Priorities USA Action's fundraising came almost entirely from eight individuals giving six- or seven-figure donations. The biggest contribution was a $2 million donation from Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs. The other two million-dollar donors were Oscar winning actor Morgan Freeman and media magnate Fred Eychaner. Both gave $1 million. Architect Jon Stryker, an heir to the medical supply Stryker Corp. fortune, contributed $750,000. Stryker is a big donor to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender causes, including to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which has itself given donations to super PACs this election cycle.
The rush for money by Priorities USA Action staffers Bill Burton, a former top communications aide in the Obama White House, and Paul Begala, a former Clinton White House aide, was chronicled in an article for the New York Times Magazine. The Times article described the push to obtain a contribution from Qualcomm's Jacobs and his wife, Joan, "whom Burton and other Priorities surrogates spent a year courting in person, on the phone and by e-mail before the couple relented and gave $2 million."
Aside from Burton and Begala, the super PAC has hired veterans of other massive fundraising efforts. Harold Ickes, former Clinton advisor and head of the massive independent group effort to elect Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to the White House in 2004, is the president of Priorities. Mary Beth Cahill, Kerry's campaign manager and the former executive director of Emily's List, was brought on recently as a strategic advisor.
After a few months of terrible fundraising at the beginning of 2012, the super PAC has $2.77 million cash on hand and, according to Burton, $20 million in promised contributions down the line.
Priorities USA Action has been using its newfound fundraising prowess to unleash hard-hitting attacks against Obama's Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. The ads feature former workers of companies who lost their jobs and saw the companies they worked for ruined after Romney's Bain Capital took them over. Other ads lack the individual workers, but carry the same message: Romney used leveraged debt to drain money from companies that Bain Capital took over and walked away with millions, sometimes leaving the companies bankrupt and workers out of a job.
According to polling by Priorities USA Action, the ads are working. A poll from Global Strategy Group and the Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group on behalf of the Super PAC found that voters in swing states were much less likely to vote for Romney than after being exposed to the arguments in the advertisements.