Dacey To Head Democratic Soft Money Group
Even as most of the political world focuses on the fights for the two parties' presidential nominations, Democrats are moving forward with their plans to construct an independent organization to funnel dollars into the 2008 campaign.
The latest development is the hiring of highly-regarded party operative Amy Dacey to serve as executive director of the Fund for America.
The group, which was founded in November by former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta, Service Employees International Union Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger and donor Rob McKay, is widely expected to serve as a financial clearinghouse for progressive soft-money expenditures in the presidential election.
Dacey comes to the post directly from SEIU where she had served as an adviser to Burger. Prior to that job she served as political director for Sen. John Kerry's Keeping America's Promise political action committee and was the traveling political director during Kerry's 2004 presidential bid.
We've written about Dacey before in this space. In her new job, she is likely to be entrusted with tens (and perhaps even hundreds) of millions of dollars to parcel out to any number of progressive (read: Democratic) organizations seeking to influence the 2008 election.
Much was made of the shadow Democratic party that was built in 2004 -- a tripartite structure that included America Coming Together, Media Fund and America Votes. That effort was deemed a failure by many of its largest financial backers as it proved unable to keep President Bush from a second term. As a result, financial backing disappeared and new campaign finance regulations forced the Media Fund and ACT out of business.
How the Democratic professional political class learned their lessons from 2004 is yet to be determined. The Fund for America seems likely to be a major player in their plans as does America Votes, which is now headed by former Rep. Martin Frost (Texas) and run day to day by former Frost aide Greg Speed. America Votes is expected to handle the voter turnout operations that were largely the task of ACT in 2004.
It's unclear how these organizations will work with the Democracy Alliance, a group of major donors who have spent the last several years seeking to fund a wide variety of organizations to build a broad-based and sustainable party infrastructure.
For Republicans, the main soft-money vehicle of the moment is Freedom's Watch, which has already been active with an ad campaign designed to drum up support for the war in Iraq and pressure vulnerable Democrats on the issue.
It's uncertain whether Progress for America -- a major soft money player for Republicans in 2004 -- will reprise its role. The group raised no money during the first six months of 2007, according to a filing with the Internal Revenue Service, and even returned a number of major contributions including more than $264,000 to Dawn Arnall, a co-founder of Ameriquest, $475,000 to Jerry Perenchio, the head of Univision, and $158,000 to Texas homebuilder Bob Perry.
Given the successes of conservative soft money efforts in 2004 -- the most notable of which was the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- it's hard to imagine the major donors on the Republican side sitting out this time around, however. The more likely scenario is that the group (or groups) has yet to be decided on.
As the last presidential election proved, the money and activities of these outside groups has a HUGE effect on the campaign. If history is any guide, the money poured in through these "independent" groups will only grow in 2008 and with it their ability to influence the outcome of the election.
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