Critics of the Republican party are having a field day over a Republican National Committee fundraising document, obtained by Politico, that encourages operatives to use “fear” to solicit donations. In response to its own question, “What can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House, or the Senate?” the document responds, “Save the country from trending toward Socialism!” Another portion of the document, titled “The Evil Empire,” depicts the president as the Joker from Batman, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as Cruella DeVille, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as Scooby Doo.
The only thing surprising about these portions of the document is that anyone is surprised about them (if anyone actually is). As former Congressman Tom Davis says:
I’ve been in politics over 40 years. Why would I be shocked by this? Nobody wants to be associated with this, but this is something I’ve seen all the time. Fundraising is never easy, it’s never pretty…this goes on routinely and they do it because it’s successful…You [fire up donors] through humor and some raw meat.
Republican strategist John Feehery made the same point:
I have seen a lot of fundraising pitches in my time and the primary goal is to scare donors into giving money to save the republic ASAP. While this presentation was pretty ugly, it is unsurprising. You don’t get any money from donors saying the opponent is a nice guy.
Another Republican consultant, John Harris, added:
Democrats raise money by saying Republicans want to take Social Security away from seniors. They raise money by calling us war mongers. They raise money by accusing us of wanting sick patients to die.
He’s right, of course. The fear factor is a staple of fundraising by both parties.
The RNC document is also unkind to Republican donors. It recommends raising money from large donors by appealing to their egos. The idea is that small donors are driven by fear over what Obama is doing to the country, while large donors tend to be less “reactionary” but more susceptible to having their egos stroked.
I don’t know how much validity there is to this construct. But even assuming there is some, it’s surprising to me that the RNC would publish a document that divides its donor base into egomaniacs and “reactionaries.”
The authors of the document could not expect that it would fall into the hands of Politco. But they should have anticipated that their statements about donors might get back to some of the “egomaniacs” in question. Considering the trouble the RNC has had with its donor base, it was, at a minimum, terribly negligent to have ridiculed donors in this document.
RNC chairman Michael Steele did not attend the presentation where the document was used, and his spokesman says he didn’t sign off on it. Steele is, of course, distancing himself from the document,claiming that he “loves our donors.” Steele agrees that the document reflects what people “think about donors generally,” but insists that Republican donors aren’t like that. As usual, he is saying too much.
Moreover, if Steele was out of the loop on this document, the question is: why? Fundraising is a core function of the RNC. This document apparently was the blueprint for RNC fundraising. Shouldn’t Steele have reviewed that blueprint before it was used?
To be sure, there’s less to this document than meets the eye of Politico and the MSM. But this was still something of a screw-up, and I don’t see how Steele, as head of the RNC, can evade responsibility for it.