Priorities USA Action

Political leanings: Democratic/liberal

2020 total spending: $138.3 million 

Priorities USA Action, a super PAC, was formed in 2011 by former White House staffers Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney to help reelect then-President Barack Obama in 2012.

Priorities USA Action states that its mission is to “persuade and mobilize voters in order to protect the White House, our majorities in Congress and chart a path forward for sustainable Democratic power at the federal, state and local level.”

Guy Cecil, who was political director of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, serves as chairman of the super PAC. Danielle Butterfield serves as the super PAC’s executive director. Prior to her role at Priorities USA Action, Butterfield worked on digital advertising campaigns for Obama in 2012 and Clinton in 2016. 

As a super PAC, Priorities USA Action can raise unlimited amounts of money, but it must disclose its donors. The super PAC’s affiliated 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, Priorities USA, can raise unlimited amounts of money without disclosing its donors. The group also has a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Priorities USA Foundation, which formed in 2017.

During the 2020 campaign cycle, the super PAC raised $139.4 million and spent $138.3 million, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. In 2020, its biggest individual donor was Michael Bloomberg, co-founder of Bloomberg LP, former mayor of New York City, and unsuccessful candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Bloomberg donated $19.2 million to the super PAC. Other major donors included hedge fund manager S. Donald Sussman, who gave $8 million, and hedge fund billionaire James Simons, who donated $4 million. The Senate Majority PAC was Priorities USA Action’s biggest PAC donor, contributing nearly $20.7 million. 

The super PAC also received large sums from issue-specific PACs, such as $5.2 million from the LCV Victory Fund, which focuses on “pro-environment” candidates, and $5 million from the Laborers’ International Union of North America‘s two super PACs, LIUNA Political Fund and LIUNA Building America.

During the 2020 cycle, Priorities USA Action spent $127.5 million on independent expenditures, which the FEC defines as spending on advertising that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a federal candidate. Most of that money — more than $110 million — was used to help elect Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as president.

The super PAC also got involved in a few Senate races. In North Carolina, it spent more than $10 million in support of Democrat Cal Cunningham’s unsuccessful bid to defeat Republican Sen. Thom Tillis. In Maine, the group spent $3.1 million in an unsuccessful attempt to unseat the incumbent, Republican Sen. Susan Collins. 

Looking ahead to the 2022 election cycle, Priorities USA announced in June 2021 that it would invest $20 million in initiatives to protect voting rights. As of Dec. 31, Priorities USA Action has raised $4.7 million, and spent nearly $1.2 million. Undergraduate Fellow Sydney Nixon contributed to this article. 

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