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Democratic hypocrisy on anonymous donations?


At the end of the midterm season, the Obama White House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and a large part of the left railed at the unlimited, anonymous donations that groups like the Karl Rove-backed Crossroads GPS was able to collect and spend on races.

Here was President Obama on the campaign trail:

And thanks to a gigantic loophole, these special interests can spend unlimited amounts without even disclosing where the money is coming from. We don't know where it’s coming from. We don't know if it’s from the oil industry. We don't know if it’s from banks. We don't know if it’s insurance companies. Could be coming overseas -- we don't know. They won’t tell you. They don’t want you to know. They won't stand behind what they do.

This isn’t just a threat to Democrats. This is a threat to our democracy.

While that argument didn't help Democrat in the midterms, it did lay the groundwork -- potentially -- for 2012 in portraying the GOP as the party of corporate interests, and attributing its 2010 success to these shadowy interest groups.

But can Democrats rail against anonymous, shadowy interests when they're beginning to build their own?

As today's New York Times reports, David Brock of Media Matters is helping to create a counterweight to Rove's American Crossroads -- called American Bridge -- and that it might also utilize a subsidiary like Crossroads GPS that can collect unlimited and anonymous donations.

Certain to set off debate ... is that Mr. Brock appears to be positioning his new organization so that fund-raising consultants can raise money for Democratic-oriented media efforts not just through American Bridge but also via one of the nonprofit organizations Mr. Brock currently runs, Media Matters Action Network, which does not disclose its donors.

The action network, which tracks conservative politicians and advocacy organizations, is organized as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group and is set to take on an expanded role in the 2012 elections, including potentially running television ads, according to an internal draft concept paper about American Bridge’s and Media Matter Action Network’s plans obtained by The New York Times.

The Times article continues:

White House officials have signaled in recent weeks that the Obama administration would not object to Democratic-leaning outside groups getting involved in the 2012 elections, a change from the Obama campaign’s attitude toward such groups in 2008. But they have also indicated that they would prefer that the names of donors be disclosed.

*** UPDATE *** Brock sends this statement to First Read:

American Bridge, the organization headed by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, is a 100% transparent organization and will disclose all donors to the FEC as required by law.

Media Matters Action Network, which I am chairman of, is a completely separate organization operating under a different set of rules.

Many Americans, including me, were deeply troubled by the new rules of the road given to us by a Republican-controlled Supreme Court in Citizens United. Subsequently, the wave of rightwing money created a right-wing wave. There is no right-wing wave. There was a wave of Republican money that was not in any way matched in the cycle by Democrats. Only by making our elections a fair fight will the people really be heard.

We do not make the rules. We must make 2012 a more equal contest than 2010. We cannot surrender everything -- health care, the environment -- because of the Citizens United decision.