If you haven't yet heard about the Progressive Donor Network, you soon will. Yesterday the Washington Times reported on how Democrats plan to use PDN to go around the new campaign finance law to raise soft money. But there's a more immediate reason to pay attention: Two of PDN's founding members are current CNN "Crossfire" hosts Paul Begala and James Carville, cause enough to expect controversy as PDN pushes ahead with its very Democratic agenda.
PDN was started by Michael Lux, a longtime leftist fundraiser and Clinton aide, whose résumé reads like the template for the modern Democrat: former senior Clinton White House adviser, former fundraiser for the AFL-CIO, former senior staff member for People for the American Way and its fundraising arm, and a former campaign aide to Sens. Joe Biden and Paul Simon.
Lux's PDN and its relationship to Carville and Begala will be interesting to monitor, given that the PDN's stated goal is to attack and defeat the Bush Administration's political and policy agenda in the coming months. PDN intends to raise money through a separate PAC and distribute it to state and local Democratic candidates, as well as organize public protests and plant spokesmen and PDN supporters on radio and TV talk shows to counter conservative voices. Supporters of PDN say they fully expect and hope in the coming months that their issues and their people will become fixtures on the "Crossfire" set. Stay tuned.
Interestingly, Lux and his Progressive Strategies firm also operate American Family Voices, a 501(c)(3) which recently has been part of the Democratic Party's attempt to tie Republicans to the Enron collapse. Lux's empire is operated out of his Washington offices.
"He's trying to beat Republicans at their own game," says a staffer to Rep. Dick Gephardt, who recently spoke at a PDN fundraiser. "Guys on the right like Grover Norquist have been fundraising and running three or four different 'interest groups' out of their offices for years. We're finally catching on."
Gephardt in particular seems enamored of the group, apparently hoping Lux's ties to the Clinton/Gore crowd, as well as the AFL-CIO, will help him in a possible presidential run. "Sure, he'd want a group like this in his corner. They'd be aggressive advocates for his progressive ideals," says Gephardt's staffer.
(Wonder if Gephardt's Missouri constituents know they've been voting for a progressive all these years?)
Meanwhile, in Texas, Democrats have organized another neutrally named 501(c)(3) headed by an old Clinton hand and designed to provide aid and comfort to their party. Former San Antonio mayor and Clinton Cabinet member Henry Cisneros now runs the Every Texan Foundation, which ostensibly is raising money to fund nonpartisan grassroots voter registration drives in the Lone Star State. In fact Clinton recently appeared with Cisneros to headline a fundraiser for the group.
Although by law Every Texan is supposed to be nonpartisan, its backers have a different idea. "I thought it was a Democrat group," says one Houston-based donor who cut the foundation a $1,000 check recently. "Cisneros, Clinton, and they tout Democrats here."
Cisneros has modeled his project on Jesse Jackson's get-out-the-vote program of the late 1980s and early 1990s.