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Priorities USA reorganizes leadership as Clinton allies scramble to catch up with GOP super PACs

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is bringing another former top aide to Barack Obama into her operation. REUTERS/Jim Young
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This story has been updated.

A super PAC poised to be the top big-money vehicle supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2016 bid is reorganizing its leadership as it races to catch up with the well-funded groups backing her GOP rivals.

Guy Cecil, a Clinton ally who is the new chief strategist of Priorities USA Action, is bringing in Anne Caprara, the vice president of campaigns at EMILY's List, as the group's new executive director. Caprara previously worked under Cecil at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, as the New York Times first noted.

“While we will absolutely miss having Anne here at EMILY’s List every day, I couldn’t be prouder to see her step up and lead Priorities," Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, said in a statement. "She’s had huge success in early recruitment and built a strong foundation for Democratic women up and down the ballot in 2016 – and I know she’s going to be the same kind of force of nature in her next role."

Caprara is replacing Buffy Wicks, who is in talks to join Clinton's official operation, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

“We are recruiting Buffy for a senior-level role on the coordinated side of the campaign," according to a campaign official who requested anonymity to confirm the private discussions. Her likely move was first reported by BuzzFeed.

Cecil's arrival diminishes the role of Jim Messina, Obama's 2012 campaign manager, who has been co-chairman of the super PAC's board.

Clinton confidant David Brock is now rejoining the board of Priorities USA after breaking ties with the group in February over a bitter dispute with Messina over fundraising tactics. Brock's reconciliation with the super PAC, which was first reported by the New York Times, puts another trusted Clinton friend at the helm of the organization.

Brock will occupy a singular role in Clinton's world, as he also serves on the board of Correct the Record, a rapid response super PAC that, in a novel move, plans to coordinate with her campaign. Priorities, on the other hand, will be running ads that must be walled-off from the Clinton campaign. To allow him to have a foot in both worlds, Brock will be not be involved in the daily strategy of Correct the Record.

“David is on the independent side of the wall," said Adrienne Watson, communications director for Correct the Record. "He's a member of the board of Correct The Record. He's not involved in its day-to-day operations.”

The leadership upheaval at Priorities underscores how Clinton's camp is scrambling to catch up with her Republican rivals when it comes to super PACs, which many GOP contenders have embraced even before announcing their campaigns. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is stockpiling tens of millions into his allied super PAC while maintaining that he has still not yet decided whether to run.

Democrats have been slower to warm to the big-money groups, and the lack of a clear signal from Clinton about her attitude towards the super PAC earlier in the year led many donors to hold back.

That has changed in recent weeks. The arrival of Cecil, first reported by the Washington Post, was intended to signal to Clinton supporters that they should rally around the super PAC.

Clinton herself met with top Priorities backers during a swing through California, a move that underscored her team's recognition of the vital need for a well-financed super PAC.

Meanwhile, Wicks's move will place another veteran of Barack Obama's two successful White House runs in a high-ranking spot in Clinton's orbit. By moving to the campaign side, she will likely be back in the thick of political organizing, her longtime focus. She directed get-out-the-vote efforts for Obama's 2012 reelection and ran the efforts in several states during his 2008 bid. She also served as deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Before that, she was political director of Wake Up Wal-Mart, a campaign to pressure to improve wages.