- The Washington Times - Monday, April 8, 2002

A Republican effort to demonize Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle for political advantage in the way Democrats once made then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich their election-year Satan has ignited a campaign fund-raising frenzy with warring Web sites on the Internet.
A Republican Web site called DumpDaschle.org has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars since last October for radio and TV issue attack advertisements and other political broadsides against the South Dakota Democrat in his home state.
Democratic political organizers have countered with their own Web site, DaschleDemocrats.org, which has already raised more than $100,000 to repel the assault and mobilize Democratic faithfuls against "a right-wing conspiracy."
"Despite public calls for a 'changed tone in Washington,' conservative Republican operatives are engaged in a cynical, coordinated effort to personally malign and politically smear Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle," said an opening message on the home page of DaschleDemocrats.org, which became accessible March 29.
"Partisan Republicans have instructed their right-wing henchmen to systematically denigrate the term 'Daschle Democrat' and to label Tom Daschle an 'obstructionist,'" said DaschleDemocrats.org. "Boasting of a huge war chest of funds, these conservative front groups are taking their vicious attacks to the national media, the South Dakota airwaves and the World Wide Web."
Started by former Daschle aides, DaschleDemocrats.org accused former Gingrich pollster Frank Luntz of being the brain behind the attack, quoting him as telling Republican leaders in a December memo: "It's time for congressional Republicans to personalize the individual that is standing directly in the way [of President Bush's economic stimulus and energy plans]. Remember what the Democrats did to Gingrich? We need to do exactly the same thing to Daschle."
The home page of the DumpDaschle.org Web site opens with a direct plea for donors to "fight back" "Tired of hearing that Senator Tom Daschle and his liberal Democrats in the Senate are stalling George W. Bush's initiatives? Donate to DumpDaschle.org and take the gloves off. DumpDaschle.org is dedicated to defeating Tom Daschle when he runs for re-election in his home state of South Dakota" in 2004.
Both groups have used a loophole in campaign finance law. The loophole was ignored in the recently passed McCain-Feingold and Shays-Meehan reform legislation, and it allows independent nonprofit political groups set up under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code to raise unlimited amounts of money for campaign-related advertising, educational materials and propaganda.
The pro-Daschle effort has support from the Priorities Project, a separate "loosely affiliated" fund-raising effort by two former Daschle aides John Podesta, chief of staff to then-President Clinton, and Washington lobbyist Joel Johnson.
The dump-Daschle effort has help from top Washington-area fund-raiser Rebecca Donatelli of Hockaday Donatelli Campaign Solutions, an Alexandria firm specializing in Internet fund raising. Political clients have included both the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign and the McCain for President campaign.
Mrs. Donatelli said critics were wrong to call the anti-Daschle effort a coordinated campaign to smear the Democratic leader. "It may be that someone at the White House said 'go demonize Daschle,'" she said, "but this is a truly grass-roots operation, very broad, with donations ranging from $5 to hundreds of dollars" from communities in every state.
Robert Moran, founder and president of DumpDaschle.org, works for Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates, a Republican polling firm in Alexandria. He could not be reached for comment.
Cari Rudd, a former Daschle aide and spokeswoman for DaschleDemocrats.org, said nine conservative groups are running TV, radio and newspaper ads against the Senate majority leader in South Dakota, as well as DumpDaschle.org.
"This is a concerted, coordinated effort to demonize Tom Daschle, and it's reached an absolutely unacceptable level," she said.
DaschleDemocrats.org said sponsors of anti-Daschle ads include American Renewal; the Club for Growth; Common Sense Courts, a group started by Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating; Concerned Women for America; the Family Research Council; the National Right to Life Committee; the Tax Relief Coalition; the United Seniors Association and United to Secure America.

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