As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Here We Go Again - Executive Branch As Campaign Outreach Arm

During elections as far back as 2002, Karl Rove made sure that all political resources at his disposal were employed to help elect Republicans. Federal agencies you would think had scant ability to impact an electoral debate suddenly had deputies all over swing districts, making official announcements and giving federal largesse in areas with threatened Republican members of Congress. This is of course illegal, but it didn't stop Rove from holding meetings with agency heads and briefing them on which Republicans needed help and how they could deploy that help. Here's an article that lays this out.

Thirteen months before President Bush was reelected, chief strategist Karl Rove summoned political appointees from around the government to the Old Executive Office Building. The subject of the Oct. 1, 2003, meeting was "asset deployment," and the message was clear:

The staging of official announcements, high-visibility trips and declarations of federal grants had to be carefully coordinated with the White House political affairs office to ensure the maximum promotion of Bush's reelection agenda and the Republicans in Congress who supported him, according to documents and some of those involved in the effort.

"The White House determines which members need visits," said an internal e-mail about the previously undisclosed Rove "deployment" team, "and where we need to be strategically placing our assets." [...]

Under Rove's direction, this highly coordinated effort to leverage the government for political marketing started as soon as Bush took office in 2001 and continued through last year's congressional elections, when it played out in its most quintessential form in the coastal Connecticut district of Rep. Christopher Shays, an endangered Republican incumbent. Seven times, senior administration officials visited Shays's district in the six months before the election -- once for an announcement as minor as a single $23 government weather alert radio presented to an elementary school. On Election Day, Shays was the only Republican House member in New England to survive the Democratic victory.

"He didn't do these things half-baked. It was total commitment," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.), who in 2002 ran the House Republicans' successful reelection campaign in close coordination with Rove. "We knew history was against us, and he helped coordinate all of the accoutrements of the executive branch to help with the campaign, within the legal limits."

Rove may be gone, but this practice continues.

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings was in Minnesota on Tuesday to announce a proposed pilot project for the federal No Child Left Behind law that would give 10 states more flexibility in addressing struggling schools' specific needs....

However, Minnesota doesn't yet have enough of those schools to participate in the pilot project, prompting some to question why Spellings made the announcement here and whether it was an effort to help Sen. Norm Coleman in his reelection campaign.

Spellings appeared at the state Department of Revenue and the State Capitol alongside Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Coleman.

"It certainly smells that no Democrats were invited to this event, when we already know that this administration has politicized Cabinet agencies," said Matthew Miller, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "It looks like a stunt to help Norm Coleman's campaign."

It more than "looks like" a stunt, that's exactly what it is.

I'm growing a little tired of these things seen as "Rovian" machinations. They're just Republican ones. Rove is a cog in the wheel and focusing on him is a distraction. He learned these techniques over many decades in the conservative incubator, and the idea that they'd stop just because he's moved over to Fox News is not realistic.

This is one of those dastardly deeds that is very easy to spot but harder to counter.

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