- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Liberal activists and their affiliates said yesterday that they plan to spend $350 million to bolster progressive candidates, register voters and mobilize turnout for this year’s general election.

The strategy was announced at the Take Back America conference by an informal group of liberal and non-ideological groups, ranging from the AFL-CIO and MoveOn.org to Rock The Vote and the National Council of La Raza.

“We believe that 2008 has the potential of being not simply a change election, but a sea change election not seen since 1980,” said Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America”s Future, which sponsored the conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Northwest. He said the informal push would create the “real muscle” behind their movement to take the White House and expand the Democratic majorities in Congress.

Mr. Borosage said he was worried that the press and some liberals would focus on party infighting between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, potentially dampening the groundswell of enthusiasm seen during the primary season.

Karen Ackerman, political director of the AFL-CIO, said her organization would spend $53.4 million in addition to $146.6 million from affiliated unions on voter education and registration, issue advocacy and door-to-door canvassing.

She said the $200 million from unions “pales in comparison to what corporate America will spend,” although she hopes a network of some 300,000 AFL-CIO volunteers will help make up the difference.

“The union vote will be key on November 4th,” she said, adding that 25 percent of voters during recent election cycles have come from union households. Her union hopes to mobilize its 13 million members, particularly in 23 battleground states.

“This is not just about electing a Democratic president,” she said. “This is about building a progressive movement.”

Miss Ackerman also said her members will target likely Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, whom she called “Bush III” because of his support of the Iraq war and President Bush”s tax cuts.

“Wherever McCain goes, union voters will be there to confront him on economic issues,” she said.

MoveOn.org plans to spend $30 million on this election cycle, focusing particularly on Senate races in hopes that Democrats will gain the 60 seats needed to overcome filibusters.

“We have learned great lessons in the last eight years that have allowed us all to sit up here together,” said Ilyse Hogue, a spokeswoman for MoveOn.org. “Anger and frustration is an excellent motivator, but excitement and genuine belief in going somewhere really is an even better motivator.”

Page Gardner, president of the “Women’s Voices. Women Vote” Action Fund, said her group would target single women, who for the first time make up a group equal in size to married women and make up 26 percent of the electorate. She said she hopes to register 1.3 million new single women and mobilize 7 million to vote in 26 states.

“These women are the largest, progressive, pro-change movement that this nation has ever seen,” said Miss Gardner, whose effort is budgeted for $30 million. “These women will be to the progressive candidates what the evangelicals were to conservatives.”

Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, said her group will work to stymie candidates and groups that promote anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic sentiment.