The Note: Donor Duel

Oct 22, 2010 9:05am


DONOR DUEL. In the ongoing battle over donors who are fueling outside groups spending heavily on themidterms, is today’s news cycle a draw? The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are out with pieces pulling back the curtain on the issue. The Times takes a closer look at the corporations pouring money into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s political efforts, including big names like Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, Dow Chemical and Prudential. From the Times story by Eric Lipton, Mike McIntire and Don VanNatta Jr.: “These large donations — none of which were publicly disclosed by the chamber, a tax-exempt group that keeps its donors secret, as it is allowed by law — offer a glimpse of the chamber’s money-raising efforts, which it has ramped up recently in an orchestrated campaign to become one of the most well-financed critics of the Obama administration and an influential player in this fall’s Congressional elections. They suggest that the recent allegations from President Obama and others that foreign money has ended up in the chamber’s coffers miss a larger point: The chamber has had little trouble finding American companies eager to enlist it, anonymously, to fight their political battles and pay handsomely for its help.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Brody Mullins and John D. McKinnon, meanwhile, shine a spotlight on the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union, which the Journal reports is “now the biggest outside spender” on the 2010 cycle: “The 1.6 million-member AFSCME is spending a total of $87.5 million on the elections after tapping into a $16 million emergency account to help fortify the Democrats' hold on Congress. Last week, AFSCME dug deeper, taking out a $2 million loan to fund its push. The group is spending money on television advertisements, phone calls, campaign mailings and other political efforts, helped by a Supreme Court decision that loosened restrictions on campaign spending. ‘We're the big dog,’ said Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME's political operations. ‘But we don't like to brag.’”

So, is any of the uproar actually resonating with voters or is it all about post-election posturing? It’s unclear, according to findings from a Pew Research Center survey out this week. Voters appear to be split over whether it’s important to know who is paying for political ads. About half — 49 percent  – of voters said they would like to know who is funding campaign ads while 50 percent said it didn’t matter much. Democrats in general are also divided almost evenly on this point although a much larger share of liberal Democrats said it’s important to know who’s behind the ads.

NOTED: In an interview with Bloomberg News’ Al Hunt, Vice President Joe Biden alluded to the donor issue: “We will keep control of the Senate for certain, and I believe we’ll keep control of the House,” Biden said. “The only caveat I’d put in terms of the House is how much impact” the outside funding has.

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’. President Obama heads to Los Angeles today for rallies with Sen. Barbara Boxer and California gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown. The latest numbers out of the Golden State show Boxer’s race with Republican Carly Fiorina tightening while Brown appears to be keeping his opponent, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, at arm’s length. Obama traveled to the heart of Silicon Valley Thursday night for a Democratic fundraiser at the home of a Google executive, tailoring his remarks to the tech-centric crowd. “My task over the last two years hasn’t just been to stop the bleeding,” Obama said. “My task has also been to try to figure out how do we address some of the structural problems in the economy that have prevented more Googles from being created, prevented more Hewlett-Packards from being created, prevented more engineers from being trained in our schools — how do we unleash this incredible energy and dynamism that we know has always driven America, decade after decade.”

NOTED: While in the Bay Area yesterday, Obama met with Apple CEO Steve Jobs. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said: “It’s a meeting that the president was interested in having.”

THE BLITZ. In the final days before Nov. 2 President Obama will be on the road again for a series of big campaign rallies and one canvassing event. He will travel to Philadelphia, Bridgeport, Conn., Chicago, and Cleveland (he’ll be joined by Vice President Joe Biden in Ohio) the weekend before Election Day. He will hold rallies in Bridgeport, Cleveland and Chicago and knock on doors in a Philadelphia neighborhood. Meanwhile, First Lady Michele Obama will campaign in Las Vegas and Philadelphia on Nov. 1.

CHANGING LANDSCAPE. New polls out this week show Senate races in California and Washington state tightening. In Washington, a recent survey showed Democratic Sen. Patty Murray ahead of Republican Dino Rossi by just one point, 48 to 47 percent. While two new polls in California show Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., only slightly ahead of GOP challenger Carly Fiorina and well under 50 percent. ABC now rates the Washington and California Senate races as “Toss-Ups.” Meanwhile, new polling by CNN out of Alaska showed Republican Tea Party Senate favorite Joe Miller tied with the woman he beat in the primary, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, at 37 percent. Democrat Scott McAdams is at 23 percent. Of course, polling a write-in candidate is very tough to do. That said, given the amount of money that outside groups and the National Republican Senatorial Committee are now pouring into this race on Miller’s behalf, it’s fair to assume that this race is tightening. The contours of this race are fluid enough to move this seat from “Solid Republican” into “Lean Republican.”

Bottom line: Democrats now have 11 seats in serious jeopardy (either “Toss-Up” or leaning Republican). Republicans have just one seat in “Toss-Up” — Kentucky — and none that lean Democratic. Of the 21 seats in the Lean or “Solid Republican” category, four are currently held by Democrats (Arkansas, Indiana, Wisconsin, and North Dakota). If Republicans win those four seats and lose none of their own, they'd need to win all seven Democratic seats now in the “Toss-Up” column: Washington, California, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This won’t be easy. New polling in Pennsylvania shows Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak closing the gap with Republican Pat Toomey and Democrats are feeling better about their prospects in West Virginia. If Republicans don’t win all seven, it would mean they’d need to win in states like Connecticut and Delaware. Both of these seats are currently listed as leaning Democratic.

Check out ABC’s updated House, Senate and governor’s race maps right here:

BETTER OFF LOSING? ABC’s Matthew Jaffe tackles an interesting political question: would President Obama and the Democrats be better off is they lost control of Congress on Nov. 2? Here’s how the thinking goes: “[Losing] the House and Senate could lead to numerous political benefits for the president in two years time. For starters, the White House might gain a political boost on issue number one in the minds of voters: the economy. The party that controls the government in turn takes ownership of the economy. If the government is divided — with Democrats controlling the White House but Republicans at the helm in Congress — then the president might not have to take all the blame for a sluggish economic recovery, should it not turn around in the next 24 months. In addition, the White House would have an easier time contrasting its agenda with the GOP's. If Republicans are in control on Capitol Hill, then they will have to propose specific legislation, rather than only blasting the Democrats' proposals. ‘President Obama's prospects for re-election improve if Republicans take the House and Senate,’ Peter Morici, professor at the University of Maryland business school, told ABC News. ‘The Republicans will slow down the Obama Express, but they don't have a program of their own that they can pass that will significantly improve the economy.’”

POST NOV 2.: What will the leadership of both parties in Congress look like in the new Congress? ABC's John R. Parkinson gets and early line on who is likely to be in positions of power in the House on the Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle.


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”:  ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter talk to Page Gardner of Women’s Voices. Women Vote about the role women are playing in the 2010 midterm elections. They will also sit down with Josh Gottheimer, author of “Power In Words,” closer look the speeches of Barack Obama, from his days in the Illinois state house to the presidency. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.



GOING SMALL. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is in a tough fight against GOP candidate Sharron Angle in Nevada said that if he wins re-election, Senate Democrats would have to take a far different approach to legislating than in the first two years of the Obama administration. Here’s Reid’s prediction from an interview this week with Real Clear Politics’ Erin McPike: “I think what we're going to do is I think we're going to have to do legislation in pieces rather than trying to do broad things,” Reid said. "That's usually what happens in a second [congressional] term of a president. So I think we're going to have to work on pieces of energy, pieces of other things that we need to work on rather than trying to do big things."

ANGLE ON THE AIR. Speaking of Nevada, GOP contender Sharron Angle is going up with a new ad to coincide with President Obama’s trip to Nevada this week. The spot uses the president’s own words against him, juxtaposing clips of Obama talking about the economic doom and gloom that the country is facing with his raucous Democratic National Convention speech in which he touted hope and change. "In 2008, we were promised change we could believe in," the ad says ominously. "Then Harry Reid and the president got to work.” WATCH:

KENTUCKY NASTY. The contest for the down and dirtiest race of the year may well go to the Kentucky Senate race between GOP hopeful Rand Paul and Democrat Jack Conway. Debates have been filled with personal attacks and Conway is taking heat for a recent ad raising questions about Paul's religious values. ABC's Huma Khan reports: "'Are negative ads out of the norm? Of course not. We've been witnessing this in American politics forever and it's very commonplace. Negative ads have proven to be quite effective,' said Joe Gershtenson, director of Eastern Kentucky University's Institute of Public Governance and Civic Engagement. What sets the Kentucky race apart, though, is that rules of decorum have fallen completely by the wayside. 'This sense of decorum that's typically observed — the refusal to shake hands, not looking him (Conway) in the face afterward. And then accusations by Paul afterward that Conway overstepped his boundaries and stooped to a new low,' Gershtenson said. 'It's gotten nasty.'"

AD WATCH. In a year of sometimes outlandish political ads, a television commercial from a candidate for delegate from the District of Columbia likely has the dubious distinction of being the most graphic — it features images of aborted fetuses. ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports: “The 30-second ad for Missy Smith, which will air 24 times on local broadcast network affiliates across the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. It is so explicit that it's preceded by a 15-second warning that was added by the stations’ administrators. Over gruesome images of bloody and lifeless premature bodies, Smith says she had two abortions but has turned against the practice. … YouTube has pulled the video from its site, posting a notice that it amounted to ‘a violation of YouTube's policy on shocking and disgusting content.’ WJLA, the local ABC affiliate to first air the ad, noted in its disclaimer that the station was required to air the ad under federal law.”



@rickkleinwill Dems hold the House? "Don’t ask people when you’re not going to get an honest answer," Barney Frank says.

@DavidMDrucker#HCR: New AP poll shows 36% favor revising the law , but NOT completely repealing. 37% favor full repeal. 52% oppose law; 41% favor.

@HotlineJoshOn MSNBC, @NorahODonnell breaks news on a telling statistic: 75% of Angle's fundraising is out-of state; 77% of Reid's money is out of state

@TomBeaumont: IOWA — Barbour, Pawlenty back for Branstad next week, after Romney

@pwire: Democratic internal poll shows Melancon closing on Vitter in LA-Sen race…



THE NOTE IS HIRING AN INTERN. Calling on College Students! The ABC News Political Unit is now seeking full-time Winter 2011 interns in Washington, D.C.  The paid internship begins in late December or early January and runs thru May of 2011.  Political Unit interns attend political events and contribute to stories for the politics page of They also help ABC News by conducting research, maintaining our calendar of upcoming political events, and posting stories to  

In order to apply, you MUST be either a graduate student or an undergraduate student who has completed his or her first year of college. The internship is NOT open to recent graduates.  You also must be able to work eight hours per day, Monday through Friday. Interns will be paid $8.50/hour. If you write well, follow politics closely, and have some familiarity with web publishing, send a cover letter and resume to Zach Wolf at, by Monday, November 15, with the subject line: "INTERN" in all caps.  Please indicate in both your cover letter and the body of your email your student status and the specific dates and hours of your availability.


* Get The Note delivered to your inbox every day.

* For breaking political news and analysis check out The Note blog: and


You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus