Grab them by the throat, Jeff, and don’t let go.

I’m standing with you, Jeff.

How could I not after getting your letters pleading for money and using every poll-tested word in the book to convince me to make my check payable to Jeff Merkley for Oregon.

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You tried to capture me with the first line, hitting me over the head by asking me if I’m “fed up with Koch-style special interests always getting their way in Washington.”

“Koch-style special interests.” Ah, yes. Always lead with a reference to the Koch brothers, the favorite bogeymen of the Democrats, denounced by MoveOn “for using your vast wealth — more than the combined wealth of the bottom 40 percent of Americans — to corrupt our democracy” and assailed by Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid for being “un-American” and leading the way to a dystopian America run by moneyed interests.

Forget about the fact the Democrats have their own moneyed interests. According to OpenSecrets.org, from 1989 to 2014 rich donors gave Democrats $1.15 billion — $416 million more than the $736 million given to the GOP. Among the top 10 donors to both parties, Democrat supporters outspent Republican supporters 2-to-1.

 Then you asked if I’ve “…had it with the Republicans shilling for the wealthy and powerful.”

“Shilling.” What a great word. A shill supports something with the pretense of sincerity, when in fact he’s being paid for his services. So I guess while the Republicans shill for their wealthy patrons, the Democrats shill for theirs. In your case, principal contributors to your campaign during 2009 -2014 have been:

 

Industry    Total raised       From Individuals From PACS
lawyers/law firms $337,313 $259,615 $77,698
Leadership PACs $166,500 0 $166,500
Real estate interests $146,868 $74,358 $72,510
Building trade unions $117,000 0 $117,000

Oh, and I just loved your appealing for my money “because the Republicans and their special interests cronies are hell bent on defeating me in 2014.”

“Cronies.” Another loaded word. The Republicans don’t have supporters, backers or enthusiasts. They have despicable, contemptible, loathsome “cronies”, part of a corrupt system of trading favors.

Then you said your race against Republican Monica Wehby is “going to be an uphill battle” because you “refuse to play ball with the Washington insiders…”

Ah yes, those dreaded “Washington insiders.” But wait a minute. You’ve been back there in D.C. for almost six years now. Aren’t you an “insider”, too. Or, with all the anti-Washington sentiment going on, are you trying to make voters forget that you’re an incumbent?

You also warned me that your record “…will be twisted into as many smears as special interest Super PACS can jam into a 30-second TV ad.”

So the TV ad you have up now asserting that Wehby will vote in favor of measures to “gut the middle class”, isn’t a smear? I mean, you know that the growth in Medicare costs, for example, jus unsustainable. And when a researcher hired by the Democratic Party of Oregon got ahold of a police report on Wehby’s alleged harassment of an ex-suitor and it somehow became public, wasn’t that a smear?

All candidates rely on catchphrases to define themselves and their opponents, as well as establish the framework of the campaign. Part of the reason is because, even though candidates sometimes talk about issues, “The unspoken reality…is that the vast majority of Americans don’t vote based on particular issues at all,” Dr. Frank Luntz wrote in Words that Work. “The fabled issue voter is a rare specimen indeed. ‘Agrees with me on the issues’ is inevitably one of the least important candidate attributes in determining public support.”

Instead, Americans decide who to vote for more on a candidate’s image or vibe, Luntz says.

You know that. You know most voters don’t really know that much about the substance behind issues and don’t deal well with complexity or intricacy. So you’re trying to poison the well with negative sounding buzzwords about the opposition. Smart.

 

 

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Merkley’s money: what a difference a term makes

HandsOut

Things are different now.

When Democrat Jeff Merkley first ran for the U.S. Senate in 2008, he raised a total of $6,512,231.

Now that he’s a Senator, he’s already reported raising $6,286,013 for his reelection and the 2014 race, in theory, hasn’t even begun. The Republicans haven’t even chosen who will run against him.

That means Merkley’s total haul is likely to go much higher as individuals, special interests and Democratic Party funds ramp up their donations to keep him in office.

The two parties are in a no-holds-barred struggle for control of the Senate, where pollsters and analysts think the Republicans have a shot at taking control with a good showing in the November 2014 elections. Merkley isn’t often mentioned as being in a high-risk race, but then former Senator Gordon Smith wasn’t thought to be vulnerable early on either.

With 5 years as a U.S. Senator now behind him, the sources of Merkley’s donations are shifting. A smaller share is coming from individual contributors and twice as much from political action committees (PACs). Also, more unions are stepping up as big contributors, his big donors have less of an Oregon focus and Merkley isn’t having to dig into his own pocket.

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According to the Center for Responsive Politics, contributions to Merkley’s campaign committee for his 2008 campaign and for his 2014 campaign as of Dec. 31, 2013 break down as follows:

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For his 2008 Senate race, Merkley’s largest 10 contributors (individuals and PACs) to his campaign committee were:

JStreetPAC $78,180
Council for a Livable World $55,889
State of Oregon employees $35,050
Oregon Health & Science University $33,964
Moveon.org $26,731
Stoel, Rives et al $23,323
League of Conservation Voters $21,500
Intel Corporation $17,920
Newmark Knight Frank $17,300
Intl. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $17,200

The largest contributor to his 2008 campaign, Washington, D.C-based JStreetPAC, makes contributions to candidates who support a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine and robust American military aid to Israel. “I am and will continue to be a staunch supporter of the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel,” Merkley said during his 2008 campaign.“I will always seek to ensure its strength and foster its growth.”

The second largest contributor to his 2008 campaign, Council for a Livable World, is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to reducing the danger of nuclear weapons. Merkley subsequently voted in 2010 for a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia and in February 2014, Merkley and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation that would cut $100 billion over the next decade from the U.S. nuclear weapons budget.

The bill, S. 2070, would shut down all U.S. missile defense activities, reduce from 12 to eight the number of SSBN(X) ballistic-missile submarines that are set to replace the retiring Ohio-class fleet and limit to eight the number of Ohio-class submarines that can currently be fielded. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Armed Services where its languishing.

The largest 10 contributors (individuals and PACs) to Merkley’s campaign committee for his 2014 race as of the end of 2013 are significantly different, with much less of an Oregon focus:

Votesane PAC $31,250
Thornton & Naumes $25,000
Intel Corporation $22,050
Honeywell Intl. $20,000
Operating Engineers Union $20,000
Intl. Association of Firefighters $18,500
Blue Cross/Blue Shield $17,100
League of Conservation Voters $15,314
American Crystal Sugar $15,000
Communications Workers of America $15,000

Votesane PAC, a non-partisan channel for political donations, has funneled $1.6 million to candidates in the 2014 election cycle, with almost all of it going to Democrats.

The only union showing up in Merkley’s list of top 10 contributors for his 2008 race was the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers at $17,200. Three unions show up as his biggest contributors for the 2014 race so far with a total of $53,500.

Also making their debut as major Merkley contributors are individuals from Thornton & Naumes, a Boston, Mass. law firm with class action expertise that has represented people claiming they were victims of asbestos and toxic exposure, defective products, financial fraud, and personal injury accidents.. Law firms and lawyers have been the top contributors to Merkley’s 2014 campaign as of Dec. 31, 2013, donating a total of $296,363.

This only reveals, of course, donations up the end of 2013. Expect a lot of shifts as the campaign progresses.

Merkley has already spent $3,045,241, or almost half, of the funds he’s raised since 2008. Recently, the largest single amount has gone to Mandate Media,a Portland-based internet strategy,services,and advertising firm specializing in progressive political candidates and advocacy organizations. Mandate is also associated with BlueOregon, a widely distributed progressive e-newsletter.

The top 5 recipients of the campaign’s recent expenditures were:

Mandate Media $200,485
CHS Mailing $141,305
Kauffman Group $125,163
Linemark Printing $ 71,639
Benenson Strategy Group $ 47,000

It’s important to recognize that much of the money now being spent on campaigns is so-called independent expenditures, spending by groups and individuals who claim they are not coordinating their activities with a candidate’s campaign committee.

In Merkley’s 2008 race, for example, according to FindTheBest, the following outside groups spent about $675,000 in support of his candidacy:

Committee Amount

Service Employees International
Union Committee on Political Education
(SEIU Cope) $430,238
League of Conservation Voters Inc. $145,317
Democratic Senatorial Committee $ 47,746
League of Conservation Voters
Action Fund $ 40,862
Moveon.org Political Action $ 7,026

It’s likely that similarly large amounts of independent expenditures will occur in the 2014 race.

Data sources: The Center for Responsive Politics (http://www.opensecrets.org), a non-profit, non-partisan research group based in Washington, D.C.; FindTheBest (www.findthebest.com; http://bit.ly/1nYKKSA),a network of for-profit websites connected to help consumers and businesses make informed decisions.

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