"The leadership of the Obama campaign warned their donors against giving to outside groups, including many of the key issue groups that motivate progressives. The leadership in the White House has done the same thing," said Erica Payne, one of the founders of the Democracy Alliance, a group of the largest liberal donors, who now heads the Agenda Project. "As a result, the administration often looks like Will Ferrell in the movie 'Old School' — running through the street naked, shouting, 'Come on, everybody's streaking,' when in reality they are all by themselves."
By their own admission, Republicans are only warming up their money machine for the next presidential election. “We're definitely building a foundation,” Steven Law, executive director of American Crossroads—the independent conservative group advised by Karl Rove that will spend upwards of $50 million this fall—told me last month. “We hope to be an important player in 2012.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also sure to spend big in that election. Democratic criticisms of those groups won't be enough to affect this election. But the bright media spotlight shining on outfits like American Progress and the Chamber could lead to post-election legal scrutiny from the IRS and the Federal Election Commission that could cramp those groups in the coming presidential contest.