Friday, November 10, 2017


By Dominique Paul Noth

Don’t know about you but my email has been flooded with fund-raising pitches from political candidates around the nation.  For news purposes I dip into Republican come-ons as well as Democrats but the Democrats are clearly more agitated.

Almost every email refers to the enormous dark money being raised by Republican opponents. A little research determined it is true.

Is Claire McCaskill top GOP target?
The GOP money machine aided by Citizens United, while also defending GOP seats, is trying to buffer the Senate by attacking sitting Democrats in vulnerable states. Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin are among those  facing  dark money media buys and can only turn to the mom and pop $25 givers to fight back. That’s why their email pleas are becoming more desperate this early for the November 2018 races.

Respected journalists concede that McCaskill is the top target of dark money.  Her newest pitch accurately quotes them: “The Washington Post has reported that our seat is the most likely to flip in 2018, and Roll Call called me the most vulnerable Senate Democrat in 2018,” which is why her Blue Missouri campaign has gone nationwide.

Brown in Ohio might argue it is him, if this were a battle of which Democrat was the most hated by dark money.  Brown, a popular progressive and hard worker you would think would be above attack, nevertheless comes from a state where Trump had a strong showing, so the GOP is going after him hard.

Baldwin is also fighting off dark money.
But I would put in a plug for Baldwin. The campaign against her doesn’t even have a final opponent and yet the leading primary contenders, Kevin Nicholson and Leah Vukmir, are attracting gobs of secret money in a battle for bucks more important to them than any ideological position they take. It’s a campaign of attack not light.

Each is seeking the most potent secret financing support not just within the state but outside it.  Richard Uihlein (who spent $23 million on conservative candidates in 2016) and billionaire Diane Hendricks (who has signed on to Vukmir’s campaign) provide just two of the wealthy names revealed to be using front groups pledged to generic attack ads.  They’ll get more specific depending on who wins the primary. 

Part of the sense of desperation is that every email says money is needed this week or by end of the week.  But that’s because campaigns are trying to reach reporting deadlines so they can look successful compared to the other side. My recommendation will not be liked by the campaigns – give when you can what you can and forget the deadline pleas.

We’ve barely tapped the GOP hit parade. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida has joined the email scamper, pointing out that Trump recruited Florida Gov. Rick Scott to join a violently expensive effort to defeat him despite solid acceptance since 2001.

Even Massachusetts’ popular Elizabeth Warren is under fierce money attack, but typical of her support for underdog candidates elsewhere, she has announced she is splitting national donations with Doug Jones, the Democrat running against heavy odds in the growingly strange state of Alabama.

Alabama's Doug Jones
Jones is well worth a look in an election scheduled Dec. 12 – particularly if you know sensible voters in Alabama. A former prosecutor and centrist as a Southern Democrat, Jones in his commercials have tried to chide Alabamans into a less negative US reputation after tons of GOP corruption and private scandals involving its chambers and its former governor, who resisted impeachment until after he appointed Luther Strange, the state attorney general who delayed charging him, to replace Jeff Sessions in the Senate.

It is a crazy ugly history that helps explain why twice defrocked state supreme court justice Roy Moore is now on the GOP ticket for the senate against Jones, who was given a boost by a Fox News poll showing the race tied.

As good as that might make Democrats feel, deeper surveys suggest Jones is still 10 points behind in a deep red (for embarrassment?) state, but that’s still in striking distance because of the latest well researched scandal to descend on Moore, who has had almost a deity status in Alabama.  But minigods are hard to tarnish.

Moore’s self-publicized views have outraged both sides of the aisle, which may explain how quick Republicans were to believe the child molestation report about him and urge him to resign.

But he won’t, though the details of women chasing and juvenile prowling expose a hypocrisy that has become familiar to observers of evangelical pastors and politicians.  But also familiar is how the evangelical faithful refuse to believe it. Some in Alabama think Moore may do better because of the scandal while others hope the state will take this chance to grow up. Electing Jones would be a great sign.

Sometimes, though, the candidates have a natural charisma that draws voters to them, and that is Beto O’Rourke’s best longshot against, of all people, Sen. Ted Cruz.

Beto O'Rourke, a longshot to knock off Cruz
There was deep irony in Steve Bannon’s announcement that his right-wing fury will be unleashed on every incumbent Republican “except Ted Cruz.” It may be because in red Texas they think Cruz is secure against any opponent.

But quietly O’Rourke is actually making inroads early, drawing national mom and pop support.

Despite his youthful appearance, O’Rourke is a seasoned campaigner, having won his House seat in the El Paso area three times with big majorities. His “against the grain” grassroots campaign challenges Cruz not only on ideological fronts but as the spearhead of a progressive youth movement that is raising alarm among Republicans in Texas. Political insiders think he has a narrow chance by picking off moderate Republicans against the much disliked Cruz.

The larger question may be how aroused the voters are.  Will they be swayed by who has the most money or who waves the flag the hardest?  That worked in the past, as did misleading opposition research or insinuations. The vast money being thrown against Senate Democrats is a bet that the techniques of the past will always work because we are a nation of sheep.

To which I say, Baaa.

About the author:  Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  His award-winning theater reviews appear at

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