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Hullabaloo


Saturday, May 17, 2014

 
Dark money for Big Dems

by digby


They never, ever give up. You get rid of the Blue Dogs and make the DLC a dirty word and they just rebrand and come back richer than ever. Lee Fang has the goods:

Looking for the fight over the heart and soul of the Democratic Party in the waning days of the Obama administration? Next Tuesday morning, take the elevator to the eighth floor of a downtown Washington, DC, building and step into the offices of America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), the premier lobbying group for some of the largest fracking companies in the world.

While much of the talk about a progressive revival revolves around populist figures like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senator Elizabeth Warren, there are other, better funded efforts afoot. Corporate titans from finance to natural gas to big retail to telecom are attempting to steer the party, and as the midterms shape up, these interests are pushing to ensure they continue to have wide sway over America's only viable outlet for center-left expression at the polls. Which brings us to the latest venture in corporate-centered party-building and the group hosting a chat in ANGA's headquarters: The NewDEAL.

Created by Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, the NewDEAL is one of several cash-rich efforts to resurrect the Democratic Party's flailing bench of electable candidates.

This NewDEAL has little in common with President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal platform, which pledged to save capitalism from itself by cracking down on predatory banking institutions and restoring workplace rights for Americans. No, this NewDEAL is a 501(c)(4) issue-advocacy nonprofit, a tax vehicle which allows campaign activity without disclosure of donors, and its name is an acronym for "Developing Exceptional American Leaders."

The group, touted as a platform to "highlight rising pro-business progressives," is led by Democrats who have made a name for themselves by bucking the populist trend. They include NewDeal co-chair Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, whose zeal for the charterization of public schools and love of Wall Street makes him indistinguishable from many across the aisle. The other co-chair, Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado, has staked a position in his state's energy wars as a staunch defender of drillers.

VICE has obtained a "supporter list" showing donors of the NewDEAL, which reads like a who's who of corporations seeking government access: Comcast, Fluor, Merck, Microsoft, New York Life, Pfizer, Qualcomm, Verizon, Wal-Mart, the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, among others, including, of course, the host of Tuesday's event, ANGA.

You have to love the cynicism with which they take the name New Deal and use it for this purpose. I wonder which marketing wunderkind came up with it?

I can see why Begich would do this. He's from a Big Energy state and has a big reason to do their bidding. But what to make of Booker and O'Malley? One must assume they are simply whores for money:

The organization is staffed by many of the lobbying world's top Democratic allies, including those who have worked to channel the party's election efforts into backchannel corporate influence. The fundraiser for the NewDEAL, Helen Milby, previously served as the "chief fundraiser" to the New Democrats, a caucus of business-friendly lawmakers whose last period of influence, in 2009 through 2010 when their party controlled Congress, featured a massive campaign to water down health care and financial reform in exchange for corporate donations, as chronicled by an investigation in ProPublica. After many were wiped out by the Republican tidal wave in Obama's first midterm—the president identified himself as a member of this coalition right after he was first elected—most of the New Democrats became lobbyists themselves.

Another NewDEAL leader, a consultant named John Michael Gonzalez, represents the firm Peck Madigan Jones. Peck Madigan Jones probably isn't familiar to the average political observer. But it's the lobbying firm that's been in charge of fundraising for the think tank best known for fighting for corporate control of the Democrats, Third Way, a group that has been waging war on the burgeoning left-wing element of the party. "Economic Populism Is a Dead End for Democrats" wrote Third Way's leaders in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece earlier this year that scorched the tax-the-rich politics of Warren and de Blasio.

A critic might argue that winning is winning. Democrats need cash too, especially in the era of Citizens United, so why not bring corporate lobbyists aboard when the de Blasio approach might fall on deaf ears outside of New York City? That argument loses some weight, though, if you follow the money trail. NewDEAL board member Gonzalez serves as a lobbyist to the US Chamber of Commerce, which is currently airing harshly negative campaign ads against NewDEAL co-chair Senator Begich, who may lose his seat this year. Business first, I suppose.

See what I mean? Everything old is new again ... And there's just too much money in the hands of these people for them not to spread it around. After all, it's the cheapest an most lucrative investment they can make.

Read the whole story. Unless you don't want to get depressed or angry in which case go watch that hero cat video again. I'm going to.

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