Political leanings: Democratic/liberal
Spending target: $17 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 staffer of Sen. Harry Reid, 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, was the group’s largest donor for the 2012 cycle, contributing $1 million. Close behind, at $850,000, was Anne Earhart, an oil fortune heiress who has contributed to other liberal outside spending groups such as Priorities USA and the House Majority PAC. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees also donated a total of $575,000.
Soros has continued to lead the way for American Bridge with contributions totaling $1 million so far this election cycle. Other top donors for 2014 include Earhart, who has given $400,000, Paul Egerman, a software entrepreneur who chaired Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s 2012 campaign finance committee, and Stephen Silberstein, founder of Innovative Interfaces, a library services technology company, who also has contributed to Democratic-leaning groups such as Planned Parenthood Votes, Senate Majority PAC, House Majority PAC and America Votes Action Fund.
All told, American Bridge spent about $338,000 on independent expenditures and electioneering communications in 2012, all of which went toward attacking Republicans. The group had raised about $8.5 million as of May 19, 2014, halfway toward its $17 million goal. The majority of PAC funds are used for 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, Senate Majority PAC and House Majority PAC, for advertising.
It was an American Bridge tracker who recorded Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s infamous “legitimate rape” comments in 2012. Akin would go on to lose by more than 15 percentage points to incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill in a race that many observers had originally believed to be eminently winnable by Akin.
The success of American Bridge has inspired the creation of similar opposition research-focused groups on the right, such as America Rising.
Despite the fact that November 2014 is still months away, American Bridge already has its sights set on 2016. Last July, it announced the launch of “Correct the Record,” an “aggressive rapid response program to defend potential Democratic [presidential] candidates from false attacks leveled by Republicans.”