Monday, May 21, 2012

Conservative Outside Groups Outspending Liberals 4 To 1 On Congressional Campaigns


Lee Rogers & Norman Solomon, Blue America's top 2 California candidates

The good news--at least so far-- is that they're spending the money mostly to beat themselves up, defeating incumbents like Richard Lugar (R-IN) in the Senate and Mean Jean Schmidt (R-OH) and Don Manzullo (R-IL) is the House... and replacing them with weaker, most ideologically extreme candidates who Democrats may have a better chance to beat in November. Democrats have been far more reluctant to go after ideologically "impure" incumbents, the big progressive victory over corrupt Blue Dog Tim Holden (PA) being the exception. Still 4 to 1 scares Democratic Party leaders more than it relieves them. That $20 million right-wing groups have dumped into congressional races so far is seen as a harbinger of something far worse coming down the pike in their direction.
The surge suggests that big-spending super PACs and nonprofit groups, which have become dominant players in the presidential race, will also play a pivotal role in House and Senate contests that will determine the balance of power in Washington in 2013.

The money could be particularly crucial in races below the national radar that can be easily influenced by infusions of outside spending. One example came this week in Nebraska, where a dark-horse Republican Senate candidate upset two better-funded rivals in the GOP primary thanks in part to a last-minute, $250,000 ad buy by a billionaire-backed super PAC.

...“We’re just getting started,” said Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller, who said the group will soon begin training its fire on Democrats. “Our group has already had an impact on what the composition of Congress is going to look like next year. That’s our whole goal is to have an impact, to improve the gene pool in Congress.”

Interest groups on both sides have reported spending $29.7 million on congressional races so far this election cycle, according to a Washington Post analysis of Federal Election Commission reports.

The spending is more than twice the amount similar groups had spent at this point ahead of the 2008 elections. It’s also higher than the $25.2 million spent during the 2010 midterms, when several high-profile special elections and primary fights drove outside expenditures to new heights.

Spending among the largest groups favors Republicans by about 4 to 1, although that is due in part to a number of fierce Republican primary fights, the data show. GOP Senate primaries in Indiana and Texas, for example, have each drawn more than $4 million in spending by independent groups.

Over the weekend, big-spending wrestling executive Linda McMahon, an extremist with no chance of winning a general election unless she moves from Connecticut to Alabama or Idaho, beat mainstream conservative Chris Shays, 730-389 for the official GOP Senate nomination in their state. The big winner: Democratic nominee Chris Murphy, who will now sit back and watch a bloody and costly primary battle that can only leave half the party base bitter and feeling cheated. In 2010, the deranged McMahon spent $50 million of her own money, won the primary against a mainstream conservative, Rob Simmons, and went on to have her head handed to her in the general election, losing in November 636,040 (55%) to 498,341 (43%)... in a banner year for Republicans. At the same time Tom Foley, the more mainstream Republican candidate for governor, came much closer to winning with 560,874 (49%).

So, it's not just all about money. But it's mostly just all about money. A couple weeks ago, when we asked Alan Grayson what political lessons he had learned from his 2010 defeat he told us that there was nothing worthwhile to "learn" about being swamped by outside special interests. (The context was how after Bill Clinton was kicked out of the governorship of Arkansas by special interest money he never took on special interest money again, abandoned any kind of economic populism and became a neo-liberal corporatist whore who served the interests of the one-percent for the rest of his career.) Grayson:
I represented a district that had been Republican for 34 years. I did the job in the way that I considered best for the people who were depending on me, knowing full well that it would invite vicious attacks from the other side, and it did. I was treated to a $2 million carpet-bombing from the health insurance lobby, $2 million more from the Koch Brothers, etc. But if you want to do the job properly, you have to accept that you might lose it. That's the way it goes. If I return to Congress, I won't do anything differently, because I'm still willing to take it or leave it-- as long as I can get things done for people who need help. If that makes the Koch Brothers hate me and attack me, then as FDR said, "I welcome their hatred." If all you care about is just being a Congressman, then you're no good to anyone but yourself."

Although Blue America, a strictly grassroots, small donor PAC, will never be able to compete financially with corporately-funded superPACs like Rove's outfits or with the Koch brothers or the neo-fascist Club for Growth or Chamber of Commerce, we are backing Grayson again in what looks like an excellent chance for a return to Congress. And we have endorsed 3 progressives for Senate and close to two dozen for the House, some of whom-- like Patsy Keever (D-NC), Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and David Gill (D-IL)-- have already gone on to beat conservative DC Democrat-backed corporate whores. Our next big challenge comes June 5 when 4 of our top candidates, Norman Solomon and Lee Rogers in California, Franke Wilmer in Montana and Eric Griego in New Mexico go up against more conservative and better-financed Establishment candidates in a veritable super-Tuesday.

Griego is being backed by a wide array of progressive groups but a strategically-impaired EMILY'S List has thrown a monkey wrench intothe race by backing a mediocre candidate and that support could throw the race to corrupt conservative Marty Chavez, exactly what the DCCC wanted EMILY'S List, no longer a part of any kind of a progressive coalition, to accomplish.

Blue America is virtually alone in our backing for Franke Wilmer and for our two candidates in California's jungle primaries. That our three candidates are in contention at all-- and Rogers and Solomon look like good bets to finish in the top 2 and proceed to the general-- has a great deal to do with the small donors who have been so generous and forthcoming with small contributions. All those $10 and $20 donations add up. Yesterday we made one last plea to our donors for the final sprint in CA-2 on behalf of Norman Solomon. (Lee Rogers is way ahead in polling and the big push for him will come in the general election against warmonger and bitter, deranged homophobe Buck McKeon.)
Tuesday, June 5th is what Blue America is calling its "Super Tuesday", when several extremely important primary races will be decided. In fact, early voting has begun in California and what we believe is one of the most meaningful congressional races of our era will be decided that day. We're talking about the election to replace progressive stalwart Lynn Woolsey in the second district just above San Francisco. We're talking about progressive hero Norman Solomon.

We don't need to tell you again what an amazing person Norman is. We have been among his staunchest supporters from the moment he announced he would run and endorsed him from the beginning. His progressive resume spans 30 years as an activist and media critic and an elected official. He's been endorsed by the most committed progressives in the nation.

His good friend and longtime colleague Jeff Cohen, co-founder of FAIR, is one of them. In a recent impassioned endorsement, he explained why this particular race is so important:

Getting to a bloc of 25 genuine, principled progressives in Congress is attainable. What’s needed is a strategy and resources to develop candidates in dozens of solidly progressive congressional districts nationwide: black, Latino, college town, liberal urban, etc. When an incumbent Democrat sells-out or leaves office, activists in such a district should be able to call upon national organizational and netroots support to get a 100% progressive into Congress. Once elected by the grassroots in such districts, it’s hard for corporate or conservative forces to ever get them out. Think Bernie Sanders. Think Barbara Lee.

Think Blue America. Think Norman Solomon-- a progressive leader with a lifetime of liberal activism representing a deep blue district, unencumbered by obligation to business or the Democratic establishment. This is how we build our bloc.

We don't have to worry about a bunch of Republicans and ConservaDems demanding "centrism" in the second district of California. It's a place filled with voters who will support liberal policies and reward political courage. It's a seat that rightfully belongs to a leader of the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

Ask yourself, if not Norman Solomon, then who? If not in a deep blue district that believes in progressive values, then where? If not now, when?

If you haven't given any money yet this year or if you planned to give a little more, please consider donating to Norman Solomon.

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