Until now, Hillary Clinton’s proto-presidential campaign was allowed to be all things to all people. Anyone with a bit of cash, an organizational streak, and a lion’s share of enthusiasm could start his own pro-Clinton group—and, in doing so, make a claim to the presumed frontrunner’s coattails.
That began to change this week, after two of the three main pro-Clinton groups publicly split ways.
David Brock—a longtime Clinton ally who has launched an archipelago of pro-Clinton organizations, including Correct the Record, Media Matters for America, and American Bridge 21st Century—announced his resignation Monday from the main Democratic super PAC supporting her, Priorities USA Action, Politico reports.
The split comes just after Clinton hired a handful of high-profile advisers, including top brass from President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Joel Benenson, Jim Margolis, John Podesta and Robby Mook are expected to hold senior positions in the as-yet-undeclared Clinton campaign.
Brock’s sudden resignation, combined with those recent hires, has had the effect of drawing some hard lines—who’s “in” and who’s “out”—down the center of the Clinton Universe, an enormous and amorphous collection of aides, advisers, confidantes and hangers-on that has has, until now, evinced a unified, big-tent, everyone-is-welcome vibe.
In November, leaders from Brock’s empire, Priorities USA and the quirky, grassroots super PAC, Ready for Hillary, all gathered amicably at Ready for Hillary’s financial meeting in New York City. At that event, officials from all three groups, as well as long-time Clinton insiders, gave speeches and met with members of the press, where they spoke of cooperation and partnership.
But below the surface—and in quiet conversations—rivalrous factions have simmered. Several Clinton allies told TIME they doubted the efficacy of Brock’s organizations and worried that the “amateurish” nature of some of the mailings from Correct the Record might end up hurting Clinton down the road. Another dismissed both Brock’s organizations and Ready for Hillary as “opportunists” and “outsiders” positioning themselves for plum positions in a future campaign.
Meanwhile, others in Clintonland doubted whether Priorities USA, which is run by Obama’s 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, could actually raise as much as $500 million—a vast sum that many say is necessary to compete with Republicans in 2016. (The famously conservative Koch brothers reportedly intend to spend almost $900 million this election cycle alone.)
In his resignation from Priorities USA on Monday, Brock accused officials at Priorities USA of orchestrating a “political hit job” against his organizations, according to Politico, which obtained a copy of his resignation letter. Brock referenced a recent New York Times story that revealed a consultant, who works closely with Brock’s groups, keeps an average of 12.5% of any fundraising money she brings in. “Current and former Priorities officials were behind this specious and malicious attack on the integrity of these critical organizations,” Brock wrote in the letter.
Clintonland veterans say all this squabbling should come as no surprise. During the 2008 Democratic primary between Clinton and Obama, Clinton’s camp was known for its pitched in-fighting and epic personality clashes. Almost all the same people—plus a few of the biggest egos from the Obama world—are now alive and well in the as-yet-undeclared Clinton campaign.
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