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Former Colorado state rep. Rob Witwer has an excellent article in National Review on what the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes has dubbed the Colorado Model.
The Colorado Model refers to liberal activists’ political strategy to make Colorado safe for Democratic candidates for years to come. The strategy, as Barnes described it, consists of seven different “capacities”: 1) “to generate intellectual ammunition,” 2) “to pursue investigations,” 3) “to mobilize for elections,” 4) to combat media bias, 5) to sue strategically, 6) “to train new leaders,” and 7) “to sustain a presence in the new media.” The Colorado left now has all seven in place, according to Barnes.
James Dellinger and I examined the rapid conversion of Colorado from red state to blue state in our most recent profile of George Soros’s Democracy Alliance. (Capital Research Center’s Foundation Watch, December 2008)
The left accomplished this transmogrification by pumping millions of dollars into select activist groups and institutions. The money came from the Colorado Democracy Alliance (CoDA), a state-level spinoff of the national Democracy Alliance, a billionaire leftists’ club.
Funders of the takeover push included Pat Stryker, Tim Gill, and Al Yates. Newly minted congressman, Jared Polis (D-Colorado), while not a funder, was involved in planning the onslaught.
An excerpt from Witwer’s article:
In hindsight, what Colorado Democrats did was as simple as it was effective. First, they built a robust network of nonprofit entities to replace the Colorado Democratic party, which had been rendered obsolete by campaign-finance reform. Second, they raised historic amounts of money from large donors to fund these entities. Third, they developed a consistent, topical message. Fourth, and most important, they put aside their policy differences to focus on the common goal of winning elections. As former Democratic house majority leader Alice Madden later said, “It’s not rocket science.”
In a larger sense, this is also a story about the unintended consequences of campaign-finance reform. In 2002, Congress passed McCain-Feingold. That same year, Colorado citizens enacted Amendment 27, a constitutional amendment that capped state-legislative contributions at $400 per donor. By lowering the amounts candidates could raise and spend, these laws effectively took message control out of the hands of candidates and handed it to outsiders.
Campaign spending in large quantities can now be accomplished only through the “independent sector” — a collection of nonprofit organizations that has stepped into the role once occupied by political parties.
Speaking to a group of lawyers in Denver last year, Democratic attorney Mark Grueskin summed up the new reality of political giving: “With the increased imposition of contribution limits, political money finds a way to the political system — always does, always has. . . . And those of you in this room are simply among the blessed, because you get to help people give politically. They’re going to give. And now they do it through nonprofit entities.”
The cost of participation in elections through the independent sector is high, especially at the state level. Political nonprofits are subject to byzantine tax, corporate, and accounting rules, and require constant guidance from lawyers and accountants. That guidance is expensive, which is why there’s no such thing as a “mom and pop” 527. Small and medium donors need not apply.
Colorado Democrats knew they needed a large infusion of seed capital to get their fledgling independent sector off the ground. At the same time, and quite serendipitously, a new breed of business-savvy multimillionaires (and one billionaire) emerged — and they were willing to write big checks. Unlike the traditional moneyed-liberal elites who try to change the world through charities, foundations, and think tanks, these donors just wanted results on Election Day. For Democrats, that wasn’t a problem; they wanted the same thing.
By leveraging big dollars against traditionally sleepy local races, Colorado Democrats raised the ante to a level once seen only in federal campaigns. The influx of congressional-level cash has turned state-legislative races inside out. What used to be a local affair of meet-and-greet coffees and door-to-door campaigning now consists of paid staff, television and radio ads, glossy mailers, and platoons of hired door walkers. […]