Aiming to offset heavy spending by pro-Republican outside groups that helped to topple many Democrats in the 2010 elections, Democratic operatives David Brock, who runs Media Matters Action Network, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and former Maryland lieutenant governor, recently announced the launch of American Bridge to coordinate fundraising for liberals going into the 2012 cycle.
According to papers filed with the Federal Election Commission last year, American Bridge will be set up as an independent-expenditure-only political action committee. The designation enables the group to collect contributions of unlimited size from individuals and corporations, provided donors are disclosed regularly. By contrast, Brock’s Media Matters, which, along with affiliated groups, raised $23 million in the 2010 cycle and is set to take on an expanded role in 2012, is organized as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group that does not disclose donors.
Last November, the New York Times reported that Brock conceives of American Bridge as a “permanent liberal counterweight to Republican-leaning outside groups” and indicated the group had already amassed $4 million in pledges. Democratic donors who have reportedly pledged support include Taco Bell heir and Democracy Alliance chairman Rob McKay and television producer Marcia L. Carsey.
Democrats were significantly outspent in the 2010 elections by groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads that favored Republican candidates.
During the 2008 cycle, the Obama campaign’s ambivalence toward centralized, independent group fundraising curbed Democratic efforts. In a reversal, White House officials have indicated the administration will not thwart greater involvement by such entities in the 2012 elections.
Mark Ruggiero is a freelance writer who resides in New York.