If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

The Washington Post reports that after a slow start, Republican 527’s are now outspending their Democratic counterparts. Republicans initially tried to respect the spirit of the McCain-Feingold law, and when Democrats used the 527 device to pour tens of millions of dollars into shadow organizations that essentially reproduced the Democratic Party under other names, the Republicans complained to the FEC that the Democrats’ practices were illegal.
When the FEC voted 4-2 to wait until after the election to rule of the 527 issue, Republican donors sprang into action, funding, in particular, Progress for America. The Post cites PFA and the Swift Boat Vets as the two leading Republican 527s, misunderstanding, as always, the motivation of, and the role played by, the Vets. And, as usual, the Post mentions only the first Swift Boat Vets ad, ritually denouncing it as unsubstantiated.
The Post gets one thing right, however: putting aside who has spent the most money, the anti-Kerry groups’ ads have been more effective:

Not only have the two pro-Republican 527s, PFA and the Swift Boat Veterans, recently outraised the Democrats, but the ads run by PFA and the Swift Boat Veterans have also gained far more notoriety than any of the Democratic 527 ads.
Asked why the pro-GOP ads have had more impact than the pro-Democratic ads, Bill Galston, a Democratic public policy strategist, said he believes the Republicans have developed “messages that inherently have more leverage than others because they go at something that is at the heart of the campaign” — in this case Kerry’s use of his military record.
“They [the Swift Boat Veterans and PFA] weren’t going for a capillary, they were going for the jugular of the Kerry campaign,” Galston said.

Another way of making the point would be to say that the ads run by the Vets and PFA have been efective because they are true.


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