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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

American Bridge 21st Century

Political leanings: Democratic/Liberal

Spending target: $15 million

American Bridge 21st Century is a liberal super PAC that conducts opposition research to aid Democratic candidates and organizations.

The group was founded in November 2010 by David Brock, a conservative-turned-liberal activist. After making a name for himself as a self-described “right-wing hit man,” Brock reinvented himself as a liberal crusader. In 2004, Brock founded Media Matters, a liberal website that monitors the media for “conservative misinformation.”

Rodell Mollineau, a former Sen. Harry Reid staffer, is the group’s president. Its chairwoman is Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland and the eldest child of Robert F. Kennedy.

As a super PAC, American Bridge can accept unlimited donations and is largely funded by major Democratic donors and labor unions. Billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros, a well-known supporter of liberal causes, is the group’s largest donor. Soros has contributed $1 million to the group as of June 30. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees has contributed a total of $575,000.

Other leading contributors include Rob McKay, heir to the Taco Bell fortune and chairman of the liberal Democracy Alliance, and Anne Earhart, heiress to Getty Oil fortune. Earhart has donated $600,000, and McKay has contributed $100,000.

As of June 2012, American Bridge has raised $8.6 million and spent $6.2 million. The super PAC has spent no money on TV advertising. A 501(c)(4) affiliate, American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, spent only $5,089 on advertising — a print ad that attacked Mitt Romney for changing his stance on abortion. The majority of PAC funds go toward tracking and recording Republican candidates as part of an extensive opposition research operation. The group shares its research with top Democratic independent expenditure committees, such as Priorities USA Action, Majority PAC, and House Majority PAC, for advertising.

American Bridge also has posted multiple opposition research memos on its website that target Republican candidates. A recent entry is a 290-page opposition research report on Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican Party’s vice presidential candidate.