The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ready for Hillary: The smartest political business in recent memory

Ready for Hillary is having a going-out-of-business sale, bringing to an end one of the smartest political businesses in recent memory.

Let's be very clear: Ready For Hillary, the super PAC that has spent more than two years vacuuming up donations and dishing out Hillary Clinton gear, was never critical for attaining its original purpose. "It's a draft movement," cofounder Allida Black told The Hill at the group's launch in January 2013. "We want her to run, but we are not rookie volunteers."

But there was was never any real question that Hillary Clinton was going to run. So the stated purpose of the organization quickly re-centered on demonstrating that Clinton had a wide base of support. The group "is focused on the grass-roots piece of organizing, and making sure that all throughout the country, if she does this, that there's an army of grass-roots supporters behind her from Day 1 that are ready to go," co-founder Adam Parkhomenko told NPR last April. The group became about getting as many e-mail addresses as possible (and selling some swag in the interim). "We're not creating the support for her," communications director Seth Bringman said to The Atlantic in December 2013. "The support for her is out there. We’re harnessing it."

Indeed. The group has raised $13 million so far.

Ready for Hillary was so successful at collecting donations and e-mail addresses that it started stepping on toes. In January 2014, Politico reported that it had reached an agreement with the big-money PAC Priorities USA to keep its contribution level under $25,000. At the time, Maggie Haberman (now with the Times) wrote, "Ready for Hillary hopes to make its data available to a 2016 Clinton campaign, and some Clinton allies believe there are a number of young aides and operatives working for the super PAC who could become part of her campaign."

And so it was. So far, the not-yet-a-real-campaign Clinton campaign has hired at least six staffers from Ready for Hillary -- including Parkhomenko. Our Matea Gold reported that the process of transferring over the list of supporters won't offer much of a hurdle either. (The social media accounts built by Ready for Hillary will go to the pro-abortion-rights and pro-female-candidate Emily's List.)

Clinton's campaign will also inherit a much-more-valuable list: the 12 million people identified since 2008 as supporters of Barack Obama. "She’s not going to need to do much," an unnamed Democratic aide told Politico.

So what did Ready for Hillary accomplish? At the very least, it served as a visibility campaign for the past two years. It developed a list of supporters that almost certainly overlaps to some extent with the larger Obama network that Clinton will get soon. And it operated as its own little economy. The law of supply and demand works in politics, too, and there was demand for Hillary Clinton that wasn't being met. Ready for Hillary obligingly stepped in. People got paid salaries and positioned themselves for work through 2016. Altogether a success.

It's unlikely that this strategy will work again, though. Many of the other "Ready fors" that emerged over the last 20 months were less successful, since they were trying to appeal to less-well-known, less-historic figures competing in a splintered Republican primary or a dominated Democratic one. Ready for Hillary fully and effectively filled a niche in the marketplace, if not the political system. So it's only appropriate that its end be marked with a clearance sale.