March 30, 2021

Someone leaked a conference call with dark money groups to the New Yorker's Jane Meyer, and we get to hear exactly why they're so concerned. (Spoiler: Most people don't think we should let billionaires buy elections!) Some of the usual suspects on the call (like Grover Norquist) are working to do what the right wing likes to do: Undermine democracy! Via the New Yorker:

But behind closed doors Republicans speak differently about the legislation, which is also known as House Resolution 1 and Senate Bill 1. They admit the lesser-known provisions in the bill that limit secret campaign spending are overwhelmingly popular across the political spectrum. In private, they concede their own polling shows that no message they can devise effectively counters the argument that billionaires should be prevented from buying elections.

A recording obtained by The New Yorker (click the link here) of a private conference call on January 8th, between a policy adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell and the leaders of several prominent conservative groups—including one run by the Koch brothers’ network—reveals the participants’ worry that the proposed election reforms garner wide support not just from liberals but from conservative voters, too. The speakers on the call expressed alarm at the broad popularity of the bill’s provision calling for more public disclosure about secret political donors. The participants conceded that the bill, which would stem the flow of dark money from such political donors as the billionaire oil magnate Charles Koch, was so popular that it wasn’t worth trying to mount a public-advocacy campaign to shift opinion. Instead, a senior Koch operative said that opponents would be better off ignoring the will of American voters and trying to kill the bill in Congress.

Sadly for the Republicans, Kyle McKenzie, the research director for the Koch-run advocacy group Stand Together, told them the message tested positively among a large chunk of conservatives. So things don't look good for these dark-money cowboys, who have been riding high for decades. Now they're going to try to kill the bill in Congress, so you can see why they're so concerned about filibuster reform.

“Sadly,” he added, not even attaching the phrase “cancel culture” to the bill, by portraying it as silencing conservative voices, had worked. “It really ranked at the bottom,” McKenzie said to the group. “That was definitely a little concerning for us.”

Oh noes! The Republican messaging superpower didn't work?

Participants included Heather Lauer, the executive director of People United for Privacy, a conservative group fighting to keep nonprofit donors’ identities secret, and Grover Norquist, the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, who expressed alarm at the damage that the disclosure provisions could do. “The left is not stupid, they’re evil,” he warned. “They know what they’re doing. They have correctly decided that this is the way to disable the freedom movement.”

The "freedom movement." The same one that's claiming nonprofit tax-exempt status for these groups, while coordinating closely with Republican politicians?

And, notably, the legislation calls for the disclosure, for the first time, of large donors trying to exert control over the selection of judicial nominees.

Like the Federalist Society and the Judicial Crisis Network, who brought us Brett Kavanaugh and friends.

The only message that tested positively was to include the names of liberal groups like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood in opposition to the legislation. But of course, they were, um, either exaggerating or lying. So obviously, we can expect to hear many, many ads with this message.

But again, it all comes down to changing the filibuster. And that's why these groups are pouring money into West Virginia to convince Joe Manchin to leave it alone.

“The filibuster is really the only thing standing in the way of progressive far-left policies like H.R. 1, which is Pelosi’s campaign to take over America’s elections,” Noah Weinrich, the press secretary at Heritage Action, declared during a West Virginia radio interview.

I tend to think that Lyndon Johnson-type politics are going to be more effective, though:

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