Making Sense of the Strategy

The past few days have brought several expressions of the Dem’s new strategy: focus on the GOP as a party that takes special interest money (including funds from foreigners) and moves to the right as puppet masters Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie pull on the strings. David Axelrod’s case is a subtle one and the logic is compelling, as revealed on Sunday’s Face the Nation (as revisited in  Mike Allen’s piece in today’s Politico.)

But when asked by Bob Schieffer, host of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” for proof that the foreign funds were “anything other than peanuts,” Axerod said: “Do you have any evidence that it’s NOT, Bob? The fact is that the Chamber [of Commerce] has asserted that, but they won’t release any information about where their campaign money is coming from.”

“Is that the best you can do?” Schieffer asked in response.

President Obama has made the same assertions. As reported by the Washington Post:

President Obama, speaking at a rally in Philadelphia, said “the American people deserve to know who is trying to sway their elections” and raised the possibility that foreigners could be funding his opponents.

“You don’t know,” Obama said at the rally for Senate candidate Joe Sestak and other Democrats. “It could be the oil industry. It could even be foreign-owned corporations. You don’t know because they don’t have to disclose.”

In an odd moment of candor, the New York Times actually questioned the empirical foundations of the claims, and noted:

But a closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.

Similarly, the Post stated:

Legal experts from both parties say the prohibition against foreign funding in U.S. elections is clear, and noted that Democrats have turned up no hard evidence that the chamber is violating that ban.

It says quite a bit about the administration’s evaluation of its own considerable legislative achievements that it has embraced this strategy. Health care (“a big “f’ing deal,” as Mr. Biden correctly observed) and financial reforms should provide strong empirical support for the claim that the Democrats have delivered on some of their largest promises. Why not make the case aggressively?

Moreover, with all the low-hanging fruit that the GOP has provided the Democrats (e.g., Christine O’Donnell’s “I’m not a witch” ad, Rich Lott’s Nazi reenactments, Paladino’s comments regarding gay “brainwashing,” and virtually everything coming out of Newt’s mouth), stories about fundraising seem like rather thin gruel.



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