John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, helped set up a super PAC for Clinton before her campaign was legally launched, according to an email released by Wikileaks.
That top level coordination by Podesta skirts around the federal campaign law, which bars coordination between formal political campaigns and the super PACs that support them with paid advertising.
In January 2014, while he was working in President Barack Obama’s White House, Podesta convinced Jennifer Granholm to take over Priorities USA, which used to be Obama’s super PAC in 2012, but now is pro-Clinton.
“I had a good conversation with Jennifer yesterday about Priorities. She’s reflecting on her capacity to make the commitment and wants to have further conversations about time obligation. Sean, would appreciate if you could take the initiative in setting up a call for you three soon to follow up,” Podesta wrote to other progressive influence-holders in January 2014.
At the time, Podesta was working in the White House.
Granholm became co-chair of Priorities USA Action in January 2014, alongside former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina.
Podesta became Clinton campaign chairman in February 2015, before the Clinton campaign was officially launched in June 2015.
Podesta’s role in selecting Granholm was not publicized at the time. Granholm left Priorities USA in August 2015 to work for a different pro-Hillary PAC, David Brock’s Correct the Record, and became a Clinton campaign surrogate.
In another email released by Wikileaks, Podesta said that he planned to “Get Priorities functional.” He wrote on May 3, 2015:
I have no magic solutions other than execution. Elias may have some legal ideas to slow them down. We have 3 things we have to do. Raise the primary $ by expanding the bundler network. Get Priorities functional. Use this to scare our people into giving bigger sums. We may need to get WJC into the mix sooner. We should also ask BHO to do more in light of this, although they are kind of prissy about how they approach this.
That May email came after the campaign was announced in April 2015, but before the campaign was legally launched in June 2015.
In October 2015, staffers working for Clinton were told that Sen. Marco Rubio was seen wth a donor in Chicago, according to a Wikileaks email.
On Thursday, October 29, 2015, William Mahoney <WMahoney@smsm.com …
Interesting sighting at our residence in Chicago. Walking in lobby from dinner. Marco Rubio leaving , escorted by Ken Griffin from Citadel – Griffin had small event for him at residence. super pac money to follow- Thought you should know. Great couple of weeks for Hillary. Amalia and I enjoyed lunching with you in Chicago.
A staffer named Ton Carrk responded,
Sent from my iPhone
On Oct 29, 2015, at 10:48 PM, Tony Carrk <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
So the guy bankrolling the new super PAC that has an ad using her Benghazi testimony is talking with the candidate who is attacking us on Benghazi. Smells like coordination.
In a separate May 2015 email, Clinton’s aide Human Abedin urged the campaign to take a hardline against GOP actions that seem to violate the campaign funding rules.
I agree with you, John. I think we focus hard on raising as much as we can and then throw the kitchen sink at everyone who we believe steps over the line, understanding that has limited impact.
The email’s subject line was based on the headline of a New York times article, which described the inability of the federal government to enforce its own campaign-funding rules. “F.E.C. Can’t Curb 2016 Election Abuse, Commission Chief Says There is a stalemate among the agency’s six commissioners, who are perpetually locked in 3-to-3 ties along party lines because of a fundamental disagreement over the commission’s mandate.”