- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2000

Needing a pickup of only six seats to re-establish control in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Democratic Party has been salivating over the missing seats ever since it fell just short during the 1998 elections.
The strategy seemed simple enough. Big Labor bosses could be counted on to raid their general union treasuries which comprise the mandatory union dues paid by their members, as many as half of whom vote for Republican candidates and to funnel millions and millions of dollars into the soft-money coffers of Democratic national and congressional campaign committees. Democrats could also rely on labor political action committees, which would be pouring 95 percent of their hard-money funds into Democratic campaigns. At the same time, the AFL-CIO, which has acknowledged spending $75 million during the past two congressional campaigns in independent expenditures attempting to return the Democrats to power, planned to spend at least another $40 million on the electoral ground war in 2000. (In fact, considering in-kind contributions and other unrecorded political operations, organized labor spends an estimated $500 million each electoral cycle, according to Rutgers labor economist Leo Troy.)
Meanwhile, other Democratic constituent groups, including the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters, would continue taking advantage of a relatively new fund-raising option so-called Section 527 organizations that enabled them to raise unlimited sums from unidentified donors to finance issue advocacy campaigns and get-out-the-vote drives. Add in the tens of millions of dollars Democrats could squeeze from businesses, who would want to cover all their bases in the event Democrats did regain control, and the Democratic strategy looked formidable.
Then, in May 1999, conservatives established their own Section 527 organizations to emulate what liberal groups had been doing for several years. Headed by Karl Gallant, the Republican Majority Issues Committee (RMIC) was determined to play an important role in 15 to 25 closely contested House districts, where labor unions and other liberal groups traditionally focused their attention. Mr. Gallant's group would get out the conservative vote, publicize conservative themes and engage in issue advocacy the very sorts of things labor and liberal 527 organizations had been doing for years.
Expecting to raise and spend as much as $25 million, RMIC posed a real challenge to the Democratic Party, which responded in May by launching a lawsuit against House Majority Whip Tom DeLay and RMIC. Filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which was intended to be used against organized crime, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has charged Mr. DeLay with racketeering, extortion and money laundering. The DCCC's chairman, by the way, is Patrick Kennedy, handpicked for the job by potential Democratic Speaker Dick Gephardt.
Interestingly, the DCCC filed its RICO suit based not on any independent investigation of its own but upon a slew of newspaper clippings. (Continuing the scandal-laden tradition of his father, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Patrick Kennedy was one of the financial beneficiaries in the fund-raising scandal involving Vice President Al Gore's bagwoman, Maria Hsia, who was convicted of multiple felonies earlier this year. Mere shame, it seems, cannot stop Mr. Kennedy from doing his party duties.)
After conservative groups hopped on the Section 527 bandwagon, of course, official Washington became mortified over the implications. Last month Congress passed a law requiring 527 organizations to reveal their donors and expenditures. Meanwhile, the DCCC continues to harass RMIC and Mr. DeLay with its RICO lawsuit. Having conducted no independent investigation, the DCCC filed its suit with the intention of pursuing an aggressive pre-trial discovery effort, obliterating RMIC's First Amendment rights in the process. Now the DCCC has filed a court brief attempting to circumvent a routine requirement in other federal court districts that a plaintiff submit a RICO case statement before the discovery process proceeds.
This is remarkable. Having relied upon newspaper clippings filled with hearsay, the DCCC has charged a sitting congressman with extortion of contributions and laundering money through political organizations engaged in First Amendment free speech activities that promote causes at variance with those pursued by the plaintiff. Now Democrats are fighting to be exempted from the routine requirement that they file a RICO case statement providing details of their accusations.
The DCCC's actions, doubtless sanctioned by Mr. Gephardt, are an attempt to criminalize democratic competition to the Democratic Party, and they are a measure of how far Mr. Gephardt and his liberal allies are willing to go to regain power they no longer have the moral authority to wield.

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