Friday, April 18, 2003

Johnny on the Spot

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Even though John Edwards was on the top of the fundraising heap yesterday, raking in a reported $7.4 million in the first quarter of 2003, it now seems that some of that total was comprised of ill-gotten gains. The Washington Post reported this morning that the Edwards campaign, "will return $10,000 to employees of a Little Rock law firm after a law clerk said she expected her boss to reimburse her for a $2,000 donation."

This report followed hot on the heals of yesterday's Washington Post report which uncovered this interesting fact:

About 3,220 attorneys, 29 paralegals, 17 legal assistants and 555 people with the same address as a contributing attorney (often the spouse or close relative) gave Edwards $4.65 million, or 63 percent of the money he raised.

To save you all some time, I went ahead and did the math. Assuming donations of $1,217 (give or take a few pennies) from each of the above (based on the $4.65 million figure distributed evenly among all donors - probably inaccurate, but fair enough), then attorneys accounted for $6,440,000, paralegals $35,293, legal assistants $20,689, and cohabitants $675,435. Now, none of those donations are massive. But they're still all significantly larger than the $10,000 being given back by Edwards.

Today's Post article also highlights an apparent ignorance of the campaign finance laws among Edwards's donors. When asked by the Post whether or not the aforementioned law clerk would actually be reimbursed for her donation, her boss, attorney Tab Turner, seemingly shrugged off the implication of any wrongdoing. "She apparently cannot be reimbursed under some rule relating to campaign finance." Some rule, indeed.

But the fun didn't end there for the Edwards camp. Sam Dealy's article in the April 16 edition of The Hill took stock of Edwards supporters who have lately jumped ship. He notes that "Alex Sanders, a prominent South Carolina Democrat and former president of that state’s Trial Lawyers Association, endorsed Sen. John Kerry." Dealy also reminds readers of the March 24th defection of Bob Shrum and his partners to Camp Kerry.

C'est la guerre, John, c'est la guerre.


I feel the need to balance all of this negativity with a bit of perspective. First of all, it's quite likely that many people in and/or close to the legal profession have an honest vested interest in seeing one of their own make it into the White House. They donated money to Edwards because they like him and they like his platform. The promises of reimbursement probably did not factor for most of Edwards's donors. For some, unfortunately, this was clearly the case.

But one really can't blame this on Edwards. Instead, blame the moron lawyers who told their employees and loved ones that if they cut some checks, they would be promptly paid back. The Edwards campaign had too much to lose in promoting a finance scheme this simple to crack. In all honesty, this is probably going to be the end of the Edwards candidacy. But that's probably not a bad thing as his poll numbers were suffering and he ought to concentrate on holding his senate seat, anyway.

Secondly, take a look at how these things have worked in the past. In the 2000 election cycle, while Ken Lay was busy giving away over $2 million of Enron shareholder dollars to political campaigns and PACs, wife Linda also found it in her heart to kick in an extra $38,000. Her listed profession? Homemaker. Now, paralegals may not make all that much money, but I'm pretty sure they bring down more than homemakers. And we can't forget Lay kids Elizabeth and Mark, who also donated $1,250 and $12,000 respectively. (Track the money for yourself at It's fun and easy!)

Ah, campaign finance. As my inner pre-schooler keeps reminding me, two wrongs don't make a right.


An extra side-note, Thomas B. Edsall and Dan Balz were the writers behind both finance articles in the Post. Now we know that investigative political journalism is still alive and well over at the Post. If only we could just get them to start digging around in Rove's trashcan...

posted by Scott | 4/18/2003 | |

Thursday, April 17, 2003

To: Al Sharpton
From: The Village Voice
Subject: Friendly Advice

Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Village Voice has laid out A Campaign Plan for Making Al Sharpton Matter. The saddest thing about the whole ordeal is that it doesn't even pretend to be a plan for getting Sharpton elected. It's literally just a way for Sharpton to gain some sort of respect and credibility with voters. However, if it helps the Reverend tug the Democrats leftward a bit while not discrediting the entire slate of candidates, all the better. And to Coates's credit, the six proposals are solid. Here's the plan in a nutshell:

1. Apologize. I don't need to explain this, do I? To date, Sharpton's been nothing but combative when confronted with any of his past controversies. He's got a lot to atone for, so he'd better start soon.

2. Emulate Howard Dean. No, he shouldn't become an MD, move to Vermont, and run for Governor. But Reverend Al does need to use the organizational power of the internet to his advantage.

3. Get A Platform. As Coates puts it, "Racial profiling and police brutality do not a platform make." Well said.

4. Promote That Platform. No matter what else is said about him, Sharpton is a powerful speaker. The more he can increase his visibility and convey a strong, coherent Democratic message, the better.

5. South Carolina. Lately, black voters have comprised 60% of Democratic primary voters in SC. If the other candidates split the difference, Sharpton could win some delegates and some serious contender attention.

6. Don't Burn The Democratic Bridge. Sharpton's made overtures at running as an independent. He shouldn't even think about it. The very idea that Al Sharpton could be the Democrats' spoiler in 2004 is the party's worst nightmare. But it should be Sharpton's personal nightmare as well. Such a move would effectively end his political career, burying him and whatever credibility he's got.

posted by Scott | 4/17/2003 | |

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Le Menu Democratique

William Saletan over at Slate has posted a handy-dandy who's-who of the 2004 Democratic nominees. Not bad.

That's it. No commentary. Just check it out.

PS - Thanks for the tip, Tobias.

posted by Scott | 4/16/2003 | |

Dark Clouds and Silver Linings

A number of articles ran today which paint a very grim picture of 2004 for Democrats. The Sacramento Bee finds California voters "tilting towards Bush", while Adam Nagourney at the NY Times claims that "Democrats Are Gloomy About 2004" and Richard A. Oppel, Jr. (also of the Times) points out that Joe Lieberman's spending is outpacing his fundraising. And less surprising, but still unfortunate, Carol Moseley Braun is impossibly low on campaign funds.

Of course, none of this is really as bad as it sounds. President Bush just won a war within the last week. It makes sense that his poll numbers are high; so were his father's after the first Gulf War. And the election is still eighteen months away - plenty of time for domestic concerns which favor the Democrats like the economy, jobs, and healthcare to come to the fore. However, Nagourney quotes a "prominent Democratic senator" who explains, that the Bush administration "will never end the war. And because they never end the war, they will have an ongoing advantage."

This may be true, but Americans are unlikely to accept a quicksand defense policy in which enemy nations are endlessly targeted, riled up, put down, and then reconstructed. Team W. ran the 2000 campaign on the foreign policy promise that they would not use the military as a freelance nation-building crew. This leaves them in the tight spot of having to keep the conflicting promises of not overextending the military and of rebuilding the nations whose infrastructure and government they have destroyed. Endless war for endless peace may play well for a while, but a war-weary nation will only reward their commander-in-chief through so many vaguely justified conflicts before they've had enough.

On the other hand, national security is going to remain a major concern of American voters. In Nagourney's article, Kerry campaign manager Jim Jordan is quoted as cautioning that the Democratic nominee must prove "that he can keep Americans safe in a dangerous world." If he (what about Carol Moseley Braun, Jim?) cannot do so, the Democrats will be faced with "McGovern-like results." This is a pretty obvious dig at Howard Dean, but it encompasses some real concern that Democrats have about who can actually win the general election.

Clearly many Democrats are looking to decorated Vietnam vet Kerry as a credible national defense candidate. Are there any others, though? And is it really all that important? After all, Team W.'s only veteran is Colin Powell, who leans toward the dovish side anyway. Bill Clinton was deemed credible by the American people even without any military experience. Last night on CNN's NewsNight, Aaron Brown interviewed David Gergen, who brought up another possibility.

What they do need to do is first of all, find a candidate who is good on national security so that people are willing to listen to them on the economy. It's striking to me, Aaron, that in recent days, how many people come up to me and say, what about Wes Clark? We have been watching him right here on your network.

Clark answered Gergen's commentary later in the show by saying, "I've said I'm not a candidate, Aaron." He then went on to say that, "I just haven't made any decision," so the door was once again left opened.

And the final silver lining for the day has to be the news that Sharon Bush plans tell-all book about Bush family. Far less serious than the above, Bush brother Neil (he of Savings & Loan scandal fame) is apparently in the middle of a less than pretty divorce from wife Sharon, who plans to spill the beans on the day-to-day of the Bush family dynasty. Should be one hell of a read.

posted by Scott | 4/16/2003 | |

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Hawks vs. Doves: Round 2

I'll keep this one short. Two interesting pieces running in parallel today out in medialand...

1. Team W. has apparently decided against opening yet another front in Operation: War With Everyone Who Isn't Us. Despite the insistence of policy bigs like Doug Feith (what a shock, right?), the president does not want to pursue a war against Syria.

2. Team W. may not want to pursue a war with Syria, but Dem hawk Bob Graham does! He told the Orlando Sentinel, that the US "threw a few cruise missiles into the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan ... that's what we may have to do in Syria." This leads me to wonder, does Senator Graham actually remember what happened when we tomahawked Afghanistan? To refresh the collective memory, nothing. Oh yeah, nothing except that we missed bin Laden and probably scared him into the realization that, "hey, if I'm going to do anything to America, I'd better do it big and do it soon."

Great idea, Bobby!

posted by Scott | 4/15/2003 | |

Tremendous support for reinstating the draft...

The Democratic field of candidates may be large, but there's no sign of it shrinking any time soon. In fact, if quite a few Democrats have their way, it could be getting larger. The "Draft ___" movement has been picking up steam, with efforts to Draft Gore and Draft Nader already covered here.

With that in mind, faithful reader Tim Hollis sent me a link the other day pointing out one Draft movement I'd missed: Draft Wesley Clark. DWC, as I've taken to typing it in the last thirty seconds, was begun by Extreme Campaigns founder John Hlinko and PR agent David Wallace. The site describes them as "two normal guys, looking for a better president" and lists among their supporters one Josh Marguiles, head of (I'm really not making this up) Republicans for Clark.

Now, the whole thing smells a bit odd to me, but hey, support for a Dem is support for a Dem, I guess. The Draft Clark site also lists a few links of other grassroots pro-Clark websites out there. The best of these are definitely WesleyClark.US and

Now that the war is apparently over, it's quite possible that an official announcement might come down from Gen. Clark soon. Or maybe CNN's going to need him to come back for Operation: Syrian Freedom.

posted by Scott | 4/15/2003 | |

Monday, April 14, 2003

The Media's Favorite Long Shot for President

A cross-post from the Dean Blog, my apologies if you read it there first.

Editor & Publisher Magazine has recently dubbed Howard Dean "The Media's Favorite Long Shot for President."

The article praises Dean for his honesty and straightforwardness, quoting prominent media figures like David Broder, Adam Nagourney, and Tim Russert, who points out that Dean is "forthcoming when many politicians try to avoid answering questions."

Dean is compared (surprise!) to John McCain as a straight talker, though David Wallis of the New York Times Magazine notes that Dean is "more careful than McCain." Whether they meant to do it or not, the writers also compare Dean to Harry Truman.

Vermont reporters knew long ago that Dean reads everything written about him, keeps his cell phone at the ready to complain to editorial writers who cross him, and duels with reporters at news conferences.

So maybe Truman didn't have a cell phone, but he was famous for making his feelings known when he had a difference of opinion with the media. In fact, in this day and age, it's possible that's the type of thing the public is looking for - someone who's not afraid to take on the media when it's necessary. Look at the political fallout from Bush calling Adam Clymer a "major league a__hole" during the last election. What's that you say? Oh right - there was no political fallout. In fact, it's quite possible that the gaffe helped Bush by showing him to be a regular guy with regular feelings who calls 'em like he sees 'em.

This is something touched on in the Editor & Publisher piece. "It's the expectation game," Dean explains. "The press builds you up, and then they cut you down right at the knees." The expectations of Bush were so low to start out with that he was practically given points just for being able to complete a sentence.

In a way, then, the more Dean can distance himself from the brilliantly honest dove mantle, the better. And it's even better if he can do it little by little. A small outburst here followed by a gracious apology; a minor gaffe there answered with a humble retraction... it all adds up in such a way that lowers expectations but strengthens Dean's standing, making him both the regular guy candidate and the good guy candidate.

posted by Scott | 4/14/2003 | |
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