A clash that threatened to fracture a network of independent groups mobilizing to back a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential run was partially defused late Monday when liberal activist David Brock agreed to consider rejoining the board of a pro-Clinton super PAC.
The conciliatory gesture came hours after Brock fired off an e-mail angrily resigning from the board of Priorities USA Action, accusing officials with the super PAC of providing material for a damaging New York Times story about his groups’ fundraising practices.
That prompted a flurry of outreach to him by several members of the Priorities board, including former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, longtime Clinton adviser Harold Ickes, and veteran Democratic strategists Charlie Baker and Paul Begala.
Late Monday evening, Brock said in a statement that “after talking to several leaders of Priorities USA Action, I am confident they want to address the situation.”
“I’m open to returning to the board and I share their desire to find a way to move forward,” he added. “We will be meeting to work on establishing that path and strengthening our relationship and getting back to the important work we need to do in this election cycle.”
Granholm, who co-chairs the super PAC with strategist Jim Messina, said in a statement released jointly with Brock’s that the group takes his concerns seriously and is “working to address them.”
“We all have the same shared goals,” Granholm said. “David Brock and his team are talented, effective and dedicated professionals.”
But even with the hasty rapprochement, the episode raised questions about whether Clinton’s outside support network will be plagued by the kind of infighting that undermined her 2008 presidential campaign.
In his resignation letter, Brock accused current and former Priorities officials of launching a “dirty trick” against his groups by providing information for the Times piece, which he called “an orchestrated political hit job,” according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post. Brock’s resignation was first reported by Politico.
Republicans seized on the incident with glee, while exasperated Democrats close to Clinton cringed.
The fight was the first major public break among the coterie of Democratic strategists jockeying for influence in an alliance of super PACs and other independent groups positioning to back a Clinton campaign.
Brock is a conservative-turned-liberal whose expanding empire includes the group Media Matters for America and the research operation American Bridge. His suite of groups is already churning out research to boost Clinton and attack potential GOP rivals, digging up material that Priorities USA can use in ad campaigns.
He was among the dozen Democratic power brokers who joined the Priorities board last year, a carefully curated collection of operatives that included union officials, interest-group leaders and seasoned political strategists such as Messina, who was President Obama’s 2012 campaign manager.
At its heart, the conflict centers on access to big donors on the left, whose financial resources are intensely sought by Democrats working to build an independent firewall for the 2016 election. That pressure is particularly acute for Priorities, which is aiming to collect tens of millions of dollars this year to finance heavy air artillery to boost Clinton.
“There are a lot of deep relationships here and issues as to how donors are approached,” said one person familiar with the dynamics, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private discussions.
Tensions between the organizations escalated last weekend after the Times published a story describing the lucrative commissions earned by Mary Pat Bonner, a donor adviser who works closely with Brock’s organizations, as well as another group, Ready for Hillary.
In 2014, Bonner’s firm earned $3.5 million for the $28 million it brought in for Brock’s groups, according to the Times — equivalent to a 12.5 percent commission.
In his resignation letter Monday, Brock said he was told by multiple people that Priorities officials fed information to the Times for its article.
“This disheartening conduct and serious breach of trust between organizations that are supposed to work together toward common ends has created an untenable situation that leaves me no choice but to resign my position,” Brock wrote. “The apparent purpose was damaging our fundraising efforts, while presumably enhancing Priorities’ own.”