Democrats' desperation tactics on campaign finance

By Ed Gillespie
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In their latest attempt to distract voters from their job-killing policies, President Obama, his White House and senior Democrats in Congress have added to their long list of bogeymen the outside groups that seek to help elect Republicans in November. They threaten congressional investigations, discuss private tax information and level baseless accusations of criminal activity against those who have been public in seeking to defeat Democratic candidates and their liberal agenda. Without a trace of irony, powerful Democratic officeholders lament that many who support these groups wish to remain anonymous.

None of these Democrats expressed concern about such outside spending in 2008, when more than $400 million was spent to help elect Barack Obama, much of it from undisclosed donors. The liberal groups and Democrats who supported the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which established the legal framework for this new campaign spending, were much faster to adapt to its contours than the Republicans and conservative groups that largely opposed it, and liberal outside groups massively outspent Republicans in the past two election cycles.

When conservative groups and their backers moved closer to spending parity (Democrats' cries of being outspent omit the more than $200 million being spent by labor unions this cycle), Democrats tried to change the law again. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen and Sen. Chuck Schumer, who chaired the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, tried to jam through a new campaign finance reform bill that would force the disclosure of donors but carefully adjust the disclosure thresholds to exempt labor unions. After this transparently political effort failed, the Democrats unleashed a torrent of calls for government investigations into groups for abiding by the law they passed in 2002 but failed this year to change.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) wrote the Internal Revenue Service urging it to investigate nonprofit organizations that support Republican candidates.

Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) wrote the IRS in response to express their concern that Baucus's letter was intended "to chill the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights and intimidate Americans who wish to be part of petitioning the government for redress of their grievances."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) told a liberal political audience recently that Congress might investigate Karl Rove in the lame-duck session for his support of outside groups involved in the political process. Van Hollen has urged the IRS to investigate Americans for Prosperity and filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against the Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity, which is involved in supporting free-market House candidates.

The president himself, the chief law enforcement officer in the land, has smeared the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with the allegation that it was illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. campaigns, and a Democratic National Committee ad echoes the charge (while also accusing Mr. Rove and me of "trying to steal our democracy"). The smears are based on nothing more than a blog posting on a Web site affiliated with the Center for American Progress, a liberal nonprofit that does not disclose its donors.

Asked on CBS's "Face the Nation" for any proof for these allegations, White House political adviser David Axelrod blithely responded that he didn't need it -- that it was up to the chamber to prove it hadn't done anything wrong. In the West Wing, apparently, the American principle is that you're guilty until proven innocent, and our highest elected and appointed officials are there to hurl the charges. It is telling that this White House equates ads that threaten its hold on power as a threat to democracy. They're not actually one and the same.

For urging conservatives to support outside groups' efforts and stop ceding the field to liberal groups, I've been tarred by the White House's brush, even though the Republican State Leadership Committee that I chair discloses its donors. Axelrod wrongly claimed on Sunday that Karl Rove and I run American Crossroads GPS, one of the outside groups. We do not. We support it, raise money for it and voluntarily offer advice to its board members and employees, but we are not responsible for its decisions.

Interestingly, there is one investigation already under way, and it's of the White House. The Treasury Department's inspector general is looking into whether the president's top economic adviser improperly discussed with reporters private tax information about Koch Industries, whose founders are well known for their support of free-market ideas and conservative principles.

The fate awaiting Democrats in November is a result of their dismal economic record and their arrogance. One reason voters are deserting President Obama in droves is because of fears of unfettered, invasive government power -- fears that will only be reinforced by the Democrats' new political vigilantism.

The writer, a former Republican National Committee chairman, chairs the Republican State Leadership Committee, which helps elect Republicans to state offices around the country.

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