In a parallel universe, this would be a big news story:
Let’s pretend that in the spring of 2012 Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, John Engler of the Business Roundtable, Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity, and Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association began to organize an assembly of right-leaning groups.
Let’s pretend that in the months since there had been not one but two meetings where these luminaries joined with representatives of Christians United For Israel, the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Tea Party Express, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and the American Petroleum Institute to discuss strategy and promote a series of “structural reforms” that would make it easier for them to advance conservative goals in Congress.
Let’s pretend that by the time of the second meeting, which was held within sight of the White House, the coalition had grown to encompass some 36 different interest groups pledging millions of dollars.
How much press coverage would be devoted to this fictive cabal?
Newspapers would be printing special editions. But what if the same thing happens on the Left? Yawn:
[I]s it not unreasonable to assume that our pretend meeting of the vast right-wing conspiracy would attract far more scrutiny than was devoted to the actual, real-life, believe-it-or-not inaugural meetings of the progressive “Democracy Initiative”? After all, no one seemed to know anything about those meetings, held in June and December 2012, until a writer for Mother Jones named Andy Kroll broke the story on Wednesday. As of this writing exactly two other people, a blogger for the Washington Monthly and a blogger for The Ed Show, have picked up Kroll’s story.
The rest of what is too generously called the “mainstream media” has not said a word.
Well, to be fair, it’s been a busy week, what with the campaign against guns and all. Plus, Kim Kardashian is pregnant.
Brune is the executive director of the Sierra Club and former executive director of the more radical Rainforest Action Network. Radford runs Greenpeace. Cohen is the president of the 700,000-member Communications Workers of America, “the largest telecommunications union in the world.” Jealous is the president and chief executive officer of the NAACP. Their “conversations in recent years” about the malign influence of conservative donors in politics developed into the “invite-only and off-the-record” meetings in June and December, where representatives of “30 to 35 groups” pledged “a total of millions of dollars and dozens of organizers to form a united front” on the issues of “getting big money out of politics, expanding the voting rolls while fighting voter ID laws, and rewriting Senate rules to curb the use of the filibuster to block legislation.” The most recent meeting was held at the headquarters of the 3-million-strong National Education Association, which is less than half a dozen blocks north of where President Barack Obama works. …
Who showed up to the progressive retreat? Again, it is hard to say because Kroll does not divulge all of the participants. Can’t alert the enemy to your every move, I suppose. But here in alphabetical order are the groups he does mention: the AFL-CIO, the Center for American Progress, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Color of Change, Common Cause, Demos, the Friends of the Earth, the League of Conservation Voters, Mother Jones (in a “non-editorial” capacity!), National People’s Action, the National Wildlife Federation, People for the American Way, the Piper Fund, Public Campaign, the Service Employees International Union, the United Auto Workers, and Voto Latino. Brune of the Sierra Club predicts there will be 50 participating organizations by spring.
There is, as Matthew Continetti notes, a certain irony in the idea that “an association of organizations with combined revenue of more than a billion dollars is launching a campaign to get ‘big money out of politics.’” In truth, no one wants to get money out of politics, but a lot of people want to get their opponents’ money out of politics.
Money per se is a neutral value, but there is, for this purpose, a difference between clean money and dirty money. Clean money is contributed voluntarily out of political or philosophical conviction. Dirty money is money that is not contributed voluntarily, but is extracted from union members and taxpayers against their will. It is dirty money, in my view, that we should get out of politics.