Thursday, November 17, 2005

''Democratic Independence Grows''

Lynn from Evergreen Politics points me to this post on MyDD:

"If we are indeed going to have an Indycrat realignment in 2006, it is going to be at least partially because of growing Democratic independence from traditional sources of power in Washington: lobbyists and big donors. As was reported back in June, Dean has already freed the DNC from any reliance on big donors whatsoever:

As a fund-raiser--the first duty of a party chairman and Dean's claim to fame in '04--he isn't quite the disaster some critics suggest. Early in the last "cycle," in 2001, the Republican National Committee outraised the DNC by a 3-1 margin. So far this year, that ratio has been cut to 2-1. More important is the way it was raised. In the past the party relied on "soft money" from millionaires. But such donations are now illegal. Officials esti-mate that $12 million of the $14 million the Dean regime has collected so far this year has come from those who gave less than $250. "For people who really look hard at the numbers, he's wowing people," says Elaine Kamarck, a respected DNC member. The Democratic Party is now being funded almost entirely by small donors. Now, through Pelosi, we are starting to close the door on lobbyists as well:

While such sessions with lobbyists are not new, and they do go far in encouraging K Street contributions, some lobbyists were annoyed that the party's campaign arm has been reaching out to them more than Pelosi's office has.
Since the departure this summer of Chief of Staff George Crawford, Pelosi's office has not been holding its Friday meeting with lobbyists on a regular basis, said several attendees. "They've canceled them a lot more often than they've had them," said one regular attendee. Democratic sources could recall only two or three meetings occurring since the new chief of staff, John Lawrence, took over in July.

These two events go hand in hand. Traditionally, the main reason Democrats and Republicans meet with lobbyists is so that they are able to fill up their campaign coffers with PAC money. However, now that Democrats are able to rely on small donors much more than in the past, they do not need this money as much as they once did. Of course, it also helps that Democrats were forced to find another source of campaign funding because of the Republican K Street project (offical website can be found here). The point of the K-Street project was an attempt by Republicans to shut Democrats out of the lobbying world as much as possible, mainly in order to receive as high a percentage of PAC money as possible. Nicholas Confessore explains the purpose of the K Street project:

But over the last few years, Republicans have brought about a revolutionary change: They've begun to capture and, consequently, discipline K Street. Through efforts like Santorum's--and a House version run by the majority whip, Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)--K Street is becoming solidly Republican. The corporate lobbyists who once ran the show, loyal only to the parochial interests of their employer, are being replaced by party activists who are loyal first and foremost to the GOP. Through them, Republican leaders can now marshal armies of lobbyists, lawyers, and public relations experts--not to mention enormous amounts of money--to meet the party's goals. Ten years ago, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the political donations of 19 key industry sectors--including accounting, pharmaceuticals, defense, and commercial banks--were split about evenly between the parties. Today, the GOP holds a two-to-one advantage in corporate cash.

So, Democrats are shut out of K Street, and the money that comes with it, as part of a systematic effort by the Republican Party to soak up as much corporate and lobbying money as possible. In response, Democrats find that they can raise even more money than they did in the past by turning to small, individual donors. Then, K Street and big donors get upset with Democrats for not paying attention to them anymore. Sounds like karmic comeuppance to big donors and lobbyists to me. If lobbyists and big donors really wanted the same amount of access to Democrats and Republicans, then they wouldn't have abandoned Dems and given in to the Republican K Street project in the first place. It is as though big donors and lobbyists broke up with Dems, then Dems went out and found someone who was better for them anyway, and now the lobbyists and big donors want Dems back. Well, I say hard cheese to lobbyists to big donors. They had their chance. They blew it. They can ram it.

Is it any wonder why Democrats are doing so well among Independents these days? You have one party, Republicans, trying to suck up as much as possible to the rich, to large corporations, and to lobbyists. You have another party, Democrats, trying instead to appeal to small donors and build a nationwide grassroots movement independent of powerful, wealthy interests. You tell me who is going to appeal more to people who feel shut out of the system. You tell me which is a better way for American politics to operate. Democrats should broadcast these developments as far and as wide as they can. Amidst the Republican culture of corruption, this is good government at work. This will appeal to what I once deemed the "non-ideological reformers" as much as any issue or platform position ever could. We need to get the word out. Democrats are taking their party back." David Sirota says, "As Dems Challenge Lobbyists' Power, D.C. Establishment Freaks."

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