With ACT shutting down, where will major Democratic donors place their resources in the 2006 Congressional elections & the presidential race in 2008?
A primary Democratic fund-raising engine in the 2004 presidential race, America Coming Together, is shutting down most of its operation, leaving unclear its role in the elections next year and beyond.
The group, known as ACT, engineered an extensive effort to mobilize Democratic voters in 12 closely divided states last year while an allied organization, the Media Fund, backed the plan with thousands of television commercials. The strategy resonated with liberal donors, and the two groups together raised almost $200 million to become a crucial component of the Democratic effort to retake the White House.
George Soros, the philanthropist and financier, alone gave almost $20 million.
ACT ran 78 field offices and had almost 6,000 employees at its peak. It is now cutting all but a handful of its 28 remaining staff members as leaders re-evaluate its future.
ACT and the Media Fund were born over dinner conversation at a restaurant on Dupont Circle here months before Senator John Kerry secured the Democratic presidential nomination. Several top Democratic operatives met to discuss how to raise money and help the Democratic candidate under new more-restrictive campaign finance rules. What emerged was a plan to tap large donors using so-called 527 committees that, unlike candidates or political parties, are allowed to collect unlimited contributions.
ACT and the Media Fund raised enough money to alarm Republicans, who initially tried to fight the use of 527 groups through legal challenges. When the Federal Election Commission declined to pass tough regulations, Republicans turned to groups of their own. The largest, Progress for America, raised almost $45 million in a matter of weeks to support Mr. Bush.