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Outspent on ads, Dems pay ‘trackers’ to tail candidates for dirt
A George Soros-funded super PAC is vowing to send operatives to stake out Republican campaigns to hunt for and to record any gaffes or controversial statements the candidates may make.
On Tuesday, American Bridge sent a fundraising plea to supporters asking for money to pay for “trackers,” a term for political operatives who sometimes tail opponents.
The organization, which includes both a super PAC that discloses its donors and a nonprofit group that does not, bragged in its fundraising letter about its flagging the clip of Rep. W. Todd Akin, Missouri Republican, making comments about “legitimate rape” that led top Republicans to call for his exit from that state’s U.S. Senate race.
“When our trackers caught Rep. Todd Akin in an interview talking about ‘legitimate rape,’ his invitation to the Republican Convention in Tampa was revoked,” Rodell Mollineau, president of American Bridge, says in the letter.
He also cited a news report saying that Republicans were hiding from its footage-seekers at the Tampa convention now under way.
“Lobbyists fear political trackers fielded by groups such as the American Bridge, a Democratic opposition research organization, might catch camera footage of Republicans flirting with corporate America,” he said.
“The more lights we turn on, the more Republicans and their cronies will scatter. And the more they try and hide, the harder we’ll work to uncover the truth. … Help us keep the pressure on — give $25 or more to help us hold Republicans accountable,” the email says.
The strategy highlighted an emerging difference between Republican and Democratic outside groups: While Republicans have had a much easier time raising money and have outspent Democrats many times over on advertising, several major Democratic groups have fashioned themselves into largely opposition-research organizations, records suggest.
The tactic, they hope, will allow them to overcome a fundraising disparity by coming up with particularly compelling nuggets of information that go viral, rather than saturating the airwaves with traditional talking points, as their Republican counterparts, including Crossroads GPS, have done.
American Bridge’s website contains long, meticulously cited opposition-research pieces drawing from old news clips, public records and other sources to paint Republicans as hypocrites and, lately, to tie them to Mr. Akin and his staunch pro-life views.
Priorities USA, the super PAC led by former advisers to President Obama, has had an excruciatingly tough time raising funds. But it, too, has invested unusually large amounts on research. It has spent more than $1 million on research, half of which went to Global Strategy, an opposition-research firm. Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC active in Senate races, has spent half a million on research.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, a nonprofit organization that originally functioned largely as a research operation, the Koch brothers-tied Americans for Prosperity, has transitioned into a major advertising force.
Restore Our Future, the super PAC led by former advisers to presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and Mr. Romney himself, have spent heavily on research, but it is of a substantially different type: Surveys and polling designed to measure public opinion and craft strategies for how the candidate should present himself.
American Bridge’s top contributor is Mr. Soros, a liberal hedge fund manager who donated $1 million last quarter. Priorities USA has been funded by unions, lawyers and Hollywood celebrities, including $1 million from actor Morgan Freeman.
American Bridge did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Luke Rosiak is a projects reporter on The Washington Times’ investigative team. He formerly covered lobbying and campaign finance for two watchdog groups as well as transportation for The Washington Post. Luke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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