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Michele Swenson

Michele Swenson

Posted: September 8, 2010 05:50 PM

Why They Owe It To Colorado Democrats to Pay Andrew Romanoff's Debt

The day after Andrew Romanoff announced his senate bid in September 2009, President Obama endorsed Michael Bennet. The administration's interference in a state primary divided the rank-and-file Democratic Party, and those who protested were simply dismissed. State Sen. Chris Romer, a Bennet supporter, asserted that Obama would be more affected by the outcome than Coloradans, and therefore, the White House had "every right" to get involved in the senate primary.

On the night of the August 10 primary, a Democratic Party operative gave the Atlantic a list of "How the Democratic Party helped Michael Bennet." The Atlantic piece was followed by: "Disclosure: Michael Bennet's bro is the Atlantic's ed, James Bennet."

The fundraising, GOTV machine boasted by the White House political team included enlisting Cabinet members and the DNC to target voters with robo calls, TV spots, mailers, and a telephone town hall with the president, as listed:


- Raised over $700k through POTUS event in February, Education Secretary Arne Duncan in March, HUD Secretary Donovan in June. (POTUS = President of the U.S.)

- POTUS on tele-town hall with thousands of registered voters who had not yet cast ballots.

- POTUS Get Out The Vote (GOTV) mailer

- POTUS Robo-call

- POTUS TV spot

- DNC targeting team helped develop GOTV universe for the Bennet campaign.

- Plouffe email to Bennet fundraising lists

- Labor Sec. Solis robo call

- Labor Sec. Solis radio call in's

- The White House helped secure George Lopez for GOTV robocalls to Latino voters

The Democratic National Committee with its adjunct, Organizing for America, promoted and raised money for Bennet over the past year. Even as Democratic Party operatives denied that they were working for one primary candidate over another, OFA Director Mitch Stewart held caucus trainings in Colorado on March 1. Colorado OFA activists continually received communications from the group that began "Hello Bennet Supporters, Thank you for supporting Senator Bennet," though many were Romanoff supporters. OFA did its organizing for Bennet out of State and County Party Offices.

Observers note that campaign efforts by the DNC easily more than doubled Bennet's $6 million investment in his campaign, providing him a more than 6:1 financial advantage over Andrew Romanoff. Considering the vast intervention, the real story is that Romanoff received 46% of the vote.

Having dispatched paid OFA staff to all 50 states, the DNC employed at least 7 regional OFA organizers in Colorado over the past year. Colorado OFA regional organizers easily transitioned from promoting Obama's health care reform to organizing for Michael Bennet's campaign.

Organizing for America has had several incarnations -- originally Obama for America, it was identified as non-partisan, inviting activist Independents and Republicans to join with Democrats to work for change. When Obama for America became Organizing for America it officially became an arm of the Democratic National Committee. Tim Dickinson in Rolling Stone described OFA's transition from the progressive base of the Obama presidential campaign to an entrenched part of the Washington establishment. He likened its absorption by the Democratic National Committee to "Greenpeace moving to the headquarters of Exxon/Mobil." Instead of exerting pressure on the DNC, OFA came under its control, subject to senators like Ben Nelson who are voting members of the DNC.

Rahm Emanuel, too, has exerted control over OFA, slapping down any attempt to hold conservative Democrats accountable for opposing health care reform -- declaring "We can't go after Democrats -- we're part of the DNC." Effectively, Emanuel and the DNC have crushed any progressive initiative, ceding many populist debates to the political right, and disregarding a significant portion of the Democratic party base.

OFA staffers in Colorado dedicated their energies toward activating primary votes by first-time 2008 Obama voters -- fully one-third of primary Democratic voters in 2010 were first-time primary voters, according to numbers crunched by Magellan Data and Mapping Services.

Such targeting of new voters may produce short-term gains, but more significant in the long term, the intrusion of outside forces into the Colorado Democratic primary has deeply disaffected long-time Democratic activists, of whom I am one. Having been a registered Democrat for over 40 years and a precinct committee person for over 30, I have walked a lot of precincts in a lot of districts for a lot of different Democratic candidates. It is appalling to me that the Democratic Party has betrayed democratic principles and sold out to corporate interests, the same as Republicans. All Democrats worked hard to elect Barack Obama in 2008. But it wasn't a coronation, and we did not surrender to him the right to choose our senator.

The party hierarchy didn't just put their thumb on the scale of the primary election -- they sat on the scale. They favored one primary candidate, using money that had been contributed by many Democrats who had no say regarding where their money was allocated in the primary, in many cases used against their preferred candidate. Both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee invested large sums of money and resources in the Bennet campaign. The DSCC, which states that "75 percent of the DSCC's funding" comes from individual Democrat's contributions, wrote checks to the Bennet campaign totaling more than $109,000.

OpenSecrets.Org notes the number of individual contributions to the DNC PAC -- 41,463 large contributions ($200 or more) during 2009-2010 election cycle, and many more smaller contributions.

If the party can subvert democracy by expending the equivalent of over $6 million to favor one Democratic primary candidate over another in Colorado, they can certainly pay the $350,000 debt of the primary candidate that they rolled over. More than anything, the Colorado Senate Primary points out the need to level the playing field, and institute public financing of campaigns at every level.

Every Democrat should contact the DNC and tell them to erase Andrew Romanoff's debt.
Email
Call: 202-863-8000.
Mail: Gov. Tim Kaine, Chair, Democratic National Committee, 430 Capitol St. SE, Washington DC
20003. Copy to Colorado members of DNC: http://www.coloradodems.org/content/view/38/46/