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New liberal super PAC focuses on growing minority influence

Wealth gap between whites, minorities widens
Wealth gap between whites, minorities widens CBS/iStockphoto

A new liberal super PAC is seeking to harness the growing wealth and political clout of minorities to advance its politics.

The group PAC+ says it is planning to invest $10 million this year and more than $20 million per election cycle in races across the country where a coalition of minorities and white progressives could play a key role. In 2012, the group is focusing on six states where changing demographics could soon change the balance of power: Texas, Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, Ohio and California.

PAC+ is also looking to finance its efforts by targeting what the group says are the 12 million U.S. households of minorities and liberal whites with a household income of more than $100,000. If even 1 percent of those households gave an annual donation of $240, the group argues it could easily reach its fundraising goals. With that in mind, PAC+ chairman Steve Phillips said in a release the group is focused on building a network of "many donors, not mega-donors."

"Precisely because of the struggles that benefited people like us, there are now more successful People of Color than at any previous point in the history of the United States," Phillips and PAC+ president Julie Martinez Ortega wrote on the PAC's website. "And, almost by definition, there are now more Whites who have worked with, stood by, and partnered with People of Color than at any previous point."

The group's fundraising approach stands in stark contrast to other super PACs, like the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA which raised half of its $2 million February haul from a single donation from comedian Bill Maher. Super PACs are free to accept unlimited donations from individuals, unions and corporations.

PAC+ also plans to spend its money differently, PAC+ spokesman Lorena Chambers told Hotsheet. Instead of just "vacuuming up dollars so we can buy media," Chambers said, the group plans to tailor its messaging to have the greatest impact among white progressives and minorities. That could mean building a field program coupled with phone banking, or blanketing the radio airwaves.

In Texas, the group plans to specifically target 10 counties where over 70 percent of Latinos reside, Chambers said. By focusing on those counties now, she said, PAC+ believes Texas can turn from "red" to "blue" by 2016. The same goes for Georgia, while New Mexico and Ohio are traditional battleground states.

Meanwhile, they say Arizona is a "tipping state" they think that could become more Democratic more quickly.

"We absolutely believe we can help the president win Arizona," Chambers said.

PAC+ is an offshoot of Power PAC, an advocacy group that spent close to $11 million in 2008 and was involved in tight 2010 races like the election of California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Chambers pointed to some key 2010 races -- namely, the re-election of Democratic Sens. Harry Reid (Nev.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.) -- to emphasize the importance of building coalitions of white liberals and minority voters.

"Reid, Boxer and Bennet in 2010 lost the white vote, and if it weren't for a coalition of progressives and people of color, we wouldn't have them in office today," she noted.