How the Democrat’s Corrupt Congressional Pay-to-Play Machine Sabotages Progressives and the Popular Will

Yves here. Readers who read the post below by progressive activist and Naked Capitalism reader Jeff Epstein may wonder why Democratic party members of Congress submit to having the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee not only tell them how to spend substantial amounts of their time when in Washington but also aggressively monitor how much money they raise.

The answer is not only does the DCCC provide resources (subscriptions, access to research, policy recommendations) to Congressmen who have hardly any staffers, but even more important, the DCCC controls committee assignments and leadership slots. Professor Tom Ferguson published an important paper on this topic; we recapped some key points from an article he wrote about it in a 2011 post:

A new article by Ferguson in the Washington Spectator sheds more light on this corrupt and defective system. Partisanship and deadlocks are a direct result of the increased power of a centralized funding apparatus. It’s easy to raise money for grandstanding on issues that appeal to well-heeled special interests, so dysfunctional behavior is reinforced.

Let’s first look at how crassly explicit the pricing is. Ferguson cites the work of Marian Currander on how it works for the Democrats in the House of Representatives:

Under the new rules for the 2008 election cycle, the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] asked rank-and-file members to contribute $125,000 in dues and to raise an additional $75,000 for the party. Subcommittee chairpersons must contribute $150,000 in dues and raise an additional $100,000. Members who sit on the most powerful committees … must contribute $200,000 and raise an additional $250,000. Subcommittee chairs on power committees and committee chairs of non-power committees must contribute $250,000 and raise $250,000. The five chairs of the power committees must contribute $500,000 and raise an additional $1 million. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip James Clyburn, and Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel must contribute $800,000 and raise $2.5 million. The four Democrats who serve as part of the extended leadership must contribute $450,000 and raise $500,000, and the nine Chief Deputy Whips must contribute $300,000 and raise $500,000. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must contribute a staggering $800,000 and raise an additional $25 million.

Ferguson teases out the implications:

Uniquely among legislatures in the developed world, our Congressional parties now post prices for key slots on committees. You want it — you buy it, runs the challenge. They even sell on the installment plan: You want to chair an important committee? That’ll be $200,000 down and the same amount later, through fundraising…..

The whole adds up to something far more sinister than the parts. Big interest groups (think finance or oil or utilities or health care) can control the membership of the committees that write the legislation that regulates them. Outside investors and interest groups also become decisive in resolving leadership struggles within the parties in Congress. You want your man or woman in the leadership? Just send money. Lots of it….

The Congressional party leadership controls the swelling coffers of the national campaign committees, and the huge fixed investments in polling, research, and media capabilities that these committees maintain — resources the leaders use to bribe, cajole, or threaten candidates to toe the party line… Candidates rely on the national campaign committees not only for money, but for message, consultants, and polling they need to be competitive but can rarely afford on their own..

This concentration of power also allows party leaders to shift tactics to serve their own ends….They push hot-button legislative issues that have no chance of passage, just to win plaudits and money from donor blocs and special-interest supporters. When they are in the minority, they obstruct legislation, playing to the gallery and hoping to make an impression in the media…

The system …ensures that national party campaigns rest heavily on slogan-filled, fabulously expensive lowest-common-denominator appeals to collections of affluent special interests. The Congress of our New Gilded Age is far from the best Congress money can buy; it may well be the worst. It is a coin-operated stalemate machine that is now so dysfunctional that it threatens the good name of representative democracy itself.

If that isn’t sobering enough, a discussion after the Ferguson article describes the mind-numbing amount of money raised by the members of the deficit-cutting super committee. In addition, immediately after being named to the committee, several members launched fundraising efforts that were unabashed bribe-seeking. But since the elites in this country keep themselves considerable removed from ordinary people, and what used to be considered corruption in their cohort is now business as usual, nary an ugly word is said about these destructive practices.

By Naked Capitalism reader aliteralmind, aka Jeff Epstein, is an independent and progressive journalist with Citizens’ Media TV. Jeff was a finalist with Brand New Congress, was one of around forty candidates in the country to be personally endorsed by Bernie Sanders during the 2016 primary, and was a pledged delegate for Sanders at the DNC. Copy edited by Ben Szioli. Originally published on Citizens’ Media TV

Get the Memo

Less than two days after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) wrote a strong opposition research article about Laura Moser’s Congressional candidacy, the Texas progressive had raised $60,000.

The DCCC’s unprecedented attack against one of its own comes only months after the organization, which calls itself the “official campaign arm of the Democrats in the House of Representatives,” sent all potential 2018 U.S. House candidates a “memorandum of understanding” (MoU). The memorandum requires candidates to refrain from attacking other Democrats during the primary election, calling it necessary in order to avoid “tactics that do harm to our chances of winning a General Election.”

Although candidates are forbidden from criticizing one another, there are no such requirements for super PACs (or, at least in the case of Moser, the DCCC itself). So, while the candidates themselves talk about rainbows, unicorns, and lollipops, the super PACs, which are supposed to have no connection to the candidates, take care of the mud-slinging dirty work. Unsurprisingly, the DCCC, the Democratic Party, and the unlimited, dark-money super PACs most often back the same candidate. This requirement is therefore a clear disadvantage to most candidates without party backing, such as progressives and upstarts.

Screenshot from DCCC MoU regarding not attacking other Democrats. Here is the full MoU. (More info on the MoU).

Dialing for Dollars

The terms of the MoU, which candidates must sign in order to receive DCCC support, prioritize fundraising above all. In practice, this inevitably disconnects candidates from their voters. From the Intercept:

Prioritizing fundraising, as Democratic Party officials do, has a feedback effect that creates lawmakers who are further and further removed from the people they are elected to represent. In 2013, the DCCC offered a startling presentation for incoming lawmakers, telling them they would be expected to immediately begin four hours of “call time” every day they were in Washington. That’s time spent dialing for dollars from high-end donors.

This “dialing for dollars” separates candidates from their potential (and less-wealthy) constituents. This is true even when off the phone, because that is when the promises made on the phone must be fulfilled. As impossible fundraising goals are missed, the candidate is under more and more pressure to depend on wealthier and wealthier donors, many of whom may not even be constituents. Meanwhile, most constituents, who cannot afford substantial donations, are left further and further behind. Not only are the needs of these powerless constituents no longer met, the candidate likely loses touch with what those needs even are.

Trojan horse

candidates must also agree to keep the DCCC abreast daily of their progress towards fundraising goals. Every day. The goals are suggested by the DCCC itself and are often unrealistic for campaigns who choose to forsake large donations.

Screenshot from DCCC MoU regarding fundraising

According to Paul Perry, a former Pennsylvania congressional candidate, when the goals are not met, the DCCC ratchets up the pressure:

As the campaign dragged on and their sense of the weakness of the field and my campaign gathering strength, my finance director started getting more calls from their finance people. They wanted weekly numbers, down to the number of hours I had spent on the phone with donors each week, how much money I had raised on a weekly and daily basis, and even average contribution estimates.

Perry suspended his campaign.

This pressure is further emphasized by the story of Lee Carter, a 30-year-old democratic socialist and now-state legislator from Virginia. Carter stopped giving the DCCC updates, resulting in his candidacy being abandoned by the party. Carter believes that these daily updates were a Trojan horse for the party to take day-to-day control over his campaign, especially as it relates to fundraising. (Carter also claims that the party leaked confidential campaign information, although he did not elaborate.)

According to the Richmond Times Dispatch:

Lee Carter, the Democratic candidate against [Republican incumbent and then-State House Majority Whip] Miller, opted out [of providing daily updates]. So his party essentially cut him off, saying that without him providing information they had no choice but to put financial resources into candidates they know are doing what the party believes is required to win.

In the same article, the Virginia Democratic Party justified the decision:

Unlike the Virginia House Republican Caucus, we do not have unlimited resources and must make informed and judicious decisions about where to invest the hard-earned dollars of our donors. We ask candidates to regularly report the number of doors they have knocked and dollars they have raised, so that we know we are investing the generous contributions of our donors in candidates who are willing to do the work necessary to win elections.

After Carter’s “unexpected” win, the reporter of the above article stated that the Democratic Party was upset that he reported on Carter’s candidacy at all. This was especially due to Carter’s positions against fossil fuel interests, which stand in direct conflict with the large donations received by the Virginia state party.

(In addition, the MoU states that candidates should run their campaigns “focused on highlighting our shared values as Democrats,” which could easily be interpreted to mean that views to the left of the Democratic Party are just as undesirable as those to the right.)

Enriching Consultants

Finally, the DCCC’s MoU also serves to enrich its own consultants. It requires candidates to reserve 75% of their campaign coffers for “paid communications,” which includes television and radio. For candidates who choose to focus their money on reaching voters through grassroots efforts such as door-knocking and last minute get-out-the-vote outreach, this restriction is suffocating.

Candidates are also required to hire a “research consultant” and other “professional consultants,” which, not coincidentally, can be chosen from among a “comprehensive list” provided by the DCCC.

Screenshots from DCCC MoU regarding consultants

Crushing Dissent

The DCCC’s actions are further examples of a party that makes it extremely difficult for truly progressive candidates – or newcomers or outsiders of any kind – to get a foot in the door. The Democratic and Republican parties may be different when it comes to social and environmental issues, but they are no different when it comes to who they stand for and against: they fight for the interests of their big-money donors and most often against the needs of their powerless constituents.

Our government no longer represents the bottom 90% of Americans (link to video)

Two examples of this:

  • Current polling shows that seven in ten Americans want stricter gun lawsand 97%, want stronger background checks. Yet, in the wake of the largest mass shooting in modern history, the DCCC instructed its candidates, in all caps, “DO NOT POLITICIZE THIS TODAY.” Instead of discussing gun policy, candidates were told to “offer their thoughts and prayers.”
  • There is broad and bipartisan support (see page 88) for single-payer healthcare, but in April of 2017, the DCCC instructed its candidates only to discuss how the Republican plan is harmful. They were to talk about their own proposals “only if asked”! Most importantly, two full pages of the letter was dedicated to listing misleading Republican criticisms of “[Bernie] Sanders’ plan” for single-payer healthcare, with no counter arguments. An example criticism is that single-payer healthcare will cause “millions of Americans to lose their current health insurance plan.” Although narrowly and technically true, it ignores the fact that the very definition of single-payer healthcare means that every single American is fully covered – just no longer by the private insurance industry.

This is all summed up by the executive director of Justice Democrats, an organization supporting progressive candidates who refuse big-money donations: “[the] DCCC is scared stiff that after 2018 there will be a huge wave of progressive Democrats taking over the party that won’t be accountable to their corporate interests.”

The Democratic Party prioritizes fundraising above all else and chooses candidates who cater to the needs of their big donors. (A cynical interpretation could be that the most important quality the Democratic Party looks for in a candidate is a willingness to be bribed.) The ostensible goal of the Democratic Party may be to “defeat Republicans,” but it seems that just as much energy, if not more, is spent fighting against progressive policies and the candidates who truly stand for them. At least in some cases, such as with Laura Moser and Lee Carter, the strategy is beginning to backfire.

Appendix: Further Evidence

An extremely un-comprehensive list of further examples demonstrating how the Democratic Party shuts out progressives:

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  1. Lambert Strether

    In theory, I support party discipline, but policy-based, so you don’t have excresences like the Blue Dogs allowing horrid bank bills to be passed and sabotaging #MedicareForAll.

    As it is, these Memoranda seem like an extreme case of The Iron Law of Institutions.

    (The crazy thing is that the left believes — and I agree with them — that supporting policies like #MedicareForAll is the way to win the General.)

    1. CB

      as the iron law points out, the ptb don’t care about winning elections, they care about keeping their power. and usually, elections don’t disturb their personal power arrangements. all good!

      1. XXYY

        I had this same thought. Sanders lost no time in reverting to being an Independent once Clinton lost and the Dems failed to regain the Senate.

        The rumor as I recall was that he was in line for a committee chairmanship (HHS?) under the prior assumption that the Senate would have a Democratic majority, in which case I assume he he would have retained his membership in the (now) majority party. But (assuming the DSCC is operated similarly to the DCCC) there appear to be substantial advantages in being out from under the party’s thumb, not the least of which is getting back 4 hours of each day.

        Looks like our Independent legislators are the only ones likely to be effective.

      2. Code Name D

        Realy? Just how independent is he when he stumps for Hillary (basically vandalizing everything he supposedly ran on), goes on a “unity tour”, or refuses to acknowledge the election-rigging that took place during the primaries?

    2. tempest teacup

      Party discipline in its traditional sense doesn’t apply to the Democratic Party since it isn’t structured like a political party so much as a loose collection of sectional interests bound by money and directed towards harvesting votes when required. It has no sovereign conference, no real or empowering means by which local/constituency branches mandate the delegates they elect to represent their democratically chosen priorities at national conventions, no transparency with regards to the party’s finances or how they’re spent, etc. etc. Discipline is only desirable when you have a clearly defined, transparent and mutually agreed set of procedures by which party positions and policies are decided and which bind together the top of the party through layers of accountable delegates/representatives right down to the members at the bottom. Then, even if the ultimate decisions result in outcomes you personally disagree with, you have a) the knowledge that they were reached according to democratic consensus and b) there are channels by which you can organise to change those decisions in the future provided you mobilise enough support to do so.

      Since this article highlights just to what extent the modern Democratic Party privileges the donor-class and binds its candidates to a pay-to-play form of legalised corruption that hobbles them before they’ve even gotten started, it’s worth noting once again that Bernie Sanders’ campaign refutes even the shoddy justifications deployed by the Democratic leadership for operating as they do. The British Labour Party has also, in the last 2 Corbyn-led years, shifted from a reliance on high-value donations from rich individuals or special interests to one with a broad funding base rooted in mass membership. The shift managed to erase the multimillion pound debts it had accumulated and enabled it, in part, to run such a successful campaign in this year’s general election.

      I know you’ve written about this before, Lambert, but it bears repeating – the Democrats don’t rely on special interest loot because it’s the only way they can compete with the Republicans. They do it because their political sympathies lie with the plutocracy. Therefore all reference to Bernie Sanders running a well-resourced campaign via small-dollar donations must go down the memory hole.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        I wonder if it would be a winning strategy for leftist Dem insurgents to explicitly run in primaries against the DCCC. It seems to me such a strategy would generate considerable grass roots enthusiasm.

        1. tempest teacup

          In some ways that’s the campaign Bernie Sanders ran – the fact that he was so clearly not wanted by Democratic Party power-brokers became a significant source of attraction. At the risk of putting a tinfoil hat on my head, I wonder to what extent such explicitly counter-hegemonic candidates would be allowed, by fair means of foul, to succeed.

          I have two approaches to this question – one is pragmatic and based on the way things are right now; the other is to do with where we should ideally be going. Obviously, at the moment, we have a two-party system, and there is scope to run within the Democratic Party as a progressive or perhaps even socialist with the hope of changing, from within, the orientation at the top. In general, though, I just don’t see it being possible to effect lasting, substantial change through the system in its current form. The truth is that it isn’t a question of the 99% and the 1% – there exists, too, a layer a professional enablers required by the plutocracy to provide services and carry water. The Democratic Party in its current form is designed to serve that layer, and I don’t think there can be a rapprochement between those interests and the interests of the rest of the population. Especially since they aren’t really constituted as a mass party in the sense embodied by social democratic parties like the Labour Party or the German SPD – even with a will to change things, they don’t have the structures to allow it.

          Workers have to organise on the basis of their own material interests. I know that this is difficult and I know, too, that the American electoral system is designed to render it particularly so – but moments of change in America have always be leveraged by popular movements with concrete demands that mixed electoral and non-electoral organising. The Democratic Party has never been less equipped to represent even the final stages of that process, and therefore I think it is necessary to seek solution elsewhere.

          This sounds, perhaps, obvious, but in reality even now the majority of left-orientated movements ultimately resolve themselves in some sort of strategy to effect change within the Democratic Party. Even the DSA do so. Perhaps the first solution to a problem is recognising the problem – and that is to say the Democrats cannot play any role in political change in America, for all the reason eloquently outlined in the article above.

          1. Oregoncharles

            If Republicans can cheat in elections, so can Dems. Palast has documented that they do it, primarily in the primaries. The old city “machines” were based on stuffing ballot boxes – dead people vote, that sort of thing. They were mostly Democrats. Witness Chicago, to this day.

            So, as I predicted, yes, they cheated in various ways, probably including the counts, to keep Bernie out; they can and will do it again, in enough states (I’m fairly confident in Oregon’s electoral machinery – but not California’s.)

            1. tempestteacup

              Absolutely. I’ve followed the (very much marginalised) coverage of Democratic Party chicanery and I have no doubt that they will do what it takes to ensure the candidates “chosen” are sympathetic to the people who matter. As far as I am concerned, Bernie was if not cheated in the primaries then hobbled from the moment he emerged as a credible threat to the Clinton Hegemony. But that’s what I mean – the Democrats are not capable of being a counter-hegemonic force. They are the enemy, just as much as the Republicans, and must be treated as such.

              In the UK Labour Party, it has been quickly consigned to memory that the right-wing faction then in charge of the party bureaucracy had to be taken to the High Court to prevent them keeping Jeremy Corbyn off the ballot for the second leadership contest. They succeeded, however, in disenfranchising members according to a cut-off designed to hobble his support and imposing a 25 pound fee to gain voting rights. I remember the discussions at the time and the shameless efforts to do whatever was required to get rid of him – efforts that failed because of two things: the intimacy between Labour and the increasingly radical trade unions, and the democratic structures within the party, which are a legacy of social democratic origins.

              The Democratic Party don’t have either, so while I agree with you that it may be possible to run in a primary against the DCCC (at least in some districts), I’m not sure how far that can take you in changing the overall party. I know that the barriers to entry appear prohibitive but the times are, I hope, ripening for independent organising beyond the two-party state and which doesn’t resolve itself ultimately in sheep dogging for their candidates – which is, alas, what the DSA and the Green Party has all too frequently ended up doing!

          2. Code Name D

            In some ways that’s the campaign Bernie Sanders ran – the fact that he was so clearly not wanted by Democratic Party power-brokers became a significant source of attraction. At the risk of putting a tinfoil hat on my head, I wonder to what extent such explicitly counter-hegemonic candidates would be allowed, by fair means of foul, to succeed.

            Was Sanders’ campaign not wanted by the party, or not wanted by Clinton.

            I have observed in past presidential primaries a plethora of progressive candidates. This ends up splitting the progressive vote before Iowa, and lowing the establishment candidate take the early lead. The DCCC then pat progressives on the head and say “aw, maybe next year.”

            In 2007, this change in favor of Clinton’s coronation. Alternative candidates were “discourage” from throwing their hat into the ring. All but one, Bernie Sanders. So, going into Iowa, the progressive vote wasn’t split at all, giving Sanders such a strong showing.

            Progressives have been trying to take over the party for decades. You can’t have such a protracted track record of failure without an explanation. And my explanation is that the DCCC used progressive to constantly rehabilitate the party’s image.

            The problem here isn’t that progressive can’t get elected. Clearly, they can. But once elected, the party infrastructure is geared in such a way to stymie their influence. In the meantime, the party feeds off progressive energy like a vampire.

            Grassroots organizing that promoted issues and progressive candidates are slowly integrated into the established order. Anti-war activists suddenly find themselves stumping for war-hocks and war-criminals. Voters are given the false impression that change is “just around the corner”. Years pass, and the grassroots organizing fade away into nothing – as if it never really happened. The “Justice Democrats” and “Our Revolution” are not new ideas, they have already been tried, and already failed. While Uger and Sanders are left wondering, “why didn’t any one try this before?”

            The coming “Blue wave” will fail, even if it should get a handful of progressive Democrats elected, nearly just as many establishment Dems will also get elected, and nothing will change.

      2. aliteralmind

        …the Democrats don’t rely on special interest loot because it’s the only way they can compete with the Republicans. They do it because their political sympathies lie with the plutocracy.

        The Democrats rely on special interest money because it makes them rich. It makes them part of the club that we ain’t part of. I don’t think their sympathies lie anywhere except in remaining rich.

      3. Ray Phenicie

        – the Democrats don’t rely on special interest loot because it’s the only way they can compete with the Republicans. They do it because their political sympathies lie with the plutocracy. Therefore all reference to Bernie Sanders running a well-resourced campaign via small-dollar donations must go down the memory hole.

        Bernie was like a breath of fresh air-he revealed the connection between big money and politics in the USA. While many knew that, the topic has not received much Main Stream Press (MSP) coverage. What is especially insidious about the big money connection is the amount of propaganda that has been used to make poor people (about 45% of the population) hate themselves. We were told it was our fault we had low paying jobs as we did not make good career choices.
        We were told if we got the right education (MBA, BS in IT, etc) a good paying job would be ours
        )Lie, good paying jobs were not available as corporations were too busy buying back their own stocks instead of gaining more productivity with innovative methods.
        We were told that the people who earned living wages were studious types who deserved what they got.
        <) LIe, they were the winners of the lottery system that the job market has been turned into. The fact is those who throw the levers of oppression don't want to share the wealth. If wage equated to increases in productivity, the effective minimum wage would be $18/hr.

        So big money paid for the propaganda to spread the lies and too many people bought into the lies. Our elections focus on candidates who make vague promises or outright lies and voters have the perilous intellectual task confined within a tiny territory and a narrow range of choices: which mob of oligarchs they want to run with.

    3. John Hacker

      Link to Tom Ferguson article is corrupt. Google search for article nada. Checking Washington Spector nothing. Please direct me to tom’s article.

      1. John Hacker

        Found it it was not Ferguson numbers they were Marian Currinder, Money in the House (2008). So have prices gone up or down since the crash?

    4. Altandmain

      The issue is that party discipline is used mow to serve the donors and hurt the left.

      Vote right wing and the Establishment is ok. Look at the Blue Dogs. Vote left and the Establishment screws you over.

  2. allan

    But you can’t argue with success. The DCCC’s bare knuckle tactics have lifted the Democratic majority in the House from 257 D – 178 R in the 111th Congress to 187 D – 246 R at the start of the 115th. Oh wait …

    Eating the host works in microbiology because the parasite (or at least its descendants) can move on to another host. In the case of a national legislature, not so much.

  3. ambrit

    As stated, the DCCC looks to be an example of the centralization of corruption. It’s time to decentralize all this graft. For all its’ faults, the old Tammany Hall ‘corrupt’ political machine traded tangible ‘goods’ for votes: walking around money on voting day, free lunches and booze, party controlled ‘public’ jobs for higher level functionaries, pre New Deal social relief programs etc.
    The old Cuban saying has relevance here: “Como se banya, el Tiburon salpica.” “When the Shark takes a bath, he splashes.”
    Huey Long of past glory understood. When he ran Louisiana like an Autocracy, he built the Charity Hospital System, built up LSU, built roads and bridges where they could do some good, etc. He got shot for his troubles, probably because he tried to cut the oligarchs out of the loop.

  4. Amateur Socialist

    The reason things will not change in 2018 at the DNC is that losing elections is not bad for business. The fundraising hysteria will only get louder after this so called “wave” election opportunity is blown. Watch for it.

    1. hemeantwell

      Right, and it’s not bad for business particularly when allies in the MSM blame the Russians for electoral failures. Supporting an utterly parasitic cabal becomes an act of patriotism.

  5. Jane

    Wow! This is ALEC for Democrats only instead of giving representatives nearly free entry, two free conferences a year, a few thousand in campaign donations, and the illusion of participation in making the rules in order to join their group, the Democrats make the reps work constantly to get hundreds of thousands from other people to join their strictly authoritarian hegemony. And Democrats are supposed to be the elite, well educated, smart ones!

    It would seem the ALEC lot figured out the tech approach long before Silicon Valley….give your product away and you can make billions behind the scenes with minimal cost while Democrat donors are paying through the nose to get…nothing. It explains why so little has been accomplished for minorities that traditionally support the Democrat party; they want your money and your votes every 4 years but have no interest,now or ever, in letting you participate in making the rules. And to non-minority donors…exactly the same; they just charge you more to let you pretend you’re in the game.

    In fact, the Democrats are behaving as if they are Republicans (no free lunches) and the Republicans are behaving as if they are Democrats (something free for everyone) at least in how they run their parties. What a sad joke on the American people.

  6. Eureka Springs

    This post is one of a million excellent reasons why people who want to change that party are part of the problem. A danger to themselves and at least 90 percent of the rest of us. Delaying the dramatic changes in game we need. The myopic fight inside the party, negotiating for continued super delegates is another. We’ve witnessed for nearly two years the willingness and ability of the party to lie us into potential world war with Russia in order to deflect and maintain power. There is no limit to their lies and hubris. Fixing insanity by becoming it?

    You don’t work in a lab, take off your gloves and rub ebola all over yourself expecting a cure. Step away from the lab and then burn it down.

    If a party is not dedicated to a democratic process then get away from it. The super plurality of registered voters are neither D or R. The super plurality of eligible voters already refuse to participate. The only thing to do with the D party is to learn from it, make sure the new party rule book doesn’t repeat.

    1. CaptainPoptart

      IMHO this argument utterly ignores the reality of our two party system in favor of a pie in the sky third party. The rules are written by the two dominant parties with the obvious goal of maintaining power, and specifically insuring that there will be no competition from newly formed political groups or parties.

      Full disclosure, I am a registered Green who Demexited in 2016, but am now completely disillusioned with the lack of traction the party has demonstrated. For example, ballot access alone takes up an inordinate amount of time and energy. Fundraising among the extremely small base of potential electors is extremely difficult and until the party has the means to get its message across, unlikely to change. There is a reason why third parties have traditionally failed, and that is because the two parties have squashed them by controlling the rules.

      Consequently, those seeking to change the party from the inside have a very difficult path to success. However, calling them part of the problem seems way over the top. People of good faith and intentions could choose either path with similar chances of succeeding in the end. What’s important is that they become engaged.

      1. Oregoncharles

        History supports Eureka, even though your statements about the difficulties of 3rd parties are correct. The “take over the Democrats” meme has been around for a long time now – at least 30 years, just in my memory, since they started moving Right. And throughout that time, they’ve moved ONLY to the Right, till they’re way to the right of the past Republicans. There is a bit of a corrective going on now; watch for it to fizzle out.

        The point of the article is to document just how deeply embedded the corruption is. And that’s just one example. The Democratic Party is full of people whose hearts are in the right place – we work with them locally all the time. But there’s a firewall between them and even the state parties; for instance, policies adopted by the Dem state conventions go nowhere. The DCCC is part of that firewall. It would be nice to see other parts documented. I know how the Green Party works, but not the Dems.

        OTOH, you’re right about the difficulties of 3rd-party organizing. It’s worth noting that most of those are state law, not Constitutional; eg, plurality voting. So they’re more vulnerable than they look, at a time when legacy-party loyalty is lower than ever. As Eureka said, a large plurality are independent. Oregon actually has 3 MAJOR parties; one of them is named the Independent Party. Low voter loyalty, though, as a lot of those people thought they were unaffiliated. Very clever name. You have to be careful about upper-case letters in Oregon.

        And plurality voting has an overlooked quirk: it lowers the bar for victory. If there are 3 candidates, one can win, theoretically, with only 34% of the vote. That’s bad, no mandate at all – but it can happen. More parties, even lower bar. After 20 years, in some ways I’m as discouraged as you are, but I think the duopoly is actually collapsing. In reality, alternative parties are basically hanging on by their toenails until people catch on and overturn the apple cart, as they’ve been doing in Europe – 5 Star is now the largest party in Italy and may well form the government. There need to be organized alternatives available for when that happens, or we’ll get a Macron.

        1. CaptainPoptart

          Seems to me that your arguments (most of which I agree with) would suggest a somewhat equal probability of seizing the reins of the Democratic Party or building the whole thing from scratch. The former seems the more efficient way to proceed, history aside. That was the point of my post. I was not questioning the obvious corruption of both parties, which is beyond any doubt.

      2. Eureka Springs

        IMHO this argument utterly ignores the reality of our two party system in favor of a pie in the sky third party.

        Nice try. No one here arguing in good faith is ignoring any such thing. Insanity, imo, is just repeating it over and over again expecting different results.

        I do think those willing to vote D (or R for that matter) are constantly ignoring their extreme minority status and getting away with it. When both have well over 70 percent of the electorate against them… something must change and change dramatically.

        Carpe Diem.

        I’m looking for one party which honors a democratic process. Call it the pie in the sky party if you like. I vote for french silk!

        The problem Greens share with D’s and R’s are the same. No democratic process by and for the peeps. No development of a platform across the board and nothing binding once a platform is in place.

        Just like Sanders sat back at the convention last year and told his peeps to be nice and endorse Hillary. Greens always have done the same. Spinelessness is not a virtue.

        If a few people decide things in a back room over a vegan lunch or a cigar…

      3. JohnnyGL

        It’s worth pointing out that lots of other countries have multiple political parties and arguably even more severe cases of neoliberal infestation than we’ve even got in the USA.

        Brazil and the UK come to mind. Both of them have gone hard for austerity in recent years.

    2. Code Name D

      We’ve witnessed for nearly two years the willingness and ability of the party to lie us into potential world war with Russia in order to deflect and maintain power.

      Two years? Ahem! Oh no, this problem has been around far longer than that. I am part of the Howard Dean generation of activists. We fought to get Dean elected as chairperson to the head of the DNC, and we won. Giving him the perfect opportunity to execute his 50-state strategy. The result was a true boom in Democratic Party activism. We make huge gains in Topeka, and were fielding candidates in districts that hadn’t even RUN Democrats on years. We were even thinking the Dems could retake Topeka in a few election cycles.

      When Obama won, he kicked out Dean and put in Tim Kain, who returned to the original system of graft. And the party has been dying ever since.

      The original point still stands however. Fighting to rehabilitate the Democratic Party is a fool’s errand. Here in Kansas – there is no Democratic Party to rehabilitate.

  7. diptherio

    I was thinking that if I wanted to run for office, I’d sign the memo and then spend four hours a day calling random constituents with a brief ask and then a question about what their needs are. ‘Paid communications’ also seems like the kind of thing that can broadly defined and used to a good purpose. “I paid a bunch of homeless people to talk to me about their housing policy ideas.” etc.

  8. The Rev Kev

    So let me get this straight. As a Candidate, they are basically employees for the DCCC now. Not only that, they have to give the DCCC total information about their finances, donor lists, etc. so that at a moment’s notice they can be bumped out and replaced with the machinery still running? Most people are probably aware of the concept of how many weeks into the year they work where all their money goes to paying their taxes until a point is reached (about April I think) where their earned money then finally goes to them. If Candidates are required to hire a “research consultant” and other “professional consultants” and spend hours on the blower raising money, then there must be a point when they ask themselves the question: “At what point in my campaign does all the money I get fundraising finally pay off all these consultants that I was forced to hire and then can be used for my actual campaign?”
    I thought about some ideas that the DCCC could use to really get it rocking based on the old purchase of commissions idea ( All those positions such as rank-and-file members, Subcommittee chairpersons, the House Majority Leader, etc. could all have official values to them so that they could be brought but you would have to do it in turn. To get to the next level, you buy it when it becomes available and whose cost is defrayed by selling your position to your successor. If you don’t get re-elected, you lose all your money invested just to keep things spicy. If you were rich, you could proved extra money for your superior to step aside so that you could take their position. You could even have auctions over desirable seats or desirable positions. I’m sure that the DCC could totally get on board with this idea. It would all be in keeping of the spirit of the DCCC’s methodology as laid out here.

    1. Synoia

      the old purchase of commissions idea

      Which was abandoned after the British’s successes in the Crimea.

      The Royal Navy promoted on merit: Either win or get sunk (The Admiral Byng rules of engagement).

  9. Carolinian

    Great post. There’s been some discussion around here about reviving antitrust but surely the most basic and corrupt concentration of power in the US lies in our two party duopoly. This is why some of us have always been cool to Sanders’ talk about billionaires and the necessity to defeat Republicans at all costs. It’s the Democrats he should be taking on since the left will never revive until the “left” party is reformed from root to branch or replaced.

  10. Chauncey Gardiner

    Highlights the loss of political influence to large transnational corporations and a relatively small but very wealthy group of individuals through their political contributions. So how do We the People break this structural circular chain of legalized corruption of our lawmakers? Insist on public financing of elections, limit campaign financing to an absolute dollar amount, overturn the Orwellian named Citizens United decision and the false and deceitful legal concept of corporate personhood whose roots date back to the days of the Robber Barons in the 19thC.

    The control of staffing and research resources by political parties and lobbyists for the cleverly termed and well-funded “special interests” can also be neutralized by public funding. IMO one of the many reasons MMT is so threatening to those who enjoy extraordinary benefits from perpetuating the status quo and their various rackets is that it takes away their “Government has limited monetary resources” argument. Can we expect pushback and is it likely the entrenched beneficiaries of the current system will throw up additional barriers to change?… Of course they will. Whether they will enjoy the same results as King Canute attempting to stop the incoming tide, though, is an open question.

  11. L

    First, very good piece. I agree with all of it.

    My one caveat is that it omits another essential component of the Dtrip cesspool ecosystem: communications platforms.

    Sites like DailyKos and TPM are essential components of this approach. Kos for example has a front page piece today congratulating the Dtrip-endorsed winner but no mention of others and the regular donor calls that they send out are very much in support of the “official” candidates. In effect these sites provide a semi-independent platform or a force multiplier to carry official messages from the Dtrip and to rally the faithful against interlopers like Bernie Sanders while pumping the people for ‘grassroots’ support. Being endorsed and accepted can help a candidate get in with these operations as well which will boost their national profile at the expense of actual local behavior.

    1. aliteralmind

      You’re right. I decided not to touch on the media. It’s just so all encompassing. The DCCC (and the Democratic Party) is just one of the many tools of the truly omnipotent. I happened to write an article related to the media’s role last year:

      It was also republished on NC:

  12. Andrew Watts

    The budget and finance section eviscerates any independence the candidate has from party hacks and consultant class parasites. Any political candidate that is forced to disclose their donor list renders them expendable and/or susceptible to pressure. It’s an alternative means of support that frees a candidate from the party’s diktats. If the party can take away your fundraising prowess then you’re under their control. I don’t believe Bernie ever gave up his donor list in spite of all the pressure from the Party.

    The part where candidates are forced to spend a majority of their budget on communications is the big payday for the consultants. Low effort for the consultant and high cost for the campaign with little proven benefits.

    Glory to the donor class and party apparatchiks comrades!

  13. Oregoncharles

    That means that even relatively progressive Dems like my own Peter deFazio are implicated in the scam. He’s ranking member on the Transportation Committee, so he’s contributing heavily to the DCCC.

    Personally, I had a heck of a time getting off their mailing list, even though I’m registered Green. I wouldn’t mind costing them money, but it’s insulting being treated like a “reserve” member of a corrupt party. Even called and mad threats.

    Snail mail may not be the real problem these days, but there is a technique for getting off mailing lists: if it includes a postage-paid envelope, take the entire mailer, including the envelope, and maybe something heavy like lead foil, and stuff it in the paid envelope, along with a nasty note. They’re on the hook for the entire cost of postage. they may notice that.

  14. sierra7

    Excellent article describing in essence a “criminal enterprise system” to subdue any nick of change in the political duopoly and the attempted rigid part discipline needed as the Dem party ages. It is the type of writing that leaves me staring out the window and asking, “What is to be done?” We have one of the lowest registered voter participation in the modern world. And it continues to decline. It is now “tyranny by minority” registered voters who actually do vote. It is that we have so vociferously condemned of other countries over generations and particularly during the “cold war” which it seems both parties are determined to revive which is a whole other story. In my dotage I only see more of the same and a continuing inability for the voting public to really change nothing because those who have the power (both parties) are not going to give up that power easily. It will require a real revolt by the “commons” to gain any real “progressive” agendas to move this country forward. I fear that time is coming faster than most can imagine. It is always clear historically that those who would overthrow authoritarian systems are always surprised at those in power that are being overthrown not believing it is happening.

  15. mrtmbrnmn

    What “precious democracy” are these Dementedcrat nutjobs always talking about? Putin who? Bring on the guillotine for these corrupt political oinkers and lunatics! Rev-o-lution!


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