Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Colorado Republicans counter-organize

The first rule of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy -- you do not talk about the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

I wrote a while back about Colorado's Gang of Four -- a shadowy organization that seeks to get around campaign finance rules and is, in a sense, a new version of the state's Democratic Party.  The process by which that happened is nicely described in Schrager and Witwer's The Blueprint, which I recommend highly.

Well, it appears that the state's Republicans are trying to follow the blueprint and are building their own counter-organization in the form of something called Common Sense Colorado.  This organization has allegedly raised around $800,000 and plans to raise around $10 million, which it plans to distribute to Republicans who are challenging vulnerable Democrats in swing statehouse districts.

The Denver Post obtained much of the information for this story from a Common Sense PowerPoint presentation.  Given that one of its organizers, Jon Andersen, provides quotes for the stories, it doesn't seem like the Post obtained this PowerPoint by accident.  Frankly, it sounds like a lot of bluster.

For one thing, yeah, $10 million is a lot of money for a handful of state legislative races, but given that Democrats have shown an ability to spend that kind of money on these races in the last three cycles, it doesn't look like Common Sense is going to overwhelm the Democrats.  Second, Common Sense has less than a tenth of the money it's promising to spend, and it's almost May.  Now, maybe they have a very aggressive fundraising agenda for the summer (and maybe the Post article is part of that), but they still have a long way to go.

Third, one of the brilliant parts of the Democratic blueprint was secrecy.  Republicans were massively outspent in 2004 in large part because they didn't see it coming.  The Gang of Four didn't give interviews bragging about their fundraising strategy.  They just built this bizarre web of 527s and independent expenditure committees and started pumping tons of money into it.  This made it hard to track contributions and campaign activity.  And then they disbanded those organizations and built new ones for the 2006 cycle, and then did the same thing in 2008.  By contrast, Common Sense Colorado is now a big fat target.  They will be sued for anything that vaguely looks like coordinations with candidates and will spend hundreds of man hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars dealing with litigation.

Copying the Democratic blueprint seems like a smart idea.  But I get the impression that the founders of Common Sense only skimmed the book.

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