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Falling out between power players signals tensions in Clintonland

A high-profile Democratic operative resigned in protest from a key Democratic super PAC, accusing them of orchestrating a "political hit job."
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Jan. 21, 2015. (Photo by John Woods/The Canadian Press/AP)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Jan. 21, 2015.

A falling out between two powerful political organizations has some Democrats worried that a potential 2016 bid by Hillary Clinton will be beset with the same kind of infighting that dragged her down in 2008. The two groups — PAC Priorities USA and an archipelago of independent Democratic groups run by uber-operative David Brock — are major supporters of a potential bid by the presumed Democratic front-runner.

Brock resigned in protest from the board of the big-money super PAC Priorities USA, he confirmed to msnbc Monday, accusing the group of orchestrating a "political hit job" against his political organizations, which include the opposition research super PAC American Bridge and the watchdog non-profit Media Matters, among others.

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Clinton’s 2008 campaign was notorious for backstabbing and infighting among its staff, which often spilled into the public light, and several Democratic operatives who spoke with msnbc Monday worried the new tensions signaled a return. Others saw an effort from Clinton high command to push Brock and his groups out of the inner circle, prompting a backlash from Brock.

Brock and his groups have been working closely with Priorities, and he sat on the board of the group, which spent millions backing Obama in 2012 and is preparing to do the same for Clinton in 2016.

But in a resignation letter sent to leaders of Priorities, which was first obtained by Politico, Brock accuses “current and former Priorities officials” of spreading a “specious and malicious attack” on his organizations that ultimately led to a story in The New York Times about his fundraising practices.

Brock called it “an orchestrated political hit job," and warned that it could severely damage critical funding for his groups, “while presumably enhancing Priorities’ own.”

“Frankly, this is the kind of dirty trick I’ve witnessed in the right-wing and would not tolerate then. Our Democratic Presidential nominee deserves better than people who would risk the next election — and our country’s future — for their own personal agendas,” he continued.

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American Bridge and Priorities USA worked hand in glove in 2012, with Bridge providing research that would often end up in ads run by Priorities. “We spent something like $65 million [in the 2012 election], and I believe every single ad was in some ways informed by Brock’s research,” longtime Clinton strategist Paul Begala, now an adviser to Priorities, recently told The Nation.

But there has been some tension brewing between the two groups as they moved from supporting Obama to backing Clinton in the long run-up to the 2016 campaign. Brock and his groups worked closely with Ready for Hillary, another pro-Clinton super PAC, that some strategists involved in Priorities at first tried to undermine.

Until this latest shakeup, the outside groups appeared to be working together happily more recently, however, with all three sending representatives to a Ready for Hillary finance council meeting last fall.