- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2006

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Other than the candidates themselves, no one has more riding on today’s Connecticut Democratic Senate primary than MoveOn.org, a liberal organization at the edgy intersection of politics and the Internet.

With a victory for Ned Lamont, the group can claim a role in helping an anti-war challenger dump Sen. Joe Lieberman, who supports President Bush’s policy in Iraq and has the backing of Democratic Party leaders, including former President Bill Clinton.

A come-from-behind win for Mr. Lieberman would mark yet another setback for MoveOn in its parallel campaign — to strengthen its credentials as a force to be heeded by Democrats as they seek congressional majorities this fall.

“The bottom line is: We and our members think you get there by boldly standing up on the most important issues that we face, on Iraq, on energy policy and on health care,” said Executive Director Eli Pariser, 25. “Some in the party, and Joe Lieberman for sure, don’t think that’s a winning strategy.”

MoveOn claims more than 3 million members, communicates through e-mail alerts, charges no dues and holds no national conventions.

“We’re a virtual organization,” said Mr. Pariser, a Maine resident who, like others, works out of his home. Tom Matzzie is the man in Washington. A Chicago-based firm handles the technical side of the operation.

Still, there’s nothing virtual about the money raised. MoveOn’s members donated more than $800,000 for Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, in two days last spring.

Last spring, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, chairman of the party’s campaign committee, appealed unsuccessfully to Mr. Pariser and Mr. Matzzie not to oppose Mr. Lieberman.

MoveOn members’ contributions to Mr. Lamont, a millionaire, exceeded $250,000. “The timing of their endorsement was helpful,” said Tom Swan, the challenger’s campaign manager.

Overall, MoveOn says its members have contributed more than $2 million to candidates since 2005.

They raised $1 million or more for early television commercials targeting four Republican House members, in Connecticut, Indiana, Virginia and Ohio. They were designed to expand the number of competitive races and leave MoveOn’s mark on the midterm elections.

At the same time, MoveOn has stumbled. Several television stations refused to run the commercials, saying their claims were not adequately proved.

The organization has yet to back a winner in a string of congressional races decided so far. Among the casualties was Paul Hackett, an anti-war candidate who dropped out of a Senate race in Ohio under pressure from Democratic Party officials.

The Lieberman-Lamont race, coupled with a decision to target Republican Rep. Nancy L. Johnson, has made Connecticut a battleground for MoveOn. It claims 50,000 members in the state.

MoveOn was founded by California activists Wes Boyd and Joan Blades in 1998 during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, calling for Congress to censure Mr. Clinton and “move on.”

By 2004, MoveOn’s political involvement included traditional get-out-the-vote operations. Its embrace of Howard Dean’s anti-war candidacy helped fuel his brief rise in the presidential race, and it worked closely with Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts in the fall campaign.

But in the end, reviews were mixed. Some Democrats said MoveOn’s liberal positions alienated the swing voters the party needed to defeat Mr. Bush and elect Democrats to Congress.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide