New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has taken a critical step toward running for president -- launching an organization that will allow him to begin building out a potential campaign operation ahead of his likely run.
Christie and his allies filed paperwork for the organization, called “Leadership Matters for America,” with the Federal Election Commission on Friday, according to The Wall Street Journal. Christie’s adviser Mike DuHaime confirmed the formation of the PAC to The Washington Post.
The new leadership PAC gives Christie a vehicle to support his travels as he ramps up for his expected bid. But he must have an aggressive fundraising schedule to take full advantage of it: The PAC can only accept donations in increments of $5,000, unlike a super PAC, which can take unlimited funds.
The group cannot be used to explicitly support a presidential bid, but it can pay for his staff, and funds from the organization can be contributed to other officials in states key to the nomination process.
The PAC’s new Web site features a photo of Christie wearing wide grin as he hold a microphone and looks at a speaker at a town hall meeting.
“America has been a nation that has always controlled events and yet today events control us,” the Web site declares. “Why? Because leadership matters. It matters if we want to restore America's role in the world, find the political will to take on the entrenched special interests that continually stand in the way of fundamental change, reform entitlement spending at every level of government, and ensure that every child, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education.”
The formation of the PAC spotlights the intense fundraising pressures already driving the likely Republican candidates, in part because of former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s aggressive moves to explore a 2016 bid.
Christie, who was originally planning to hold off on a public move toward running until February or March, decided to speed up his timetable to the end of this month, as The Washington Post reported earlier. Since then, Christie has ramped up his efforts and has begun hiring a would-be campaign staff, including former Republican National Committee finance chairman Ray Washburne.
Washburne will take on that role at the leadership PAC. Longtime Christie strategist DuHaime will be a senior adviser, along with Phil Cox, who worked closely with Christie during his recent tenure as executive director of the Republican Governors Association. The finance operation will be led by Cam Henderson, a former chief of staff for Christie’s wife Mary Pat Christie, while the RGA’s former finance director Paige Hahn will serve as a fundraising consultant.
The PAC has also tapped Phil Valenziano, the former political director for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, to head its efforts in that state.
Christie attended the Iowa Freedom Summit over the weekend, a high-profile conservative event that drew nearly a dozen potential presidential candidates.