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Posted by on Oct 31, 2010 in Politics | 0 comments

Democrats Now Quietly Use Money From Outside Groups Too

The old saying “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” is now in place — but perhaps it could be rephrased “What’s good for the Republicans is good for the Democrats.” But some (not those on the Supreme Court, though) would argue that’s what’s good for the Republican gander and the previously loud-sqwuaking Democratic goose who seemed mad at the gander is unfortunate for American democracy:

Now Democrats are quietly using money from outside groups shelling out big bucks without identifying the donors, too:

While President Obama and other Democrats have excoriated Republican “front groups” for using secret money to pay for attack ads, the party’s political committees have begun doing something similar: collecting cash from outside nonprofit groups that don’t disclose their contributors and using the money to pay for negative campaign commercials, campaign records show.

One group, Patriot Majority PAC — a Democratic political committee that has run a hard-hitting $1.7 million attack ad campaign against Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for Harry Reid’s Senate seat in Nevada — has gotten one of its largest donations, $250,000, from a left-leaning nonprofit that doesn’t release the names of any of its contributors, the records show.

Another newly formed political committee, America’s Families First Action Fund, which is running negative commercials against Republicans in House races across the country, recently got $1 million from a closely related nonprofit affiliate, the records show. Both organizations were set up over the summer by Democratic strategists, who emphasized in a memo to donors that contributions to the nonprofit could be kept anonymous.

So talking points have proven to be….talking points. Yet another tidbit about politics that will tend to make independent voters in general more cynical and cause some independent voters to decide more than ever to remain independent. And although it’ll help in key races, this development uncovered by Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff won’t help strengthen a key Democratic argument about the troubling role of anonymous donations in campaign 2010. He writes:

These operations illustrate how Democrats have belatedly tried to mimic some of the same GOP money-raising tactics they have sharply criticized, exploiting a controversial Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that allows unlimited contribution to political committees from corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals. These donations can be kept concealed from the public if made to outside nonprofits, which can either run campaign ads directly or — as the Democratic groups are doing — make contributions to other political committees that run ads on their own.

“It’s opened this huge loophole (where) you can launder money though these groups that don’t disclose and get it into the campaign,” said Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign spending. “We’ve seen this happening on both sides of the aisle.”

The activities of Patriot Majority PAC are especially noteworthy because they have been focused almost entirely on Nevada, where Reid, the Senate majority leader, is locked in a tight re-election battle with Angle, a Tea Party favorite. When President Obama campaigned in Nevada on behalf of Reid recently, he made the issue of “secret” campaign cash one of his principal themes.

Yet another indication that this has not been a pretty campaign and one that really is about partisan power on both sides rather than deeply held political tenets on both sides.

But the role of money hit the political analyst class bigtime earlier this month after Democrats were quoted in various articles as professing optimism. The money started pouring in and the narrative quickly changed. For instance, the Examiner noted:

Republicans are so far ahead in the money race that they continually expand the districts in play, forcing Democrats to go on the defensive; money with unknown origins floating around is seen as a mere dress rehearsal for 2012.

First the conventional wisdom was that Democrats would get run out of Washington in November. Then, some Democrats started seeing some hints of optimism and insisted things wouldn’t be that bad. Now, with a little more than two weeks to go before voters head to the polls, we’re back to square one. And mainly it’s because of cash: Republicans have lots, Democrats don’t.

In the House, GOP candidates raised $104 million from July to September, and the Democrats $89 million. While in the top Senate races, Republicans raised $60 million, and Democrats $40 million.

The Washington Post says the new numbers “illustrate a turnaround in fundraising for Republican House candidates, who had lagged $3 million behind Democrats the previous quarter.” Perhaps more importantly, Republican challengers are often raising more than the Democratic incumbents, making it more likely that the GOP will control of the chamber.

Politico also takes notice of this trend, pointing out that at least 40 House Democrats have been outraised by their Republican opponent, which is “the latest indication that cash is following GOP momentum.” Of course, that doesn’t even take into account the outside money that has swarmed the campaign and heavily favors Republicans.

All this extra cash is allowing Republicans to widen the playing field, forcing Democrats to play defense while abandoning any incumbents seen as having only a slim shot of hanging on to their seats.

So it seemed inevitable that the Democrats would enter into the group donations fray big time.

But here is an easy prediction: in 2010 look for anonymous donations from groups to play an even more extensive role — a role that’ll make this year’s donations seem like a tip at Dennys.

And expect the money to be pouring in from both sides.

The copyrighted cartoon by Randall Enos, Cagle Cartoons, is licensed to run on both sides. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. All rights reserved.