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In the North Carolina and Oregon Democratic US Senate primaries this year, two great progressive candidates ran for the nomination: Jim Neal (NC) and Steve Novick (OR).  The DSCC, who is not supposed to pick sides in a primary, appears to have secretly funded their preferred candidates anyway (Kay Hagan (NC) and Jeff Merkley (OR)).

If the DSCC leaders personally had a preference, that’s fine.  BUT IT IS NOT OK TO FUNNEL MONEY TO ONE CANDIDATE OVER ANOTHER IN A DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY!!!!  That's unfairly taking sides and deliberately influencing an election, and that is not what the Democratic Party is about.

In the North Carolina and Oregon Democratic US Senate primaries this year, two great progressive candidates ran for the nomination: Jim Neal (NC) and Steve Novick (OR).  The DSCC, who is not supposed to pick sides in a primary, appears to have secretly funded their preferred candidates anyway (Kay Hagan (NC) and Jeff Merkley (OR)).

If the DSCC leaders personally had a preference, that’s fine.  BUT IT IS NOT OK TO FUNNEL MONEY TO ONE CANDIDATE OVER ANOTHER IN A DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY!!!!  That's unfairly taking sides and deliberately influencing an election, and that is not what the Democratic Party is about.

According to Greg Giroux at CQ politics...

The DSCC reported $279,000 in "coordinated expenditures," which are limited by law but can be made in concert with candidates’ campaigns. The largest share of these funds went to assist Merkley, whom the DSCC preferred in the May 20 primary election over Steve Novick, a lawyer and liberal activist who lost by 3 percentage points. The DSCC also used coordinated funds in May to boost the campaign of North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan, a state senator who is her party’s nominee against Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole

According to Jeff Mapes at the Oregonian...

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sure gave House Speaker Jeff Merkley a nice push past Democratic primary opponent Steve Novick.  

The June financial disclosure report shows that the committee forked over more than $250,000 in May paying most of Merkley's non-advertising expenses. The DSCC paid for consultants, transportation (such as an $840 bill from American VIP Limo in Vallejo, Calif.) rent, payroll, telephone, natural gas and even the garbage....

...But the level of direct support was remarkable. All told, the committee spent $386,000 in coordinated expenditures with Merkley, which doesn't count the advertising the DSCC produced and paid for on its own. It helped give him resources Novick couldn't match.

I called up Novick, wondering if he thought he could have won if the DSCC had stayed out of the state. He said he was now backing Merkley, but he couldn't resist saying:

"I'm very proud, and I think my supporters will be extremely proud, that it took that kind of humongous effort to beat us. They clearly gambled that Jeff Merkley had a better chance to beat Gordon Smith and they had better be right...If they're not, a lot of Oregon Democrats will justly be mad at them."

And doing a little research myself, I found a few interesting FEC financial disclosure forms.  Check out pages 997-1009 (or 990-1002) of the report.  Notice how the DSCC was pumping money into the campaigns of Jeff Merkley and Kay Hagan during the NC and OR senate primaries.

So the DSCC was funneling money to their preferred Democratic primary candidates.  NOT COOL!    Why did they do this?  Well,  torridjoe over at the Daily Orygun has some ideas...

Kay Hagan was, aside from Merkley, the most-supported challenger in a competitive primary. Hagan was in a very similar situation, running as a a prominent member of the Legislature--she was in her fifth state Senate term, and ran a campaign rather to the right of that being run by investment banker Jim Neal, who had entered the race first (although by less than a month). Hagan makes Merkley look Socialist by comparison, however; Merkley like Neal calls for universal health care, but Hagan could not bring herself to address that area.

Oh, Jim Neal had one major electoral problem: he was gay. Was it decisive in Schumer's decision to back the much less progressive Hagan? Perhaps not. Did the question of whether gay would play in NC come up? You bet your loafers. But as with the question of whether Oregonians (or anyone) would go for a guy under five feet tall with a hook, it was irrelevant to the more salient question: why shouldn't the voters be given the chance to make the call?
So Hagan got a nice pile that Neal was unable to match. His funding was much more limited than Novick's, so it took less to do it, but make no mistake that Neal got Chuck'd just as badly as Novick did. But note that Hagan got the same kind of help that Lunsford and Landrieu did, the standard stuff--web hosting, "media" and polling. Oh, and while she got $140,000 overall, you know how much I see in May? About $25,000 (of course, her primary was in early May, making April the prime spending month)....

...[For the DSCC’s preferential funding of Jeff Merkley], it even goes beyond that. As Mapes notes, look what a lot of the money went for--not just the standard items, but everyday campaign expenses, clearly forwarded to DSCC for itemized payment: limo rides, cable and gas, Lexis-Nexis subscriptions, health insurance(!), rent, payroll, garbage, shredding, legal, and telephone charges. Also lots of polling, including presumably the polling that tested out their negative messaging from the TV ads--by mentioning the attacks again--seeing if it was dragging down Novick's number.

Which brings us to a solid point made in a comment at Mapes' blog: why would DSCC agree to pay for all this bullshit stuff? The answer is that it's what they legally could pay for. They couldn't actually pay for ads against Novick, nor would they want to have THAT in the disclosures. But those ads cost lots of money to run, money Merkley needed to--you guessed it--pay the gasman, and the cable man, and make rent.
So by paying for the daily campaign stuff, that freed Merkley up to pay for his ad run against Novick. That's no accident. What it means is, Chuck Schumer took money that he had collected from Democrats to help Democrats win elections, and he used it to help a Democrat win an election all right--by subsidizing a character attack on another Democrat.

Think about that next time you're asked for money by the DSCC: where is my money going? Is it going to pay for attacks on Democrats I've never even heard about, in elections I probably don't pay attention to if I'm not a relentless political junkie like torridjoe? Shit, what if I like the person they're paying to bring down, better than the person they're doing it for? Won't I feel a little guilty that  by helping "Democrats" in giving to DSCC, I've helped Chuck's idea of what a good Democrat is instead of mine--or more importantly, the voters of that state?

....It's the opposite of the 50 State strategy, and it needs to stop...You should tell DSCC every chance you get: no money until you stop interfering in state primaries!

Ugh, these back-room politics makes me sick.  

P.S.  Here is a video of a Jim Neal speech in case you don’t know much about him. I am from North Carolina and was a big Jim Neal supporter.

Also, because of the unfair money funneling by the DSCC, Jim Neal put himself in a lot of debt to remain competitive.  Considering helping him out at...

Consider helping out Steve Novick as well.

I doubt that the DSCC has written either a check.

Originally posted to spnj889 on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 01:33 PM PDT.


Do you think the DSCC was justified in preferentially funding Kay Hagan and Jeff Merkley over Jim Neal and Steve Novick?

33%32 votes
66%63 votes

| 95 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (18+ / 0-)

    Let me know what you think of my investigative reporting!

    •  I was bummed that Nicick lost. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      He was ahead in the polls until the DCCC gave Merkley funding for a bunch of very sleazy negative ads against Novick. If Novick had managed to win he would have been terribly damaged by those ads. I still will vote of Merkley but the party leadership needs to be marginalized in primaries.

      "Somewhere. Someone's god is laughing." - Three Days Grace

      by Intercaust on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 04:33:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  it was a real bummer here in oregon (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      East Bank Thom, spnj889

      it really influenced the race in favor of merkley, and it was very close race (3%) that novick could have won on equal fundraising terms.

      i was surprised that more observers weren't aware this was happening during the primaries, but the presidential race really sucked up a lot of the oxygen. anyway, here in oregon we're mostly over it now and backing merkley.

      •  the DSCC is dead to me (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        As a Novick supporter, obviously I am mad as hell about all of this. But as a Democrat I am furious.

        It is borderline fraud for the DSCC to raise money from Democrats, by telling them the money will be used to elect Democrats, and then instead spending the money to defeat other Democrats.

        And ultimately, what is the point of spending >$600K in one month to prop up a candidate who even with all that help only eked out a primary win by three points???

        This is insanity and I'm really grateful for your report because those of us who supported Novick have been beating this drum for a long time and the Merkley supporters have been calling us whiners. I'm glad that it's apparent to others just how unfair this was.

        Gordon Smith must go.

        by vard on Sat Jul 12, 2008 at 11:33:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Dog bites mans! (12+ / 0-)

    Nice work ptting the details together. The DCCC and the DSCC do this all the time. It's part of their "50% + 1" strategy of supporting candidates who they believe are in the "top tier."

    It's another reason (among others, including the FISA vote) to not offer support to these top-down Democratic organizations that are merely tools of the "leadership." It's better to find progressive candidates on our own and support them directly or via ActBlue. The days when we need the DSCC and the DCCC are so last-century.

    Your message here. Email for summer rates.

    by RudiB on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 01:41:08 PM PDT

    •  Thanks (5+ / 0-)

      I know.  It's scary how much the leadership can get away with.  Thank God for FEC disclosure forms.

    •  nail meet hammer (7+ / 0-)

      "The days when we need the DSCC and the DCCC are so last-century"
      so true, so true.

    •  All Politics is Local (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      This diary is excellent, as is your comment, RudiB.

      The DTrip and DSCC are problems. They do good work in generals, coordinating resources across states, but their interference in primaries is screwed up.

      All Politics Is Local!

      I think the voters of Oregon and North Carolina know better who they want to represent them than Chuck "the schmuck" Schumer.

      Can Obama and the current rising stars of the netroots (Donna Edwards, Tester, perhaps Webb) get the DTrip and DSCC OUT of primaries? We don't need the DSCC backing a Lieberman when a Lamont is running. We don't need the DCCC backing a Wynn when an Edwards is running.

      Comments Signature: This will get attached to your comments.

      by Gravedugger on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 02:36:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  DCCC & DSCC (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        East Bank Thom, spnj889

        This is exactly why I never give any money from my small bank account to these non progressives.  I hate the manipulation they do to push "their" candidates.

        I support Dean's and now Obama's 50 State Strategy and give to the DNC and individual candidates.

      •  it should be said (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I don't want to speak to Kay Hagan, but in all fairness Merkley is neither Lieberman nor Wynn, not even close. Merkley is almost TOO loyal a Democrat IMO.

        I agree wholeheartedly that DSCC in particular pretty much ends up backing the less progressive candidate every time, but Merkley will be a reliable vote if he wins. Beats what we have now. That's not the point here; the point is that it really doesn't matter who it is; spending that much money on Novick and Neal would have been wrong too. (Also I don't begrudge Merkley a bit for taking it; it's legal and ethical money--I just don't think Schumer should be doing it. I think it's unethical, but that's not the current state of affairs on The Hill.) Let the state 's Democrats pick their candidate, THEN decide who to support and how much. Oh, how the nominee could have used that $800,000 right about now to rebut Gordon Smith's national-news ridiculousness on air, instead of against another Democrat! Sad.  

        Thanks for the extended quote of mine, spnj! I think that's the first time my analysis has been quoted at Kos (I've been linked for news broken at LO before). When I read it I wish I leaned more towards magazine-article polished as opposed to back-of-napkin polished, but I yam what I yam.

  •  Bastards (7+ / 0-)

    I hope Jim Neal gets a chance to run again.  Maybe he could take down Burr, who seems to be a useless appendage, next time.  Kay Hagan is so not-exciting.  Not that I'm going to let that stop me from voting for her.

  •  Jim Neal got 18% of the vote (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Wherefore it DOES NOT MATTER what the DSCC did.
    Unless there was fraud in the final numbers, Neal simply Was Not Viable Period.

    "You can't nice these people to death."-- John Edwards

    by ge0rge on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 01:44:41 PM PDT

    •  Actually it does (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      forgore, East Bank Thom, chinchin, Alec82

      By the DSCC giving money to the campaign, Kay Hagan was able to buy TV ads during primetime shows.  Jim Neal couldn't buy anything.  

    •  killed in the crib (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vard, spnj889

      I won't say DSCC's money was dispositive in that race like it was in Oregon's, but the effect of being the chosen one is worth so much more than the money. It puts the heavy pressure on donors to stay in line and go with the "right" candidate. Now in both Hagan and Merkley's case the pressure came more probably from their colleagues in the state Legislature (was NC's governor open in backing someone? Our current gov backed Merkley the week he announced, which I also thought was kind of classless. Governors should stay out of it too--sitting ones anyway).

      Raising money in that environment is like making steel juice--a lot of squeezing in vain. Not only is there a "no chance" vibe attached to you as the disfavored candidate--and thus who would want to contribute money to hopelessness?--but there can be hurt feelings at minimum and political damage if a donor decides you'll back the bolder candidate over the guy from inside the loop who got the nod.

      So does Neal win absent DSCC? Not for the money they gave Hagan, and because state pressure was all that was needed to choke off the spigot for Neal. But it doesn't just follow to say that 18% was a loser no matter what. Sometimes your ceiling is set before you even get started.  

      •  Well, NC is Democratic but not democratic (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Now, more than ever, NC is ruled by its Senate Democratic caucus, which is ruled by Marc Basnight.  The current nominees for both Governor and Senator are  favored daughters of that caucus, and this is the first time that the caucus has had sense enough to try supporting its women properly.   If they had  evolved enough to do this  back in 2002 for Elaine Marshall, then we wouldn't be IN this mess right now.  Unfortunately for the cause of evolution in general, the statewide Democratic campaign is not YET off the ground here.  Normally, this Senate seat polls 5% ahead of President; it's winnable in an off year or when the Republican presidential nominee is winning little instead of big.  But THIS year, well, I dunno:   Hagan got it completely wrong on telecom immunity and is therefore not firing up the base.  Perdue seems to be just waiting around for Labor Day before saying anything.   Meanwhile, McCrory is striking everybody as the kind of pro-business moderate who is NOT going to be some crazy religious right-wing nut and who therefore could damage Perdue significantly in affluent suburbs.

        "You can't nice these people to death."-- John Edwards

        by ge0rge on Sat Jul 12, 2008 at 12:21:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  And I want Novick to run for another (10+ / 0-)

    office myself.  He's the reason I registered Democratic - because I wanted to vote for him in the primary.

    •  I hope Jim Neal runs again too (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gogol, shortgirl, forgore


    •  The guy was awesome (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vard, saralee, East Bank Thom, spnj889

      I live in VA, but I have family in OR. They all loved Novick, and my father was doing some work for his campaign.

      I would have loved to vote for Novick, hook and all. He is an awesome man, and perhaps he can run again, maybe for a house seat.

      Comments Signature: This will get attached to your comments.

      by Gravedugger on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 02:40:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Novick is a class act (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        vard, Gravedugger, spnj889

        He was really treated crappy by Merkley IMO, frankly--but the day the primary ended he sucked it up and has been actively positive for Jeff. Hell, he's cohosted a house party for him recently (or maybe it's this weekend, don't remember) and sent out a pitch to his email list.

        Out here the wishful Novickians are hoping President Obama can lure Earl Blumenauer into revolutionizing an agency as Secretary of Transporation. That would free up the Multnomah County House district which runs about 70% Dem and which Novick carried by 10 in the primary. He'd be a gimme. So Earl for DOT!

  •  I support the DSCC... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Preemptive Karma, spnj889

    in taking sides especially in NC where Jim Neal was too progressive in that relatively conservative leaning state to win...

    In Oregon, I have to admit I am biased, I was an early supporter of Merkely, I liked his approach and ideas and Novick never turned me on...

    Obama/Whoever He Chooses '08 Winning Change for America and the Democratic Party

    by dvogel001 on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 01:50:02 PM PDT

    •  The DSCC is dead to me (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      In what universe is this kind of out of state meddling  compatible with honest democracy?

      A true grassroots candidate needs to be local and organically grown. We don't need any DC Miracle-gro in Oregon.

      When push comes to shove, Merkley (should he win) will be beholden to Chuck Schumer. I would have preferred a Senator who was answerable to the people of Oregon.

      •  Disagree with Merkely... (0+ / 0-)

        he has been out there raising money in the grass roots even before the DSCC started backing him.

        I just think the DSCC honestly thought that Merkely has a better chance of unseating a relatively moderate (perception-wise) and a tough incumbent to defeat.  I happen to agree with them.  So I am part of the problem too, I supported him early on and I live in NJ...

        Anyway, I definitely give less to the DNC, DSCC, DCCC and more to specific candidates, but I cannot totally exclude them because I cannot keep track of 100+ competitive races and determine when it is crucial to send money for each of those races...that is where the DSCC and the DCCC come into play...

        That being said...I understand and respect your position...

        Obama/Whoever He Chooses '08 Winning Change for America and the Democratic Party

        by dvogel001 on Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 08:02:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Uh ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Carla, Preemptive Karma, spnj889

    ... what part of this is news? I knew Merkley was the DSCC-approved candidate. I knew I wanted Novick instead, and I voted for him, and I'm disappointed he didn't win. But I always knew Merkley was getting DSCC money.

    (Besides, it's not like Merkley isn't a progressive. For once we could vote for the greater of two goods ...)

    Denny Crane: But if he supports a law, and then agrees to let it lapse … then that would make him …

    Shirley Schmidt: A Democrat.

    by Jyrinx on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 01:52:18 PM PDT

    •  It might be news (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      East Bank Thom, spnj889 people that the DSCC used money to help a Dem against a Dem in the primary, not to ELECT one. I always hated that they picked Merckley instead of letting the voters pick our own candidate, and then help elect the  voter-chosen person over Smith.
      Hmmm, this may explain why Novick was ahead in all the polls, right up until the end - when Merckley ads were shown frequently.

      It's the corruption, stupid

      by votereg on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 02:15:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  news we're supposed to forget quickly (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I think it was the Bend Bulletin that first busted the Merkley/DSCC connection. It turns out they funded his grande kickoff tour (and rented an out-of-state vehicle based on coordination from an out of state politico firm... money well spent).

        The late money for the big ad buys (since Chuck Schumer's ego was on the line) wasn't all disclosed before the votes were cast. There's a lot that Jeff Merkley would like you not to know about (like his 2003 vote to "acknowledge the courage of George W. Bush" and his subsequent lying with regard to his "anti-war" cred).

        Not all Oregonians vote for the lesser of two evils, so Merkley still has a fight on his hands.

    •  low bar for a "progressive" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vard, spnj889

      (Besides, it's not like Merkley isn't a progressive. For once we could vote for the greater of two goods ...)

      Our Rep is Congress is a "progressive" (Earl Bluemenauer, OR-03) but he has thrown in with the DC establishment as well. He still won't support impeachment and voted for $50 BILLION worth of "surge" money in Iraq. Under Clinton he voted for DOMA and recently he signed on to the Peru free trade "deal."

      Merkley "progressive cred" is already questioned. Though he claims to have been "against the war from the start," his boasts of standing up against the war in the Legislature and publishing an anti-war article turned out to be outright lies. Just as he lied to the Palesinian activist community of Oregon before returning their contribution. "I just want to win," he confessed.

      Hala Gores, a Palestinian-American lawyer in Portland, said a tearful Merkley visited her office in March to return her $2,300 contribution to his campaign and said: "I don't know if I am doing the right thing or the wrong thing. I want to win."

      Merkley disputed her account of the conversation, saying that "I don't think I said something like I want to get elected."

      He said he was upset when he met with Gores because it was a "very tough decision" to return the donation, which is something he said he had never personally done before.

      He doesn't support tax fairness and it took him long enough to finally "support" gay marriage.

      The General election may be a choice of the lesser of two evils, but the Primary was never an embarrassment of riches.

    •  the news is twofold (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      (1) the amount (previously undisclosed and HUGE)

      (2) the timing and stealth (>$600K in the month of May alone, paying Merkley's office overhead because money is fungible and so the ads didn't have to say "paid for by the DSCC")

      Gordon Smith must go.

      by vard on Sat Jul 12, 2008 at 11:37:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I believe the reason the DSCC funded (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Anglico, votereg, chinchin, spnj889

    Hagan was because she is the hand-picked candidate of Jim Hunt, long-time former governor of NC.  He probably convinced the committee that she deserved the nod.  She is going to be DINO if she gets elected, imo.

    The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all - JFK- 5/18/63-Vanderbilt Univ.

    by oibme on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 02:01:56 PM PDT

  •  You'll get over it. n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Preemptive Karma, spnj889

    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 03:11:34 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for crossposting at BlueNC (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Recommended here ... and there.


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