A planned merger between two political action committees competing to lay the groundwork for a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign fell through this month despite weeks of talks between the groups, BuzzFeed has learned.
Under the discussed arrangement, Ready for Hillary, the leading PAC supporting Clinton’s possible presidential campaign in 2016, would have absorbed a smaller California-based group, HillaryFTW, or “Hillary For the Win.”
Hector Pacheco, a 26-year-old attorney, founded HillaryFTW in March. He said he decided against the merger after about three weeks of talks with Ready for Hillary because of what he called “a handful of differences.”
“We are focused on California fundraising, Latina outreach, and trying to get down into raising money for political polling,” said Pacheco. “They’re more interested in running a campaign. The feeling was that this was the Hillary Clinton campaign without Hillary Clinton. So it wasn’t necessarily a deal that could be sweetened enough for me and my team.”
For one, Pacheco said he wants his effort to stay rooted in the West Coast, where he hopes to “create a groundswell around Hillary.” Ready for Hillary is based in Northern Virginia, though it has hosted small rallies across the country.
Ready for Hillary, Pacheco argued, is too “connected to D.C. and the East Coast, and more plugged into the scene there,” he said. “Whereas we’re more of an outsider group, and that’s something we enjoy and pride ourselves in.”
“This race is still three years away, but as we discussed the merger, it was clear that they wanted to make sure everything looked great from the get-go. They didn’t want to do big fundraisers. It was like perception is reality for them, and that’s not something we’re focusing on,” Pacheco said.
Ready for Hillary is the larger of the two groups. The PAC announced Tuesday that it would file a report with the Federal Election Committee at the end of the month showing more than $1 million in contributions. The group has also hired 270 Strategies, a firm founded by former campaign staffers for President Obama, to build what it calls “a national grassroots army” in support of the former Secretary of State. Ready for Hillary has said it will turn down million-dollar donations and focus less on fundraising, and more on harnessing early support for Clinton’s potential candidacy.
Pacheco, an entertainment lawyer based in Los Angeles, has a team of 25 people involved with HillaryFTW. The group uses office space in Venice, Calif., he said.
“They pitched the idea that we should merge with the whole concept being that bringing two different efforts under one umbrella would help coordinate the message,” Pacheco said, “and that having it come from one entity would increase the firepower.”
But a spokesman for Ready for Hillary, who confirmed that talks took place, said it was Pacheco’s group who first approached with the idea, by way of a mutual associate, Michael Trujillo, who worked on Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. Trujillo has been quoted as an “advisor” to HillaryFTW, though Pacheco says the former campaign staffer is not working for the group in a formal capacity.
In a statement to BuzzFeed, Ready for Hillary’s Seth Bringman said, “HillaryFTW reached out to us and we were happy to answer their questions and discuss how we might work together, but ultimately they determined the timing wasn’t right. We always welcome conversations with pro-Hillary groups and individuals about how we can work together to encourage Hillary to run.”
By his account, Pacheco says Trujillo connected him with Ready for Hillary, but that “they were definitely pitching me.”
“If it seemed like Ready for Hillary was implying I came to them and asked to merge into their operation, that is incorrect,” Pacheco said. “They reached out to me, set up a conference call with all their execs, had their lawyer reaching out to me to take care of the filing.”
“Because our West Coast emphasis and fundraising appeal is different, I had to say no,” he added.