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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why Democratic Outside Groups are Struggling

At National Journal, Reid Wilson explains an important reason why Democratic Super PACs are off to a slow start:

In fact, the problem is that Democratic donors have heard their party leaders bad-mouth the very same outside groups they're being asked to support. Donors we've heard from have questioned why their party stood so firmly against outside groups in 2010, only to turn around and tacitly embrace them in 2012.

... The outside spending groups, President Obama said at an October 10, 2010, campaign rally in Philadelphia, were "not just a threat to Democrats, that's a threat to our democracy."

"The American people deserve to know who's trying to sway their elections. And you can't stand by and let special interests drown out the voices of the American people," Obama said at the rally. [see similar remarks from a Maryland rally]

Then-Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Chris Van Hollen, one of the party's leading advocates for campaign finance reform, was apoplectic at the new rules. He spent months arguing to anyone who would listen that outside groups were tarnishing democracy, and that his candidates would be vindicated because voters would see through Karl Rove's evil schemes.


Legally speaking, there's not much hypocrisy in the Democratic statements. Democrats are careful to make the distinction between super PACs, which must disclose their donors, and 501(c)(4) organizations, which don't have to disclose such information (American Crossroads is a super PAC; Crossroads GPS is a c4). Optically, it doesn't look great -- especially when Vice President Joe Biden meets with donors who have just been hit up for big super PAC contributions, as he did last week.