WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee plans to target Republican John McCain and help Democrat Barack Obama with an independent ad campaign run by veteran Democratic strategist Jonathan Prince, Democrats familiar with the decision said Thursday.
By law, the effort would be prohibited from coordinating with either Obama's presidential campaign or with the DNC. The ads would be financed with party money, however.
The Democrats asked for anonymity because the decision had not yet been formally announced.
Prince was deputy campaign manager for John Edward's presidential campaigns this year and in 2004, and has experience running independent advertising efforts for Democrats. In 2004, he headed Citizens for a Strong Senate, which spent $10 million airing ads that supported Democratic Senate candidates. The group's ad maker was David Axelrod, now a senior adviser to Obama.
The decision by the DNC puts to rest doubts about whether the party had any intention of helping Obama through independent expenditures.
One Democratic operative familiar with the DNC's decision said the party planned to match or exceed the $118 million spent in an independent expenditure effort in the 2004 presidential contest.The challenge for the party this time is that in 2004 Sen. John Kerry had locked up the Democratic nomination in March and had been raising money for the DNC by April.
Obama clinched the nomination last month. The DNC raised $22.5 million in June with Obama's help, nearly five times the $4.7 million it raised in May.
The Republican National Committee already has an independent expenditure campaign under way that is airing ads in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that are critical of Obama's stance on energy issues.
Federal election laws allow the party committees to coordinate up to $19 million each in spending with their presidential candidates. The independent expenditure operations can operate outside those limits.
Meanwhile, Obama and the DNC also announced that they will have joint fundraising agreements with 18 state Democratic parties, expanding the reach of donors to battlegrounds and to states Obama is trying to make competitive. The agreements will allow the parties to finance field operations that could help Obama and Democratic candidates in other races.
The state parties are in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.