President Obama’s Priorities USA Super PAC, which can collect unlimited amounts of money from individuals and corporations, raised only $59,000 in January, $50,000 of which came from a single person with deep ties to some of Obama’s more notorious allies in Chicago, including convicted fraudster Tony Rezko and disgraced former governor Rod Blagojevich.
Priorities USA had raised just $4.2 million by the end of January, with $1.3 million in cash on hand, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) figures. That is only a fraction of the $36.8 million raised by Mitt Romney’s Restore Our Future PAC since its creation, including $6.6 million in January alone.
Half of the donations to Priorities USA have come from Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who told USA Today, "The stakes are too high for us to simply allow the extremism of a small but well-funded right wing minority to go unchallenged." Katzenberg cut his $2 million check to Priorities USA last spring, and his Dreamworks colleague Steven Spielberg followed with another $100,000 just a few months later.
In addition to his fundraising largesse this cycle, Katzenberg was a bundler for Obama’s 2008 campaign, raising at least $500,000. He and his wife personally gave $352,402 to Democrats in 2008.
Last Friday, Dreamworks announced a $2 billion deal with the Chinese government for the company to build a production studio in Shanghai. The deal came just days after Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping met for an extensive meeting with Barack Obama in Washington, a visit that was followed by the Chinese Vice President’s trip to Los Angeles to meet with Katzenberg.
A spokeswoman for Katzenberg denied that either Katzenberg or Dreamworks Animation had any discussions with Obama administration officials about the deal with China.
In an attempt to boost fundraising, and with the Obama administration now overtly supporting the Super PAC’s fundraising efforts, Priorities USA has hired Democratic fundraising czarina Diana Rogalle, who raked in money for the massive, scandal-plagued 527 Americans Coming Together (ACT).
Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action announced the hire of Rogalle as a senior adviser on Tuesday. Rogalle spearheaded ACT’s nearly $200 million cash-haul during the 2004 election, including $14.5 million from left-wing billionaire George Soros.
Rogalle has extensive and well-heeled connections. ACT was founded in 2003 by Steve Rosenthal, a former head of the AFL-CIO’s political arm; Harold Ickes, a current president of Priorities USA Action and Bill Clinton’s former deputy chief of staff; and Ellen Malcolm, founder of the pro-choice advocacy group Emily’s List.
The list of ACT’s coalition members reads like a who’s-who of the most powerful union, environmental, and liberal groups in the country: MoveOn.org, the AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club, and others.
ACT’s main project was a massive get-out-the-vote effort stretching across 17 battleground states. But the operation was plagued by ethical lapses.
In 2007, the FEC hit ACT with a $775,000 fine—the third largest in the regulator’s history—for using unregulated soft money to boost Democratic candidates during the 2004 elections.
ACT also came under fire for hiring felons as canvassers. A 2004 investigation by the Associated Press revealed that the names and hometowns of dozens of ACT employees in Missouri, Florida, and Ohio matched those of individuals convicted of crimes such as burglary, forgery, drug dealing, assault, and sex offenses.
Officials in several Ohio counties launched investigations into faulty voter registrations provided by ACT during the 2004 cycle.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment.