The GOP’s Grand New Money
Fred Barnes Fred Barnes – Wed Apr 14, 4:48 pm ET
Washington (The Weekly Standard) Vol. 015, Issue 29 - 04/19/2010 – For Republicans, campaign finance reform was a nightmare from which they are only now awakening. After the campaign law, better known as McCain-Feingold, was enacted in 2002, Republicans largely ignored the new possibilities it created for affecting the outcome of elections. When the Supreme Court in 2003 upheld most of the provisions of the law, their apathy continued.
Democrats weren't so passive. They immediately reacted to the new campaign spending rules by setting up a cluster of organizations outside the party that played an enormous role in the 2004, 2006, and 2008 campaigns. Republicans suffered through the three election cycles without countering the onslaught by the Democratic outfits. The 2006 and 2008 elections produced Democratic landslides.
But 2010 should be different. Spurred by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, Republicans have matched the Democratic infrastructure with organizations of their own. These groups expect to raise and spend tens of millions in this year's midterm elections and probably even more in 2012, when President Obama is likely to be running for a second term.
Their effect could be pivotal. Republican prospects for winning House and Senate seats in November are the brightest since 1994. The new organizations have the potential to push the outcome toward a historic rout that puts Republicans in control of the House, Senate, a solid majority of governorships, and additional state legislatures. At the least, they're positioned to offset the impact of Democratic groups.
What McCain-Feingold did was ban large donations of "soft money" to the Republican and Democratic national committees. But the money didn't dry up. For Democrats, it moved to independent organizations, like MoveOn.org, with no limits on fundraising. Now, at long last, Republicans have started groups of their own: