Democrats Angry That Liberal Groups Aren’t Helping

Posted September 17, 2010 at 10:49am

Updated: 1:48 p.m.

Rank-and-file House Democrats used a Caucus meeting Thursday to complain to leaders that liberal groups aren’t doing enough to help them this election cycle and that conservative third-party groups are vastly outgunning them.

“The message from liberal groups was that they would be there for Democrats,” one leadership aide said. “There’s a growing unease that these people are AWOL.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also addressed the issue in her weekly meeting with freshman Democrats, according to the leadership aide.

Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) acknowledged that there is a frustration among Members about the amount of money that is pouring into Congressional races from GOP-allied interest groups.

“There’s no way with the spigot of money that the right wing has that we can compete with that, but we hope and trust that people who are inclined to support us get out there and do the job that’s going to need to be done,” Larson said.

He said they ask groups on a “regular basis” to get involved in the effort to support Democrats this election.

“We can ask, but they have to decide,” Larson said.

Conservative third-party groups have placed ads targeting House Democrats in 43 districts, according to the leadership aide.

“When you put aside the third-party expenditures, Democrats are doing well across the board,” the aide said, pointing to party committee fundraising and individual candidates’ fundraising. “In almost every case, we’re out performing them.”

The 60 Plus Association, American Future Fund and Americans for Job Security have reserved $9 million in television ads attacking Democrats in 27 Congressional districts from Sept. 6 through Oct. 7, according to a spending analysis on third-party groups circulating on K Street.

Democratic third-party groups have placed $1.2 million in television ads on behalf of Democrats in seven Congressional districts from Sept. 14 through Oct. 24, according to a Democratic strategist.

Beginning Monday, the only third-party group supporting Democrats that has taken to the airwaves is the National Association of Realtors political action committee, which will be on television in three districts, the strategist said.

Reps. Allen Boyd (Fla.), Baron Hill (Ind.) Heath Shuler (N.C.), Michael McMahon (N.Y.), Zack Space (Ohio), Jason Altmire (Pa.) and Rick Boucher (Va.) are among the House Democrats the conservative groups are targeting.

“[With] the Supreme Court decision to allow the unlimited funding of such advertisements by corporations, some of which may be owned by foreign governments, and the Republicans’ decision to block the DISCLOSE Act, it is no surprise that Republican special interests are going to bat on behalf of GOP candidates across the country,” Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said.

But Boucher said he isn’t too concerned about the ads because they refuse to name the donors who are behind them. He said his constituents are suspicious of the groups.

“To a large extent this matter takes care of itself,” Boucher said.

The 60 Plus Association’s Tom Kise said his group is more actively involved in advertising against incumbents this cycle.

“Each of the incumbents that we are focusing our ads on has taken votes that raise senior taxes, cut their Medicare benefits and are costing America a trillion dollars in debt that we don’t need,” Kise said.

Americans for Job Security President Stephen DeMaura said his group is more involved in issue advocacy than in previous cycles.

“All we’ve seen from the Democratic Congress is an approach of higher taxes, more spending and more debt,” DeMaura said. “That is counterproductive to creating a pro-jobs economy.”

American Future Fund did not return a call for comment.