THE LEFT COAST’S FEDERAL RESERVE
Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe has known for six months now that his planned palace for the DNC was not going to be built. When DNC board members pulled the plug on his left-wing Taj Mahal, they told him simply to add on to the dump the party already resides in. That meant that while the renovations would cost several millions of dollars, McAuliffe wouldn’t need the $10 million or so he’d raised for the building fund. More than half of the money targeted for the building came from two of the party’s biggest donors, TV producer Haim Saban and film producer Stephen Bing, and owing to the nature of the contributions could not be spent on overtly political purposes without being released and redirected by the donors.
So McAuliffe, hard up for cash for the 2002 election cycle, went to Saban and Bing and asked if they would be willing to shift building money to the party’s campaign coffers for 2002. Never mind that the two men over time have donated, combined, more than $19 million in cash to specific Democratic candidates and issue-oriented campaigns the DNC was running.
“McAuliffe can spin all he wants, but we’re in serious s— up to our necks,” says a DNC staffer. “The Republicans hammered us this year. Their hard money, their soft money, it’s embarrassing. Then we have to go to these two guys and say, ‘Gee, can we have more?’ What happens when these Hollywood types figure out they aren’t going to get anything for their money? What if they go bankrupt? Who do we turn to next?”
Saban and Bing’s generosity toward the party can largely be chalked up to their fascination with Bill Clinton. When the former president is out on the left coast, he sometimes stays with one or the other, and always socializes with them. “There’s a school of thought here that as long as Clinton’s around as a playmate, some of these people will just keep coughing up the cash,” says the staffer. “But Clinton isn’t going to solve the party’s longterm financial problems, and that is how do we begin raising the hard money we’re going to need to raise to compete with the Republicans in the post-McCain-Feingold election landscape.”
Apparently, McAuliffe and others will worry about that later. For now, the party has about $6 million more in its 2002 election coffers than it did a week ago. And for cash-strapped Democratic candidates around the country that could be good news.
It isn’t just South Dakota that is facing potential major fraud investigations leading into the November elections. According to a Republican National Committee staffer, the party is monitoring get out the vote programs in at least two other states with pivotal campaigns. “We’re looking at Louisiana and New Mexico. Both of them have had problems in the past and we’re hearing they’re having problems again,” says the staffer.”
The South Dakota problems came to light a couple of weeks ago. The state Democratic Party reported huge increases in voter registration and chalked it up to the national party’s get-out-the-vote campaign. But the state attorney general is looking into how particular voter registration programs focused on Indian reservations, where turnout for elections tends to be low.
New Mexico has experienced similar problems with its Indian reservations and Democratic Party. And recall the state’s 2000 presidential election, which saw boxes of ballots mysteriously “disappear” on election night as Gore and Bush ran neck and neck. Ultimately Gore won the state by a few hundred votes. Today, former Clinton Energy Secretary and Monica Lewinsky interviewer Bill Richardson is running for governor, and lately has been sinking in the polls. Republicans are concerned that the state Democratic Party may attempt to boost the turnout on behalf of Richardson.
Similar problems are a concern for Republicans down on the Bayou, where the GOP hopes to oust Sen. Mary Landrieu, or at least push her to a runoff against a Republican candidate.
“It may be that they can beat us fair and square,” says a Republican pollster, who will be in New Mexico on election day monitoring polling places. “But the Democrats’ record in some of these places is that they’d rather cheat, win and run. We can’t afford to let them get away with it this time.”
Already the South Dakota Republican Senate candidate, Rep. John Thune, has said that if the voter registration fraud story gets any more serious, he will be prepared to go to court over the election’s outcome. If he loses.
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