Congress

Campaign consultants frozen out of DCCC money create ‘The Blacklist’

Database of vendors for challengers launches after Democratic campaign arm tries to make it harder to unseat incumbents

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., left, and Ayanna S. Pressley, D-Mass., both unseated white male incumbents in primary elections last year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Campaign consultants who face being frozen out tens of millions of dollars in contracts with the Democratic Party’s congressional arm are pushing back.

A new website called “The DCCC Blacklist” launched in response to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s newly stated policy that it will not grant contracts to pollsters, strategists and communications specialists working with primary challengers.

The Justice Democrats launched the site to create a database of go-to vendors for insurgent candidates; it has been endorsed coalition of progressive vendors, political action committees and advocacy groups.

Still, the new policy moves millions of expenditures by the DCCC off the table for firms that work with candidates who challenge Democratic incumbents. Though some left-wing consultants say the policy only codifies a practice they suspect was already informally in place.

Opponents of the DCCC’s policy include the Indivisible Project, a 501(c)(4) advocacy group that mobilizes activists on a number of Democratic priorities — including the Dream and the Promise Act and defending the Affordable Care Act from repeal — with hundreds of chapters across the country.

The Indivisible Project’s National Political Director, María Urbina, said the policy amounts to a ploy to “hoard power.”

“We reject the DCCC’s attempt to hoard power, which will only serve to keep that talent pool — and Congress itself — disproportionately white and male,” Urbina said in a statement.“Incumbents who engage fully with their constituents shouldn’t fear primaries and shouldn’t rely on the national institutions like the DCCC to suppress challenges before voters ever have a say.”

Progressives say primaries open the door to a more diverse pool of candidates, pointing to the victories of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts in 2018.

Both first-term Democrats issued statements in opposition to the DCCC’s policy on Twitter. Ocasio-Cortez recommended her 3.8 million Twitter followers “pause” their donations to the committee and give directly to battleground candidates instead.

“I believe fiercely in the potential of our party, but we cannot credibly lay claim to prioritizing diversity [and] inclusion when institutions like the DCCC implement policies that threaten to silence new voices and historically marginalized communities,” Pressley said in a tweet.

Some members of the Democratic Caucus have defended the policy as necessary to shield incumbents and keep the House in the party’s control.

A spokesperson for the DCCC did not reply to a request for comment.

“We have a policy that is the most diverse vendor policy in the history of the political arm of House Democrats, and it promotes diversity in our member ranks, and I’m very, very proud of that,” DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustostold The Washington Times.

Rep. Henry Cuellar also defended the policy, citing his work for the committee. 

“I just raised about 330-something thousand dollars for the DCCC, so why are we going to reward companies that are going to be going after folks that have paid their dues?” the Texas Democrat told the Washington Post.

Cuellar is someone the Justice Democrats hope to unseat. The group cited Cuellar’s A rating with the National Rifle Association, votes to ban federal funds for abortion, and votes supporting President Donald Trump’s priorities despite representing a solidly blue district as reasons for a challenge.

Primaries can have the effect of bringing Democratic politicians more in line with the views of the party’s rank and file, the progressive consultants argue.

“I won’t hesitate to work with progressive candidates challenging incumbent Democrats who are out of touch with their constituents,” said Rebecca Katz, founder of the communication firm New Deal Strategies. “If that means getting blacklisted by the DCCC, then so be it.”

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