Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, both former White House officials, are forming a Democratic political group in an attempt to even the 2012 scales with outside groups that helped Republicans win the House majority last year.
The stakes are even bigger next year, with President Barack Obama up for re-election.
The new organization will be split between Priorities USA, a 501(c)(4) organization, and Priorities USA Action, an independent expenditure political action committee that will support candidates. Burton and Sweeney will serve as senior strategists, and Democratic consultant Paul Begala will be a senior adviser.
This is the latest in a string of Democratic groups to form in the aftermath of historic gains by Republicans in the 2010 midterm elections. Combined, top outside Republican groups like American Crossroads, formed by former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove, rivaled the traditional party campaign committees in spending.
“While we agree that fundamental campaign finance reforms are needed, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers cannot live by one set of rules as our values and our candidates are overrun with their hundreds of millions of dollars,” Burton said in a statement. “We will follow the rules as the Supreme Court has laid them out, but the days of the double standard are over.”
“This is an effort to level the playing field,” Sweeney said. “Americans deserve an honest debate about job creation, the economy, national security and education. That debate will never happen if only right wing extremists are engaged on the battlefield.”
American Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio complained the new group smacks of hypocrisy since the Obama White House complained about his group and others that do not need to disclose their donors.
“Obama’s brazen hypocrisy, in encouraging his own operatives to start groups exactly like the ones he demagogued last year, shows how cynical this president can be when it comes to perpetuating his own power,” Collegio said.
For example, in a message to supporters just this week, Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina complained about outside groups and their influence on elections.
On January 3, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., raises her right hand as her son Henry messes up her hair while Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., delivers the ceremonial swearing-in in the Old Senate Chamber. Gillibrand's other son Theodore, lower right, looks on.
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.