Saturday, April 4, 2009

Latest Moran Snafu again raises doubts about campaign's direction

Crossposted to Daily Kos

With his latest Snafu, Brian Moran has shown, again, that based on the campaign he has run so far, he is arguably not ready to be the Democratic nominee for Governor.

As widely reported, lobbying firm BGR, founded by, among others, Republican operative Ed Rogers, hosted a fundraiser for Terry McAuliffe on March 24. The fundraiser came about, according to Politico, because Rogers and McAuliffe had become good friends through sharing green rooms over the years while waiting to debate one another on television.

Still, I think the fundraiser was a fair subject for criticism. For one thing, BGR was always a firm with only Republican clientele, but began only recently taking on Democratic clients. When someone who is an ideological opponent helps a candidate raise money, it is certainly fair to ask what they hope to get out of it.

Here, in my view, it became a question of magnitude and judgment. My problem was not that Rogers and McAuliffe were friends, or that one friend might help out another. If all had Rogers had done was donate to McAuliffe’s campaign because they were friends, there would be little, if any, cause to complain.

But the organization of a fundraiser using the business name turned it into a business transaction, not a personal gesture of friendship. It thus became fair to ask what Rogers and BGR hoped to get out of the fundraiser. Perhaps enhanced credibility among democrats?

If so, it also became fair to address the propriety of a Democrat – any Democrat – helping this particular Republican to gain credibility. There was plenty of YouTube footage of Rogers, shilling for John McCain last fall on the talking head circuit, criticizing Barack Obama – some of it offensive, especially his despicable use of the President’s middle, Hussein, as a epithet designed to create the impression that he could not be trusted. Disgusting.

The assault on McAuliffe began on March 12 when “University of Virginia law student, Marine and citizen journalist” Mike Stark posted an article at Huffington Post entitled, “McAuliffe Still Sleeping with Dogs.” Stark crossposted to DK, using the title, “McAuliffe has lost it,” and exhorted readers to “make sure” the diary hit the Rec List (it wound up with 399 Recs).

Stark’s article was factual, even if one didn’t agree with the conclusions it drew. As with much of Stark’s anti-McAuliffe work over the past couple of months, however, it was aimed more at a guilt-by-association than anything else (consider, for example, the title, “Sleeping with Dogs”), arguing that we should judge this candidate by the company he keeps. It is a theme Stark had touched on previously with respect to McAuliffe (See “Don’t do this Virginia,” on Blue Commonwealth).

Beneath the ersatz sensationalism of these articles, what they are calling into question is McAuliffe’s judgment about whom he chooses to associate professionally and personally (although less convincing was Stark’s efforts to tie McAuliffe to some racist dude who jumped into a snapshot with T-Mac by referring to the guy as McAuliffe’s “pal.” This sort of overreaching does make one question the sincerity of Stark’s previous allegations).

The fundraiser took place on March 24, and the next day, the Moran campaign issued the following press release::

Moran Campaign Finds McAuliffe Fundraiser with Anti-Obama Operatives “Offensive”

ALEXANDRIA – Virginians for Brian Moran made the following statement about last night’s fundraiser for CEO Terry McAuliffe, hosted by Republican operative Ed Rogers at the lobbying firm he shares with Haley Barbour, Vice-Chair of the Republican Governors Association. Rogers has worked to defeat scores of Democrats nationwide, including President Barack Obama last year.

The Politico reported on the fundraiser yesterday afternoon:

Moran Campaign Manager Andrew Roos said:

“It’s offensive to see Terry McAuliffe raising money with the likes of Republican operative and lobbyist Ed Rogers. Rogers joined Rush Limbaugh and others in raising racially and religiously charged attacks against then Senator Obama. It’s sad that in the same week Terry McAuliffe aired a radio ad claiming credit for helping to elect Barack Obama, he’s holding a fundraiser with someone who did everything he could to defeat him. We need people who stand up to partner with President Obama in the White House not people who condone these kinds of Rove-style attacks.”


Several days later, the Moran campaign issued another press release, this time featuring several prominent Democrats from around the Commonwealth, commenting on McAuliffe raising money with “anti-Obama lobbyist Ed Rogers.” Here is that release:

Statements on Anti-Obama Fundraiser

~ Leaders express concern about host Ed Rogers, Republican Lobbyist and Operative Responsible for Some of the Most Negative and Divisive Attacks on Obama ~

ALEXANDRIA – In response to last week’s Washington Post article regarding anti-Obama Republican Lobbyist Ed Rogers, who hosted a fundraiser to support Terry McAuliffe’s campaign for governor, several prominent Virginia supporters of President Obama released the following statements.

“There has always been a question about whether Terry McAuliffe would really stand behind President Barack Obama if he were elected Governor of Virginia. It’s one thing to say you will, but by having a fundraiser with Ed Rogers he’s proven that he won’t,” said former Virginia Beach City Councilwoman Louisa Strayhorn. Strayhorn was elected to be a national delegate to the historic 2008 Democratic National Convention pledged to Barack Obama.

She continued, “Ed Rogers and Rush Limbaugh led and defended the nastiest and most divisive attacks against Barack Obama, and if Terry McAuliffe stands with him, then Terry McAuliffe is standing against Barack Obama just as he did during the presidential primary.”


“It is incredibly disappointing that Terry McAuliffe would raise money from people who led incredibly divisive attacks against President Obama during last year’s election,” Chesapeake City Councilman Bryan Collins said. “I know this will cause a great deal of skepticism about McAuliffe’s candidacy among the activists who worked so hard to elect the President.”

“Terry McAuliffe has been telling Virginia Democrats how much success he will bring with his fundraising prowess,” Norfolk Commissioner of Revenue Sharon McDonald said. “The Washington Post’s coverage of his fundraiser at the firm founded by Haley Barbour certainly begs the question: Why does he need to raise money from Ed Rogers, a Republican operative and Lee Atwater protégé, in the first place? Virginia Democrats find this offensive, and not the kind leadership we want in our next Governor.”

This criticism is clearly aimed at McAuliffe’s decision to allow Roger and his firm to raise money for his campaign. Given the case Moran made against McAuliffe, it is fair to conclude that any Democrat who associated with Rogers in this way ought to be subject to the same exact critique. If McAuliffe benefiting form a Rogers/BGR fundraiser is “offensive,” then isn’t any Democrat’s similar kind association with Rogers and BGR similarly “offensive?”

Say, for example, and, hey, I know this would never happen, but what if Rogers and BGR held a fundraiser for, oh, I don’t know, Mark Warner, well, we’d all have to reconsider our support … what…uh-oh … your kidding, right?

Unfortunately for Brian Moran, it’s no joke.

Anta Kumar of the Washington Post reported yesterday:

Last week, Democratic gubernatorial Brian Moran blasted his rival Terry McAuliffe for attending a Washington fundraiser hosted by BGR Group, a lobbying firm founded in part by Republican Ed Rogers.

But it turns out BGR and Rogers hosted a fundraiser for another Virginia Democrat.

A fundraiser honoring U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia was held in October 2008 when the former governor was running for Senate. The invitation included Rogers, along with nine other lobbyists with BGR, including former Bush aide Eric Burgeson, Lanny Griffith, who worked in the George H.W. Bush White House and Bob Wood, chief of staff to former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

What’s more, the usually mild Kumar seems to mock Moran, asking “So what does Moran say now?”

Here is Roos’ response to Kumar, as reported by the Post:

This isn't just about who you hold a fundraiser with. The question we've raised is about his close, continuing and broader relationship with Ed Rogers and we find it questionable."

Not exactly.

At no time did Mr. Roos raise the issue of McAuliffe’s “close, continuing and broader relationship with Ed Rogers?” In his first news release, he discussed only the fundraiser. The second release, consisting of third party quotes, references only the fundraiser. Neither release comes anywhere near limiting the criticism to “close, continuing and broader relationship.”

Secondly, Mr. Roos, did not say he found the relationship “questionable.” He said it was “offensive” and “sad.”

In light of the revelation that Rogers and BGR threw a similar affair for Warner as it did for McAuliffe, I understand the desire to walk the criticism back. But that is what happens when you let a blogger, in this case, Mike Stark, acting out of disdain for McAuliffe, not support of Moran, define your campaign message.

This isn’t the first time Moran’s efforts to criticize McAuliffe’s fundraising led to a serving of crow for him. Early in January, even before McAuliffe officially entered the race, Moran called on Creigh and McAuliffe not to accept out of state donations. According to the RTD:

The election should not be about "who can raise more money from national donors," Moran said. "Virginia Democrats should choose our nominee."

Amusingly, it took James Martin about three seconds to check VPAP and post a pair of extensive comments to NLS showing that Brian Moran, himself, had raised significant sums from outside of Virginia.

It has been painfully obvious for some time now that McAuliffe’s entrance in the race has thrown Moran and his campaign for a loop and generated several unforced errors in the campaign. But what, if anything, does it say about the kind of general election candidate than Moran might be, or the kind of Governor he might make.

Moran has never had a tough election. He hails from a strongly Democratic area where he benefited from strong name recognition from day one thanks to his brother. This is the first time Virginia has seen him in a hard-fought campaign, and it has not been pretty, featuring in addition to the gaffes discussed above:

-- An ill-advised attack launched against McAuliffe at the JJ dinner that left even many of Moran’s supporters uncomfortable;

-- A nasty campaign in the blogosphere against two bloggers in particular who endorsed McAuliffe, that has included some ethically dubious tactics, including the leaking of private e-mails and the leveling of unfounded allegations of impropriety by campaign volunteers;

-- The exposure, by a Moran consultant, of the identity of another anonymous blogger who was the administrator of a web site the Moran campaign considered hostile, forcing the administrator to shut down the site so as not to lose his employment;

-- Moran’s last-second resignation of his House of Delegates seat that nearly resulted in a Republican victory in the special election for the seat in the lopsided Democratic district;

In this past Presidential election, as the economy unraveled in the waning weeks of the Bush Administration, Americans got to see how the respective candidates would handle a crisis. John McCain was out of control, one day declaring the economy fundamentally strong, the next suspending his candidacy to run back to Washington to broker a deal, only to end up as a fly in the ointment that nearly prevented a deal. Barack Obama, meanwhile, took a measured approach, remained calm and exuded confidence. In November, Americans made their choice. We made the right one.

Virginia Democrats are now getting a chance to see how their three candidates are handling themselves in a difficult campaign.

To be fair to Moran, every campaign has its ups and downs. But this record of gaffes, ethical missteps and misjudgments, while different people might draw different conclusions from it, ought to fairly be considered in deciding for whom to vote on June 9.

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