Washington Prowler

Getting Their ACT Together

Democrat interests pool bucks against Bush -- which should raise FEC's hackles. Plus: Dwarfs love Gore.

By 8.11.03

EVOLVING PARTNERSHIP
The money people who finance the Democratic Party aren't being too subtle. As reported in the Prowler a few months ago (here and here), the three-headed monster that underwrites the left-wingers over at the DNC and keeps people like DNC chair Terry McAuliffe on a short leash -- organized labor, the radical womens' groups and the environmentalists -- pooled some of their money and created a special interest PAC, the Partnership for America's Families, supposedly dedicated to "getting out the vote" in 2004.

Last week, in a related effort, two of the bigger shills for big labor -- Partnership founder Steve Rosenthal, formerly political director of the AFL-CIO, and Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union -- together the Sierra Club and EMILY's List, pooled about $30 million, and promised to spend it all on ousting President George W. Bush. George Soros is the only individual involved in the group. He committed $10 million of his own money.

Never mind that these activities should draw the attention of the Federal Election Commission, which has barred special interest PACs from engaging in overt political targeting. Under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, such groups cannot direct their funds and activities towards a specific political goal. Rather, they can spend their money on issues and get out the vote campaigns.

That said, the new group, which calls itself Americans Coming Together (ACT), promises to be extremely active in the critical states in play for 2004. ACT would now be even more influential had its new CEO Steve Rosenthal not gotten into an war of egos with fellow labor power player Gerald McEntee, head of the influential state and municipal employee union, AFSCME. That union had been slated to join in Rosenthal's work, until McEntee and Rosenthal clashed, and McEntee took his money and went his own way.

"Given the politics inside labor, McEntee, Stern and Rosenthal couldn't be part of something like this together," says an AFL-CIO lobbyist. "They all have eyes on one day being head of the AFL-CIO, at least McEntee and Stern do. These guys just can't play nice with each other for very long."

Another reason McEntee backed out was his desire to move quickly to cut the Democratic presidential field down by endorsing a candidate early on. He has privately been touting Sen. John Kerry, though AFSCME has yet to endorse a candidate. "McEntee wants to be a kingmaker and have their candidate up and running out front early to compete with Bush one on one," says the labor lobbyist. "It's not in ACT's interest to move that quickly. McEntee always has his own agenda with these kinds of things."

ACT is expected to have about $75 million to spend, which, combined with about $25 million more from the AFL-CIO's own political fund, is giving McAuliffe and his party the grassroots money the DNC hasn't been able to raise from party members. When everything is added up come January 2005 after the elections, as much as 50 percent of the party's overall spending may have come from special interest assistance, a remarkable figure considering that McAuliffe was promising a fundraising push that would mirror the Republican Party's strong individual donor program.

IT GETS GORIER
Talk about a bunch of suck ups. For months, the Democratic candidates for president have gone out of their way to avoid mention of Al Gore on the stump, afraid of being lumped in with him as too extreme, too green, or perhaps too boring.

But after Gore's screed of a speech on Thursday, all the Democratic wannabes were hopping on the Gore bandwagon. Sen. Joe Lieberman was begging for an endorsement and comparing Gore's leadership to Gandhi's. Howie Dean was calling Gore a towering figure of the party. Sen. John Edwards was effusive in his praise, as was Sen. Bob Graham.

All of the statements, which were released after the speech, however, were held back until Gore said the magic words: that he wasn't running and that he would make an endorsement at some point down the road.

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