The Left's American Crossroads?

| Thu Nov. 11, 2010 10:45 AM EST

Barely a week after Democrats' trouncing in the 2010 midterms, due in part to a massive influx of shadowy political spending, the left is gearing up to fight fire with fire. David Brock, the former investigative journalist who founded the watchdog Media Matters for America, is trying to form a 527 political advocacy group, according to Greg Sargent at the Washington Post. In theory, the group would be akin to Karl Rove's American Crossroads outfit, but with a liberal bent.

The revelations about Brock's potential 527 come days after a top White House adviser, David Axelrod, opened the door for lefty groups to push back against the wave of secretive GOP cash. In an interview with Politico, Axelrod wouldn't rule out the need for Democratic outside groups in 2012 to push back against conservative forces like American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS, the US Chamber of Commerce, and many more. While outside groups of all ideologies spent more than $400 million in the 2010 midterms, the White House anticipates the Chamber and its right-leaning ilk spending upwards of $500 million on their own to defeat President Obama.

Here's more from Greg Sargent:

Brock's move represents the first clear sign that lefty Beltway power players will heed the White House's call to arms. It also indicates that they've decided the quasi-collapse of the campaign finance system has left them with no choice but to gear up in order to counter the massive spending of outfits like the U.S Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove's groups.

"David is on the road right now talking to donors and strategists who would be interested in this," the source tells me, adding that Brock intends to create a 527, which has partial donor disclosure rules. "He's out pitching it right now."

"There's a general sense that in 2010 nothing was done and it cost Democrats," the source continues. "People realize, including in the White House, that something needs to be done in 2012 or progressives will suffer at the ballot box again."

Sargent's scoop arrives mere days before some 150 Democratic donors and party strategists convene in Washington for a conference hosted by the Democracy Alliance to analyze what went wrong in the 2010 midterms and settle on a plan for success in 2012—a process that will no doubt involve figuring out how to counter the influence of the GOP's outside spending groups. One of the pressing questions facing Democrats is: Do you work through existing organizations—labor unions, environmental groups, etc.—to push back? Or do Democrats need to start their own outside groups, a la David Brock?

That tension was apparent when I interviewed Rob McKay, chair of the Democracy Alliance (and a Mother Jones board member), this week. "We have a lot of existing groups who do disclose, and that is a meaningful distinction," McKay told me. "But look: The Chamber and Crossroads and all them are going to be coming full bore. So I think you will see donors engaged, and I'm not going to sit here and say we won't need to create some new groups." He added, "It's not that I dont want to see a meaningful legislative response to Citizens United, but I'm also not going to unilaterally disarm."

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