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And while GOP-friendly super PACs have far outraised their Democratic counterparts in this election cycle, Democrats have recently stepped up their big money fundraising. George Soros, for one, has committed $1 million to Priorities USA Action, the main super PAC backing President Barack Obama, the New York Times reported today.
Donnelly said Friends of Democracy is pioneering a different tack by linking campaign donations to issues that candidates care about, such as health care, oil industry subsidies and banking regulations. The group's latest project is a briefing book on "Connecting With Voters on Money in Politics."
The book will be distributed to every candidate in the country, Donnelly said. Friends of Democracy has also set out to work closely with about two dozen candidates that it can hold up as "champions" of getting big money out of politics. The briefing book gives candidates talking points, sample press releases, useful statistics and proposed policy reforms, such as "citizen-led elections" that would match small donations with public funding.
"It's not just: Let's beat the bad guys," Donnelly said. "It's also: Let's elevate the champions."
As Democrats, in particular, brace themselves for a barrage attack ads from such well-funded GOP super PACs as American Crossroads and the Congressional Leadership Fund, the most eagerly read section of the briefing book may be its advice on "What to Do" when you're attacked by a super PAC.
The book lays out the following scenario: "Your campaign is attacked by a shadowy group called Americans for Freedom in a $500,000 television ad buy running for two weeks throughout the district." The book's advice: "Don't debate Americans for Freedom. Criticize your opponent."
For Bass, Hayworth, Lungren and other Republicans targeted by Friends of Democracy, it's advice that might come in handy.
Correction: Sept. 27, 2012
An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to American Action Network. It is a nonprofit.