If Hillary Clinton and her closest associates weren't at first ready for the Ready for Hillary super PAC, they are now.
The group, created earlier this year by Allida Black and Adam Parkhomenko, a former Clinton campaign staffer, was at first viewed skeptically by members of Clinton’s inner circle, who desired more control over their brand and were wary of any potential distraction for campaign contributors.
But the super PAC has accelerated its activity and brought on as advisers close Clinton allies such as Craig Smith, a former political director to Bill Clinton's administration, and Harold Ickes, the former president's deputy chief of staff.
Those high-profile Clintonworld alliances were not borne of coincidence. Ready For Hillary has won over the confidence of Hillary Clinton and her team.
It’s winning over key Clinton donors, too. Last week, George Soros, a prominent financier and Democratic donor, became a finance co-chair with a $25,000 contribution to the group — the latest high-profile supporter to boost the organization since Hillary implicitly “gave it the thumbs-up,” as a source in the Clintons’ circle put it.
“Early on, it was a bunch of activists,” the source said of Ready for Hillary. “Now, it’s gotten to a point where it’s a serious endeavor.”
Ready For Hillary has achieved legitimacy, at least from the perspective of Clintonworld, in proportion to increased guidance from Clinton allies.
Smith and Ickes in particular have been “huge” for the organization, Parkhomenko told the Washington Examiner.
“Craig [Smith] and Harold [Ickes], while ‘associated’ with the Clinton world, are doing this in their own capacity because they want to see Clinton win,” he added.
But the group understands the weight of having friends of the Clintons on board, and has actively recruited them to become more engaged.
In April, former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, an undersecretary of state under Clinton, donated $2,500 to Ready For Hillary — and one day later, she said, received an email asking if she would help with outreach. She acceded, and has made appearances for the group in New York, Washington, and California.
As a close associate of the Clintons, she has also played an important role, in the same way Smith and Ickes have, in allaying concerns loyal Clintonites have had about Ready For Hillary.
“Very sophisticated donors who have been supportive of Hillary and Bill Clinton over the arc of their very long political career, I think some of them early on said, ‘It’s too early’ or ‘I don’t want to look like I’m pushing her,’ ” Tauscher said. They changed their minds, though, when they learned more about the group and its goals, she said.
Fundraising is of only marginal concern to Ready For Hillary, however, because the group is focused more on building lists of passionate Clinton supporters — and potential future campaign volunteers — in every state.
“We don’t need contributions over $25,000,” Parkhomenko said — and, indeed, he added that the group caps its donations at that level. “Someone who’s typically going to give $1 million, we’re not the kind of organization they’re going to want to give that to.”
Ready For Hillary's strategy also reflects an understanding that Clinton's campaign weakness likely won't be in raising money, because she and her husband have spent years curating a broad network of big-ticket donors. Rather, Clinton had problems at the grassroots level during the 2008 Democratic primary, while Barack Obama's campaign focused on building those grassroots and thrived.
"Big data helps, it really matters, and you have to merge high tech with grassroots," Bill Clinton said in a recent interview with CBS News. Obama "had a better grassroots organization in many states."
Already, Ready For Hillary has built a list of roughly 1 million supporters, the group says. And while they wait for Clinton to make a decision about 2016, they’ve put those people to work on other campaigns and causes to which Clinton has given her public stamp of approval.
The group has supported New York mayoral candidate Bill DeBlasio and, in Virginia, will be helping with get-out-the-vote efforts for gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, a close Clinton associate.
“We offered to help” in Virginia, Parkhomenko said, “and it’s something that we’re going to continue to do wherever [Clinton] goes.”
That includes the campaign trail during the 2014 mid-term elections, should Clinton choose to support any candidates, and even her book tour, should she embark on one when her new memoir is released next year.
“If she does a book tour, people should be prepared to see Ready For Hillary and our supporters there,” Parkhomenko said. “Any candidate she’s out supporting next year, we will be there.”