Applicant list ready if Obama wins

Barack Obama isn't the only one hoping to make a huge leap in importance and influence on Election Day.

A Washington think tank with close ties to Obama and former president Bill Clinton is about to publish a 50-chapter book on how to run a new Democratic administration.

And if Obama wins the presidency Tuesday, the group also stands ready to fill top federal positions with some of its staffers, many of whom worked for Clinton.

The Center for American Progress, formed five years ago to counteract conservative think tanks, could become one of Washington's most influential policy advocacy groups. And it could give Obama a valuable head start in staffing agencies and drafting priorities for his administration – a daunting task for any president-elect with 11 weeks between the election and inauguration.

Of course, the group's efforts will go for naught if Obama loses to Republican John McCain. But the Center for American Progress took that chance more than a year ago when it commissioned about 60 people to write articles for its forthcoming book, “Changing America: A Progressive Blueprint.”

Heading the Center for American Progress is John Podesta, a former Clinton White House chief of staff whom Obama picked to direct his transition planning before Election Day.

Wealthy liberals, including George Soros, provided the Center for American Progress an initial budget of about $10 million and 75 staffers. Now it has about 150 staffers and spends more than $25 million a year.