, not serve as a media super PAC.

Matea Gold is a national political reporter for The Washington Post, covering money and influence.

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