“Now MoveOn and others have caught up to [conservative direct mailers] and surpassed them, and they’re not happy about it,” Schumer said.
The campaign against MoveOn moved to a new level with Rove’s June 22 speech in midtown Manhattan, not far from the site of the World Trade Center attacks.
Rove accused MoveOn and other liberals of wanting to “offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.” Democrats pounced on the remarks and demanded an apology from Rove, noting that Durbin just the previous day had apologized for likening treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to those in Nazi Germany or in Soviet gulags.
But rather than issuing an emotional apology — as Durbin did — the White House and Republicans went into full attack mode on MoveOn and other liberals, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.
The Republican National Committee issued reams and reams of documentation on the positions of MoveOn and Dean regarding the war in Afghanistan. The White House refused to offer even a hint of an apology. And the NRSC sent out a fundraising e-mail lambasting MoveOn, beginning with: “Karl Rove was right.”
And a few days later, when MoveOn’s pitch went out on Casey’s behalf, the NRSC again pounced on the group and attacked the centrist-leaning candidate for allying himself with a liberal group — a line of attack that the committee has used mercilessly against Byrd ever since the late March fundraising pitch on his behalf.
Rep. Tom Reynolds (N.Y.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he did not necessarily view the attacks on MoveOn as part of a party-wide effort to drain Democratic funding sources. But, he agreed that it has become a major financial engine for Democrats.
“They certainly have more money there than Howard Dean and the DNC,” Reynolds said, adding, “Many of their investors stand for extremist views.”
For a campaign expected to cost in the neighborhood of $20 million, Casey may not be in a position to reject MoveOn’s dollars even if doing so would save him some political heartburn.
Jay Reiff, campaign manager for Casey, dismissed the idea that his candidate would face any sort of choice.
“Bob Casey’s positions are not going to change based on who happens to endorse him,” said Reiff. “They endorsed him, he didn’t endorse them.”
In their attacks, Republicans are treading a familiar path.
For decades, Democratic candidates have come under fire from Republicans for accepting campaign contributions from trial lawyers and labor unions.
The GOP has also targeted both camps legislatively, including curbs on class-action lawsuits and attempts to prevent unions from using compelled dues for political purposes. Both would effectively limit the ability of trial lawyers and unions to aid Democratic causes.
While such arguments have at times caused Democratic candidates some problems, they have rarely if ever driven them to not accept donations from these interest groups. (Democrats have also attacked Republicans for taking money from social conservatives, big corporations and gun-rights groups, but that tactic has not usually been as central to the party’s campaign strategy.)
Matt Keelen, a former Republican fundraising consultant who’s now a lobbyist with Valis and Associates, insists that MoveOn is a special case.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.