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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ickes Launches New 527

Posted by James L.

I had ridiculously inflated hopes in the fall of 2004, despite all the empirical data telling me otherwise, that Kerry was going to pull ahead because of the overwhelming stack of cash that Democratic-allied 527s like America Coming Together and the Media Fund were spending on GOTV and anti-Republican advertising. It's tough to objectively measure how great of an impact groups like ACT or Moveon.org's Voter Fund had on the election, and given that the tidal wave of cash spent by these 527s failed to deliver much in the way of tangible victories, one could understand why these same big money donors have decided to abstain from funding such initiatives for the 2006 elections... that is, until now.

In a New York Times article published today, Harold Ickes, a close ally of the Clintons and a key organizer behind past 527s like ACT and the Media Fund, is currently gathering donations for a new 527 focused on helping Democrats in key congressional races this fall, called the September Fund. From the NYT:

Sensing both political danger and opportunity, a top Democratic operative and a group of major party donors have banded together to deliver a barrage of late advertising and on-the-ground action to secure Democratic victories in November.

The operative, Harold M. Ickes, a top aide to former President Bill Clinton and informal adviser to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and a group of allies are soliciting money for a new organization called the September Fund.

They hope to raise and spend as much as $25 million to influence not only crucial Congressional races but also other campaigns and ballot initiatives at the federal and state level.

Here are a few of the names on Ickes' Rolodex:

Mr. Ickes has already contacted George Soros, the billionaire financier who gave Democratic committees more than $25 million in 2004. Among others on the fund’s list of potential donors are Steve Bing, a Hollywood producer; Linda Pritzker, a member of the family that owns Hyatt hotels; Herb and Marion Sandler, owners of a California savings and loan; and Ted Waitt, founder of the computer company Gateway. All gave multimillion-dollar gifts to the funds Mr. Ickes directed in 2004.

Now, there are probably a lot of legitimate criticisms to be made of the 527 effort on behalf of Kerry. I've certainly heard my share of horror stories about Moveon.org's GOTV and canvassing operations, for instance. But the wind wasn't blowing at our backs in 2004, and 2006 has entirely different dynamics at play, which might make the efforts of 527s more worthwhile. At the very least, it sure doesn't hurt. My only beef is: what the heck took Ickes so long? I know he's a pro, but can we expect a 4th quarter 527 operation like the September Fund to be as effective as one that was in place longer than two and a half months before the election? The Times attempts to explain:

America Coming Together and the Media Fund evaporated after the 2004 election, with many of their donors dispirited and apparently unwilling to participate in this year’s election. But Mr. Ickes, an aide said, became alarmed in late August about what he saw as a growing Republican financial advantage and feared a late salvo of negative advertising that could overwhelm Democrats in close races.

In a memorandum to potential donors, Mr. Ickes and the other organizers of the fund warned that while Democrats appeared united in their political goals, Republicans had $80 million more than Democrats to spend on fall races.

I don't mean to look a gift horse in the mouth--and I do sincerely appreciate the efforts of Ickes to level the playing field this fall--but I'm wondering if we've lost some precious time here, especially on the GOTV side of the operation. Still, if Ickes can get big donors on his side (which he says he's already done to some extent) this is one other key factor to keep our eyes on as we enter the fall season.

(Hat tip to the American Prospect's Midterm Madness)

Posted at 05:06 PM in 2006 Elections | Technorati

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Hey if its more money:
Sure, do it.

But i hope that we can please please organize better and actually have a GOTV drive worth talking about... and not something in name only.

I like the prospect of giving to congressional races only because there are so many good competitive races that i feel are being overlooked for whatever reason.


Posted by: MrMacMan [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 14, 2006 05:58 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

The GOTV part was where I really questioned the effectiveness of the 527s in 2004. I can't remember why, but I ended up canvassing for ACT rather than for Kerry, and that's where not being able to say a candidate's name really made things weird and difficult in a way that it never appeared to for advertising. There were also days I wound up clearly tailing Kerry canvassers by about an hour or two, to the irritation of the people whose doors we were going to.

Kerry won both of the states where I canvassed for ACT (all my doing, of course), but personally, I wish I'd been doing it for him directly.

If Ickes would raise a pile of money and spend it all on advertising, I'd be a lot happier than if he spent it so that on election day already-committed voters can get another knock on their door reminding them to go vote for an unnamed candidate.

Posted by: MissLaura [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 14, 2006 06:02 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Great points. I hope Ickes will adapt his approaches based on the lessons of 2004, but you never know. It's unclear what percentage of the operation will be spent on advertising, and what percentage on GOTV, but it looks like the September Fund will have its hands in both, judging by the NYT article.

Posted by: James L. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 14, 2006 06:16 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

MyDD has some pretty scathing commentary on Ickes and his apparently failures in the past here:

Quote about Ickes in the MyDD:
"Ickes is tied into the Hillary Clinton axis and the Glover Park Group, which was busted today lobbying for the Dubai Ports deal. Ickes is behind the disastrous Datamart voterfile project, which is project managed by Laura Quinn, the person who screwed up Demzilla in 2004 under Terry McAuliffe and was somehow hired again to screw up another voterfile."

Yeah I hope that the millions of dollars isn't spent in such a poor manner that if a fraction went directly to races it would be better spent. I'd rather money go directly to the candidates but if you think an organization working towards the same goals are going to do it better... then fine.

I just hope this guy isn't as poor an organizer as MyDD makes it out to be.


Posted by: MrMacMan [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 15, 2006 12:51 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Eh. No way of knowing whether Quinn is involved or not.

And this is large-sum donations--money that can't go directly to candidates because of contribution limits anyway.

I think I'd rather see a poor effort or a half-assed effort than no effort, frankly.

Posted by: James L. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 15, 2006 01:05 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

We don't need his people or his interference in the MI-11 race, but we could sure use the $5K his PAC is allowed to contribute to Trupiano For Congress.

'Nuff said.

Posted by: helzapoppn [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 15, 2006 10:02 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

THe major problem with these efforts is the lack of corrdination creates chaos in voters minds. The impact of this lack of coordination is most visable on the ground. A lot of voters in Florida recived first contacts from ACT, MoveOn and the Kerry campaign, but no second contacts at all. Three contacts from the same organization would have been a heck of a lot more effective.

This problem exists on the air too. 527s aren't on the same message as camapigns, so $1 million in 527 ads plus $1 million in camapign ads won't have the same impact as $2 million from a single source.

Still, I think 527s can do less damage in the air than on the ground. The primary resource for 527s running TV ads are pools of money candidates can't access. On the ground the primary resource is vollunteers and skilled local organizers. Here, its largley a zero-sum game: if a vollunteer canvasses for MoveOn, they won't be able to canvass for their local congressional candidate or state-wide coordinated camapign. 527s on the air are a net plus, but 527s on the ground can do real damage.

Posted by: dantheman [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 15, 2006 01:03 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

dantheman, thank you, that was a much more elegant and clear version of the critique of 527 GOTV I was trying to formulate.

Posted by: MissLaura [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 15, 2006 01:55 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

If you guys want to see what one new 527 called Majority Action is doing, check here:

They've got ads up against Walsh (NY-25), Pryce (OH-15), and Reichert (WA-08).

Any thoughts on them?

Posted by: James L. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 15, 2006 02:48 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment