On a Monday conference call with reporters, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis worked hard to elevate the issue of Barack Obama's undisclosed small donors, suggesting that it relates to other campaign controversies and could imperil Americans' confidence in the election outcome.
"I just hope we know every one of those donations came form legitimate U.S.-based sources" Davis said, adding that America "knows" what it's like to have election results questioned after the fact. Davis also conflated the Obama camp's non-disclosure of donors giving less than $200 (which is not required by law), with both the ACORN voter-registration issue and Bill Ayers.
"This pattern of non-disclosure, of non-responsiveness follows a pattenr of [the Obama camp] setting their own rules to apply to this campaign that is consistent with all other patterns we've seen," Davis said. (Though, of course, the rules about not disclosing donors contributing less than $200 were not set by the Obama campaign.)
"'We don't respond to questions about ACORN'," Davis said, imitating the Obama campaign. "I don't mean to have this call devolve into a 'relationship' call," Davis said, before leading the pack of journalists down precisely that trail -- bringing up (and distorting) Obama's description of Bill Ayers as "just one of my friends in the neighborhood."
It's not clear that this a smart strategy. While it's true that Obama's fundraising haul is unprecedented in its scope and potential impact, it's not clear that tying the issue to the Ayers gambit will make the press treat the new claim any more seriously. In fact, most reporters' questions to Davis after his statement focused on horse-race questions, as opposed to Obama's disclosure.
In a preemptive face-saving measure, Davis announced on the call that the Republican National Committee would begin disclosing its own small donors starting on Tuesday -- something the committee has not previously done. But the extent to which the move is an election-season stunt or long-standing policy for the RNC was not made clear. A follow-up question to the RNC asking whether it would stick with the policy after November was not immediately returned. This piece will be updated if and when we receive a response.