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Mr. Blackwell and The Hammer

Mr. Blackwell and The Hammer


by Bill Berkowitz

Two rejected Republican politicians form new "grassroots" organization aiming to challenge Democrats and regain control of Congress

When he was not out bashing the leadership of the Republican Party, expressing a desire to "bitch-slap" New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, attending David Horowitz's annual Restoration Weekend, promoting his book "No Retreat, No Surrender," or claiming he no longer is interested in holding public office, Tom DeLay made time to meet up with Ken Blackwell and found a new "grassroots" organization aimed at retaking congress in next year's elections.

"Given their historic loss in 2006, it is surprising Republicans would turn to Tom DeLay, an indicted former member of Congress who became the symbol of everything wrong with the corrupt Republican majority"
- DCCC spokesman

The disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) who is waiting to stand trial on a number of charges, and former Ohio Secretary of State Kennneth Blackwell who is currently a Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., a contributing writer for Townhall.com and is the Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow for Public Policy at Ohio's Buckeye Institute (website), have launched The Coalition for a Conservative Majority (CCM - website).

According to the Washington Times, the CCM "will establish chapters in all 50 states, which will be used to lobby lawmakers, coordinate political messages and influence members of the press."

"Right now, liberals are better organized, funded and active than I have ever witnessed," DeLay said. "Our goal is to work with the talented leaders of the conservative movement to complement their efforts, using an army of activists to push for the policies and leadership conservatives are begging for."

Blackwell, who last year was defeated in a landslide by Democrat Ted Strickland in his race for Governor of Ohio, will be chairman of the organization and has already begun raising funds the Washington Times reported: "Members will be required to pay an annual fee of $52, which will go toward funding the group's outreach efforts."

"Whether writing letters to editors or legislators, protesting tax hikes or rallying to support our common values, CCM members will reinvigorate all aspects of the conservative cause, from the grass roots up," Blackwell said.

CCM, a 501(C)(4) non-profit, appears to be operated out of DeLay's political consulting company, First Principles LLC. According to Rob Dunn of FortBendNow, First Principles LLC was "incorporated in North Carolina on June 19 [2006] with the help of William A. Newman of the New York law firm McGuire Woods, which has done considerable work for DeLay."

According to Roll Call, Chris Perkins is serving as CCM's executive director and will be based in Washington, D.C., "where he will oversee additional staff. Perkins formerly served as vice president of the now-defunct Free Enterprise Fund and previously worked at Americans for a Republican Majority, the political action committee DeLay ran when he served in the House."

"With the NRCC in disarray and Republicans on the defense, it was only a matter of time until a Swift-boat-like smear machine surfaced to attack Democrats and spin lies," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Doug Thornell said upon hearing of the creation of The Coalition for a Conservative Majority.

"Given their historic loss in 2006, it is surprising Republicans would turn to Tom DeLay, an indicted former member of Congress who became the symbol of everything wrong with the corrupt Republican majority. I guess the more things change the more they stay the same for the GOP," Thornell added.

In early November, the Telegraph reported that "in one tactic borrowed straight from the opposition playbook, CCM volunteers will be issued with video cameras to pursue Democratic politicians in the hope of capturing a so-called 'YouTube' moment if they say or do something embarrassing or contradictory."

In the summer of 2006, George Allen, the incumbent Republican senator from Virginia and a seeming shoo-in for re-election, was caught using an obscure racial epithet by an opposition activist with a video camera. After the footage was posted online, Allen was forced to spend a good part of the rest of his campaign answering questions about the incident. In the end, Allen lost by a small margin to Democrat Jim Webb.

"When Bush came to power, the Clintonistas didn't just skip town looking for work," DeLay told the Telegraph. "They stayed in Washington and formed dozens of political groups to push their liberal agenda and built the most impressive political coalition I've ever witnessed."

"This is the network that beat conservatives in 2006, and that was just the warm-up."

"The Republican Party is in total disarray, it's demoralized and it's trying to find itself," he added. "None of the leading Republican candidates have really caught on, and if the Republicans don't get their act together soon, it will be too late. In the polls, the party's frontrunner is Undecided. And at the moment, Undecided gets my endorsement."

"By contrast, the Democrats are the most united of any party I've seen in years. Hillary Clinton is clearly favorite to win this election."

The Coalition for a Conservative Majority is one of a number of conservative organizations to emerge over the past year. Families First on Immigration, a group founded earlier this year and made up of a number of conservative Christian evangelical leaders aiming to advance what it was calling "religiously grounded positions on immigration," appears to have faded from the scene.

The Vanguard.Org (TVO), launched in March 2006 by founder and Chairman, Silicon Valley businessman Rod D. Martin, as a right wing challenge to MoveOn.org, hasn't exactly set the political world on fire. Richard Poe, the former editor of David Horowitz's FrontPage magazine who was hired as editorial director of the organization left in April, after only three months on the job.

"Following a candid discussion with TVO Founder and Chairman Rod Martin last night, we agreed to end our association, due to our differing and strongly-held views concerning organizational priorities and strategy," Poe wrote at his blog Poe.com in a post dated May 1. "Honorable men can agree to disagree, and so Rod Martin and I have done."

Freedom's Watch, which in August launched a $15 million campaign to drum up public support for President Bush's surge in Iraq, has now turned its attention to Iran.

The success of The Coalition for a Conservative Majority may hinge on DeLay's continued ability to raise significant amounts of movement money and Blackwell's formidable standing within the conservative community.

*************

For more please see the Bill Berkowitz archive.
Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.

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