The ink is hardly dry on the weak regulations issued by the Federal Election Commission to implement the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law and Republicans and Democrats are setting up new groups to collect and spend the unlimited political donations that were supposed to be curbed, Thomas Edsall reports in the Aug. 25 Washington Post. Until now, the parties have been the primary recipients and spenders of "soft money," which totaled $500 million in 2000. Funds have been used to get out the vote and buy ads that aim to help or hurt particular candidates. Now that parties are banned from collecting soft money, political activists are creating new tax-exempt organizations that can raise and spend soft money as long as they do not coordinate their efforts with the political parties or candidates. "It's very clear that there are going to be a proliferation of special interest committees to pick up where the parties were before on soft-money funding," Edsall quoted GOP lobbyist Vin Weber. The new rules may further weaken the parties. Simon B. Rosenberg, president of the centrist New Democrat Network, said: "The center is going to have a hard time holding in the new system. Interest groups will be more powerful tomorrow than today, and there will be a real tug to pull candidates to the extremes." Mike Lux, former Clinton aide and former political director for People for the American Way, said projects will tap liberal soft-money donors to fill the "need for more infrastructure on [the] progressive side of things." Lux added, "What I hope is that, unlike so many times in the past, those on the progressive side will actually coordinate."
'CHICKENHAWKS' BEAT WAR DRUMS; VETS URGE CAUTION. George W. Bush, whose military experience in the Texas Air National Guard was limited to protecting Houston airspace during the Vietnam war -- and even then he was AWOL for more than a year in 1972-73 (see "George W. Bush's missing year," by Marty Heldt, 11/1/00 TPP, or www.awolbush.com) -- is having a hard time finding ranking military veterans to back up his planned intervention in Iraq. Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Tom DeLay, Trent Lott, George Will, Michael Kelly, Rush Limbaugh and Bill Kristol, all ducked the military during the Vietnam era but are the biggest cheerleaders for war nowadays (see www.nh-gazette.com/chickenhawks.html for a longer list), while among the vets opposed to an Iraq adventure are retired Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf, retired Gen. Colin Powell, retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Democratic Sens. John Kerry and Tom Daschle, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel and even Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, Bush's special envoy to the Mideast. Gen. Tommy Franks, who would lead any invasion of Iraq, is said to be wary of another Gulf War without an international coalition.
PROGRESSIVE CANDIDATES TO WATCH. John Nichols has a list in the Aug. 16 In These Times of 10 progressive candidates worth watching as the 2002 campaign gears up. They include
Kendrick Meek, running for Congress from Florida to replace his mother, US Rep. Carrie Meek;
Bill Curry, populist Democrat who came within a whisker of being elected governor of Connecticut eight years ago and is running again against Republican Gov. John Rowland.
Martha Fuller Clark, running again for the New Hampshire congressional seat John Sununu is giving up to run for senator, after Clark held Sununu to 53% in 2000;
Chellie Pingree, former state Senate president who is challenging Republican incumbent Susan Collins in Maine.
Jonathan Carter, Green candidate for governor in Maine, who collected enough citizen signatures and $5 contributions to qualify for as much as $900,000 in public financing under Maine's Clean Elections Act to run against Republican Peter Cianchette and centrist Democrat John Baldacci.
Dario Herrera, first elected to the Nevada legislature at age 23 and chairman of the powerful Clark County (Las Vegas) Board of Commissioners by 27, he's running as a Democrat for the open seat in Nevada's 3rd District.
John Norris, former director of the rabble-rousing Iowa Farm Unity Coalition and co-founder of the Stop the Arms Race Political Action Committee (STARPAC), is mounting an impressive grassroots campaign that has a very real chance of displacing vulnerable Republican incumbent Tom Latham.
Ron Kirk is running as a business-friendly moderate, but as Nichols writes, "No victory would be sweeter or more significant for Democrats than that of former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk in his race for the Senate seat vacated by right-wing Republican Phil Gramm. A Kirk victory would cushion the Democratic majority, add the first black face to the Senate since the defeat of US Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun in 1998, and embarrass Bush in his own backyard."
Stephanie Herseth, whose grandfather served as South Dakota's governor and whose grandmother was secretary of state, is a modern-day prairie populist Democrat who appears to be holding her own in a high-stakes contest with GOP nominee Bill Janklow for the state's open congressional seat.
Anthony Pollina got a credible 10% as Vermont's Progressive Party nominee for governor in 2000. This year, he's running for the state's No. 2 job to use the office of lieutenant governor as a "bully pulpit" to push for health care for all, a statewide living wage, clean government reforms and sustainable development. "Winning the No. 2 post would also help Pollina to position the Progressive Party -- which currently holds four state legislative seats -- as a viable alternative at the statewide level to the Democrats and Republicans. In that sense, Pollina's candidacy may well be the savviest attempt by an independent progressive running anywhere in the country this year to win elective office -- and then use that office to build a statewide progressive political movement."
The website MyDD.com, which generally has a progressive Democratic orientation and keeps a close watch on politics, promotes three progressive Democrats worth supporting with the "potential of actually getting elected": Julie Thomas in Iowa, running against Republican Jim Leach in what should be a Democratic district; Herseth in South Dakota; and Richard Romero, running against Republican Rep. Heather Wilson in New Mexico's 1st District, which Al Gore carried in 2000. "Also, consider supporting [Stan] Matsunaka in [Colorado's 4th C.D.] against [Marilyn] Musgrave. He is not all that progressive compared to others, but Musgrave will be the most extreme radical right woman in the House if she is elected, and Matsunaka can win."