Friday, April 30, 2004

The Post McCain-Feingold Landscape: Reihan Salam examines a presidential candidate's need for surrogates:
One solution is to create surrogates with no need for sleep, using the black arts. But as the Salem witch trials demonstrated long ago, American voters have little tolerance for spells and incantations, and any moves in this direction are sure to be met with strong resistance from religious conservatives. Another possibility is to create a fictional person, like the Scarlet Pimpernel or Batman, who wears a mask that can, if necessary, be worn by many people. A nice idea, but it's ultimately too weird. There's the risk that it'll creep out wary swing voters.
Instead, as we've all heard, the usual-suspect partisans who used to work for the national parties are rolling out the 527s:
Led by President Ellen Malcolm of Emily's List and CEO Steve Rosenthal, a former AFL-CIO political director, [America Coming Together, a liberal 527 group] focuses on registration and mobilization ("get-out-the-vote" efforts) in 17 key battleground states. Other founders include Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, and Cecile Richards, president of America Votes, yet another 527 . . . Its take-no-prisoners rhetoric, as dished out by veteran Democratic operative (and former Kerry campaign manager) Jim Jordan, is heartburn-inducing . . . Those who can't stand Jim Jordan's shrill pronouncements are in a bind--he is also the spokesman for the Media Fund and the Joint Victory Campaign 2004, which raises money for, well, the Media Fund and ACT. The Media Fund, led by Clintonite Harold Ickes, is, as the name suggests, focused on buying television advertising in, you guessed it, 17 key battleground states. Great minds think alike, as they say.
Can we at least agree that it was better when the parties did the scumbag work in broad daylight, instead of a bunch of skulking tax-exempt organizations that are so thoroughly cross-pollenated that the rule against "coordination" with a campaign is a dead letter? The idea, obviously, is to recreate the once-hulking mass of the soft-money-financed Democratic Party (or "Dreamworks SKG," as I liked to call it) at the molecular level -- but still pretending that those molecules are independent entities.

Besides, says Salam, it's not going to work. The resulting organism will be less like the party and more of an ideological enforcer, like the conservative Club for Growth:

This past Tuesday, Pennsylvania's Republican senator, Arlen Specter, narrowly survived a primary challenge from House member Patrick Toomey. Toomey, an articulate, uncompromising conservative who . . . was seriously outgunned by Specter's superior fundraising . . . [T]he supply-siders at the Club for Growth helped make it a race by funneling large amounts of money into the state from Toomey's ideological soulmates around the country, who saw the race as an opportunity to send a message to moderate Republicans. Once the 2004 race is behind them, could one or several of the Democrat-affiliated 527s--already with a substantial donor base at its disposal--emerge as an ideological enforcer on the left? The Dems should pull out all the stops to prevent that from happening, spells and incantations included.

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