Drive-By political ambushes

Ruth Marcus:

The glossy fliers turned up in mailboxes in Massachusetts's 5th Congressional District the weekend before the election. "No one should be signing blank checks to President Bush!" announced one, urging recipients to "Call Jim Ogonowski and tell him you don't agree with his spending priorities!"

Another showed a young girl blowing on a dandelion. "President Bush feels she doesn't deserve healthcare," it said. "Under the Niki Tsongas Plan, kids get the healthcare they need!"

That might seem like standard campaign fare in the closer-than-expected race to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Martin Meehan. But these mailings had a disturbing twist: They were not sent by the Tsongas campaign, the Democratic Party or even any of the usual Democratic suspects ( Emily's List, the Service Employees International Union) that poured thousands into the Oct. 16 special election, which Tsongas won.

Instead, they were produced by a group with the audaciously ironic name Democracy Still Works. Staffed by Massachusetts Democratic strategists, it was created Sept. 28; it won't have to report the source of its money or how much it spent until January.

Unlike the candidates' own committees (which are limited to $2,300 donations) or regular political committees that register with the Federal Election Commission (limited to $5,000 checks), groups such as Democracy Still Works claim they can accept unlimited donations from any source, including corporations and labor unions.

This is the electoral equivalent of a contract hit, conducted by a mysterious assailant specially created for the mission at hand. That this brazenly campaign-related activity persists in 2007 does not augur well for 2008.

If such conduct sounds depressingly familiar, it is. These "527" political organizations, named for a section of the Internal Revenue Code, emerged during the 2000 presidential primaries, when a new group, Republicans for Clean Air, attacked Arizona Sen. John McCain.

...

There is a good chance that Soros payed for this attack. It fits his agenda and his MO from 2004. Marcus tries to connect it to the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, but that group never hid its people or it backers. It also kept its attacks to facts it believed true. To this day, the people in that group believe what they said about John Kerry was true. What Marcus has described about the attacks in Massachusetts appears to be a bad faith attempt to put positions and words in a candidates mouth that are not his. It is just another example of how McCain-Feingold has been a complete failure.

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