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Democrats are shocked by campaign collusion with 527s? Tell us another one.

By 8.26.04

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It took the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth finally to get the media and Democrats to do something they've been reluctant to do throughout this election cycle. And, strangely enough, it has nothing to do with Kerry's war record, or Cambodia, or whether that wound was accidentally self-inflicted.

No, the once unimaginable feat the Swifties have accomplished is the stirring of moral indignation about connections between 527s and presidential campaigns. Yesterday, for example, the New York Times published a four-box diagram to illustrate that -- gasp! -- Republicans interested in seeing Bush win have been supporting the anti-Kerry Swifties. John Kerry --beneficiary of some $60 million in 527 funded anti-Bush ads -- has suddenly grown a conscience about 527s and run crying to the FEC to put a stop to them. Finally, after admitting they had provided legal advice to both the Bush campaign and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the heads of Republican operatives Benjamin Ginsberg and Susan Arceneaux were dutifully delivered on a platter to the gods of campaign finance.

We could call those heads the collateral damage of a terrible idea. Starry-eyed campaign finance advocates believed legislation could remove politicians from the political process. 527s would advocate issues but not coordinate with any candidate. Of course, this ignored the fact that in a democracy we rely on candidates to represent our political and policy concerns. If I want lower taxes, am I actively going to support a fiscal conservative (this, I realize, presupposes such a creature still exists)? Or should I just go shout about tax policy from a mountaintop and hope someone running for office hears me?

I actually have no problem with Republican 527s being persecuted. After all, Republicans helped make this ludicrous, unconstitutional scheme the law of the land. Listening to George W. Bush complain about ads from "outside groups" is absolutely infuriating, since it was his pen that created the very milieu those groups thrive in.

Even so, the unmitigated gall of the media and Democrats in suddenly taking a vested interest in the issue of 527s is fantastical. When it comes to rote denials and barely concealed coordination between 527s and the Kerry campaign, Democrats have made Republicans look like a bunch of schoolgirls.

BUT DON'T TAKE MY word for it. The donkey's official website proclaims to all that "The Democratic Party is partnering with MoveOn.org, People for the American Way, Campaign for America's Future, and dozens of other groups representing millions of Americans to organize a massive public mobilization."

Wait, but hasn't every Democratic hack in the world been on the cable news networks these last 24 hours lecturing us about how bad "partnering" with 527s is? Haven't they been explaining how it's against the law, and these Swifties really need to knock it off because they're making John "Vietnam! Vietnam! Vietnam!" Kerry feel bad? Democrats really have lost their minds and are prepared to justify any action to defeat Bush. As one "Democratic operative" confided to U.S. News & World Report, "[Republicans] don't accept the legitimacy of political opposition. These people will do anything to gain and hold power. So I'm not exactly feeling full of ethical scruples as we fight for survival."

That was no typo over at the Dems' site, either. Take Americans Coming Together, for example, the George Soros-funded anti-Bush organization. The group steadfastly denies that it is violating federal law by working on behalf of the Kerry campaign, but brags on its website that it is "laying the groundwork to defeat George W. Bush and elect Democrats." Perhaps ACT is advocating some other Democrat or series of Democrats than John Kerry for president? Not likely. The connections between the Kerry campaign and ACT go deeper than that, however: Former ACT staffer Rodney Shelton now serves as Kerry's Arkansas state campaign director and Kerry's former campaign manager is now a full time staffer with ACT.

Harold Ickes, the widely acknowledged driving force behind Americans Coming Together and the Media Fund, is also a member of the executive committee of the Democratic National Committee. Oh, and one of his best friends in the whole wide world just happens to be Mary Beth Cahill, who is campaign manager for Kerry/Edwards 2004. But I'm sure when they get together at dinner they never, ever talk about the campaign. That would be "partnering" maybe, or even worse, "coordination." And that, so say Democrats this week, is very bad.

Likewise, the Kerry campaign picked up MoveOn.org "opposition researcher" Zach Exley to run the campaign's Internet outreach efforts. Exley distinguished himself at MoveOn.org as one of the folks who posted the infamous ad comparing Bush to Adolf Hitler, which even uber-hater Michael Moore rejected. Asked whether he understood why Republicans might find the comparison in poor taste, Exley dismissed the furor as "typical Republican bullsh-t." I'm sure Exley never talks with his old friends at MoveOn.org.

RECENTLY, WHILE GEORGE SOROS and John Kerry were both on vacation in their neighboring mansions in Sun Valley, Idaho, the two men chatted on the phone but avoided a personal meeting, as Soros told USA Today, "because of how it would be interpreted." As this vignette makes perfectly clear, this fight is not about who is following the law or not. It is about keeping up appearances, and which party can break the law more stealthily. No one has actually considered following the law because it is politically impossible in the context of a national campaign.

Is it not the height of idiocy that RNC chair Ed Gillespie and DNC chair Terry McAuliffe both have to pretend they are not coordinating the activities of their respective parties? Clearly, these people must lie to remain within the bounds of McCain-Feingold, and, thus, we have codified lying as a pillar of our political process. Ordinary Americans are supposed to buy all this bunk, and take the words of liars on face value. Do they really believe we are stupid enough to believe the things they are telling us? Or have we let them get away with so much they are just assuming that we won't call them on anything anymore?

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