Liberal donors to meet and debate next moves for 2012
Democratic donors and operatives are wasting no time in meeting to hash out what went wrong in 2010 and what the strategy for fundraising should be moving forward. About 150 key players are scheduled to meet next week in Washington at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, reports Politico’s Ken Vogel, and their views are increasingly divided into two categories. One side views blames the midterm losses on being outspent by outside GOP groups on political advertising; this side is advocating for a group, or network of groups, to match Republican efforts in 2012. The other side is cautioning that Democratic donors lack the resources to match Republican efforts, so they’d be better off investing in longer-term intellectual battles over progressive policies than chasing every election cycle.
Not surprisingly, some of the founders of new liberal outside spending outfits, like Jim Jordan, who helped run the group Commonsense Ten, are firmly in camp one. But Michael Vachon, an adviser to wealthy Democratic donor George Soros, thinks liberals should stick to working toward campaign finance reform.
“I don’t believe that the left is going to be able to raise the kind of money that you see raised on the right because the donors on the right are ultimately acting in their own economic self interest,” Vachon told Politico. “So I don’t think that we should attempt to match the funding.”
Obviously, some sort of synthesis is in order here. After 2004, Vogel writes, a lot of Democratic donors turned to funding more permanent liberal intellectual institutions like the Center for American Progress (CAP). Those investments have served them well, but groups like CAP weren’t designed to fight electoral battles and didn’t run political advertising to counter conservative groups, like American Crossroads, which were set up with the explicit mission to elect candidates. Craig Varoga, a Democratic independent advertising operative, argues that it shouldn’t be viewed as an either/or situation:
“The lesson from 2004 is that media (paid advertising) without long-term infrastructure doesn’t work,” said Varoga, who runs a non-profit outfit called Patriot Majority that spent more than $5 million on ads supporting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s successful reelection campaign in Nevada. “And the lesson from 2010 is that long-term infrastructure without media is also a losing recipe,” he said.