It’s difficult to decide who deserves more derision in this Washington Post report on fundraising woes in the Democratic Party. Should we laugh at the Nancy Pelosi-led politicians who thought that a year of populist pandering and the launch of a radical, aggressive anti-business agenda would have no effect on donations from the wealthy they demonized? Or should we instead mock those who lent their wealth to Democrats in the apparent belief that they didn’t intend to act on their class-warfare rhetoric?
Hey, why choose?
Democratic political committees have seen a decline in their fundraising fortunes this year, a result of complacency among their rank-and-file donors and a de facto boycott by many of their wealthiest givers, who have been put off by the party’s harsh rhetoric about big business.
The trend is a marked reversal from recent history, in which Democrats have erased the GOP’s long-standing fundraising advantage. In the first six months of 2009, Democratic campaign committees’ receipts have dropped compared with the same period two years earlier.
The vast majority of those declines were accounted for by the absence of large donors who, strategists say, have shut their checkbooks in part because Democrats have heightened their attacks on the conduct of major financial firms and set their sights on rewriting the laws that regulate their behavior.
As the battle over President Obama’s effort to overhaul the health-care system reached a fever pitch this summer, the three national Republican committees combined to bring in $1.7 million more than their Democratic counterparts in August. The pair of Democratic committees tasked with raising money for House and Senate candidates — and doing so at a time when the party holds its strongest position on Capitol Hill in a generation — have watched their receipts plummet by a combined 20 percent with little more than a year to go before the November 2010 midterm elections.
This last point is most significant. Donors flock to power, especially those with serious commercial interests in policy decisions on Capitol Hill. They suck up to the party that controls each chamber (in this case, the one party that controls both) in order to make sure their issues get on the agenda and get favorable treatment. That impulse helps keep incumbents in power.
However, that impulse has declined sharply in this Congress, and for good reason. The Democrats plan on radically restructuring two industries that comprise about a third of the economy, combined. While some in the health-care industry may gain with some of the “reforms” pushed by Democrats, more will lose. In the energy industry, just about everyone in that industry loses with cap-and-trade.
Nowhere is this trend more obvious than on Wall Street:
Other Democrats and their aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal party strategy, said that rhetoric toward big business has grown so antagonistic that it has become increasingly difficult to raise money on Wall Street, particularly after the controversy about bonuses and executive compensation. The DSCC has also established a rule that forbids accepting donations from the handful of financial firms that received money from the Troubled Assets Relief Program, the $700 billion bailout effort approved last fall, and have not yet repaid the government.
Who would have guessed that the people that Democrats demonized as evil in the first half of the year would be reluctant to donate now? For both the Democrats who are shocked, shocked! to find former donors alienated from their class-warfare campaign and the business interests shocked, shocked! to find class warriors in charge of the Democratic Party they supported unthinkingly last year, I award the Captain Louis Renault Award: