January 07, 2013

Democrats wade into "dark money" cesspool, too

A new story, done by ProPublica in conjunction with High Country News, details how "off books" liberal groups WAY outspent conservative ones in the Montana Senate race between Democratic incumbent John Tester and challenger Denny Rehberg.

A few takeaways.

First, liberals (and a guy in the White House) will play hardball, as the story shows. (Which makes me wonder where that "hardball" is when dealing with the House GOP?)
Liberal groups set up field offices, knocked on doors, featured "Montana" in their names or put horses in their TV ads. Many of them, including Montana Hunters and Anglers, were tied to a consultancy firm where a good friend of Jim Messina, President Barack Obama's campaign manager, is a partner.

The end result? Tester beat Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg by a narrow margin. And the libertarian Cox, who had so little money he didn't even have to report to federal election authorities, picked up more votes than any other libertarian in a competitive race on the Montana ballot.
Related to that ... people who claim Greens are hypocritical for allegedly taking GOP money? Even if true, Democrats-only types obviously don't have much ground to stand on. 

Second, after a few years of grumbling about Citizens United, many national-level Democrats, like Tester, will "move on" if Round 2 of a deliberate test case from Montana, or something else, doesn't get SCOTUS to modify its ruling. That's because Congress, even if Democrats have congrol of both houses with a filibuster-proof Senate, aren't revisiting campaign finance issues any time soon.

In fact, they're probably hoping you will "move on," too, accept today's Democratic Party as it is and that's that.

That's not to say that Republicans aren't worse. It is to say, per ZZ Top, that Dems are about as pure as the driven slush.

Fourth, per the story, expect the blizzard of names to be even more obfuscating in the future. I normally associate "patriotic" in a name as signifying wingnuts. Well, one liberal-leaning "dark group" put "patriotic" in its name for that reason.

Fifth, something I"ve mentioned to friends before. Expect more paid commenters to hit the webpages of stories like this and try to spin, spin, spin, the moment they come out.  In fact, I suspect that happened already in the 2012 elections. Journalism analysis sites like Columbia Journalism Review, in the last weeks before the election, were routinely having political stories hit by wingnut spam commenters.

Sixth, if this does continue to happen, there's a couple of more specific takeaways. The first is "know your audience." Ads misspelling Tester's name, not being Montana-specific, etc., were likely to carry less water. The second is timing. An early blitz runs the risk of losing attention later, or having to be repeated more and more, which then risks numbing out watchers/listeners. 

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