I’m sure you’ve seen all of the analysis about why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is leading a war on the Koch brothers. Energize the Democrats big donors and, as part of the party’s continuing class warfare strategy, make two billionaires the face of the GOP – those are the principal reasons pundits flag. I have a third – divert attention.
To explain, let me start with a personal recollection. In the late ‘90s, during the Clinton impeachment, I was working on an unrelated matter with members of the special prosecutor’s staff. These lawyers never breathed a word about testimony given in the grand jury’s chambers, but they had plenty to say about the White House’s defense strategy.
Grand jury testimony is supposed to be secret and defense lawyers are excluded from the courtroom. So to keep as much control of the proceedings as possible, the president’s team had assigned an attorney to every member of the administration called to testify. The witnesses were coached in advance on what to say and (in violation of federal rules) intensively debriefed immediately after their appearances. The strategy was to use what was learned from each day’s debriefings to coach the next day’s witnesses. In other words, Team Clinton conspired to obstruct justice.
As I listened to those prosecutors so long ago, I did a quick calculation and realized the plot must have been hatched just as Mrs. Clinton went on the Today Show and charged that a “vast right-wing conspiracy” was out to get her husband. “So that’s what they were up to,” I thought. “Inoculate yourself from accusations of conspiracy by accusing your opponents first.”
This past week, Powerline and the Washington Free Beacon both carried stories about what Powerline termed a “left-wing conspiracy” of big-time ultra-liberal donors called the Democracy Alliance. Apparently the (in the Free Beacon’s term) “shadowy fundraising operation” met in Chicago in April. Someone was careless enough to leave papers and meeting notes behind, which ultimately made their way to the two online outlets.
According to Powerline, “The Alliance consists of approximately 100 rich liberals who have taken upon themselves the task of coordinating America’s many-left-wing organization to promote a single radical agenda.”
The Democratic Party has long been far more dependent on big donors that the GOP. Even in the age of online fundraising, at which the Democrats have given the appearance of excelling, the circumvention of reporting rules by the Obama campaign and its allies has left questions. Were the enormous but untraceable small gifts received via the web in 2008 and 2012 actually the product of high tech laundering of a handful of major donor contributions?
But according to the notes, the Democracy Alliance is about to take high-end giving to an entirely new level. Per the Free Beacon, the organization’s president, Gara LaMarch, “called on attendees to provide, through the DA, ‘the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be necessary to make a serious effort’ to elect Democratic candidates and enact more liberal policies.”
Senator Reid’s attacks on the Kochs began well before April, but seemed to grow in frequency and ferocity in March just as the Democratic Alliance was preparing to sound the charge for its billionaires’ brigade. It is hard to avoid the suspicion that the assaults were calculated to divert media attention from the truly tsunami-level wave of dollars that was about to overwhelm the 2014 campaign
To be sure, big money on the left is nothing new. Where would Marx have been without Engels? And there are other coordinating groups of mega-wealthy left-wing givers, the Environmental Grantmakers Association, for example. In 2007 alone, according to its website, the members of this consortium of 200 foundations “gave more than one billion to environmental causes,” few, if any, it appears, for the market-oriented, property-rights-honoring variety.
The sad fact about all this is not just the hypocrisy of Senator Reid (what’s new there), nor the explicit and repugnant attacks on the First Amendment from other Democratic senators that have arisen at the same time. What makes me, at least, really shake my head is the ease with which the Democrats get the media to chase their rabbits. Think of how a tweeted word “lies” in the middle of Paul Ryan’s 2012 convention speech shaped the story of that address. Ryan’s text was, as it happened, 100 percent true. But you wouldn’t have known that from the media coverage that evening and the next day.
The story here is not just about the crony character of the Democratic Party. It is about the character of contemporary media – and it is hardly a happy one.