The Los Angeles Times reports on the scramble among some Democrats to use the Republican model of outside campaign spending despite President Obama’s aversion to it.
Dozens of wealthy Democrats are expected to debate a change in their approach this month in Washington during a meeting of Democracy Alliance, an organization of more than 100 liberal donors set up five years ago to help the left build a long-term campaign and policy infrastructure.
“We should certainly learn from what the right wing has done,” says Steve Phillips, who leads a California-based political advocacy group, PowerPAC.org, and plans to attend the gathering. “We’ve been a little overly purist in our approach in a way that we’re maybe paying a political price for.”
The growing consensus among many party strategists that there is a need to create an expanded independent expenditure effort for 2012 represents a rejection of Obama’s long-standing opposition to large-dollar outside spending.
During the 2008 campaign, Obama condemned such independent campaigns, even though he benefited from many of them.
Robust fundraising by Democratic campaigns and party committees helped Democrats collect nearly as much as Republicans did overall. But when it came to the more than $300 million spent by outside groups, Republicans benefited by a margin of more than 2 to 1, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
There is still debate within the party about whether Democrats should set up “soft money” organizations similar to the ones cofounded by Rove, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS.
Michael Vachon, an advisor to billionaire George Soros, said it was a mistake — practically and philosophically — for the Democrats to give up the high ground on campaign finance reform to compete with Republicans and their allies.
“Their resources will always be too great because the funds come from those who are acting in their own economic self-interest. The way to respond is to change the way campaigns are funded and to require public disclosure of funders,” Vachon said.