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Want to defeat Van Drew and Trump in South Jersey? This is not how you do it
June 4, 2020
Amy Kennedy is running for Congress in South Jersey on a liberal platform that includes her commitment to election reform, with a pledge to get money out of politics, put small-dollar donors first, and overturn Citizens United.
Very laudable. Except it seems obvious to anyone with two eyes and a functioning brain that she is taking liberties with campaign finance laws, specifically with regard to super PACs, those shadowy political action committees that can spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections as long as it does not “coordinate” with the campaign it supports.
Kennedy’s great benefactor is Blue Organizing Project, a super PAC that has exactly one donor — her husband Patrick, son of Ted Kennedy and the former eight-term congressman from Rhode Island, who has shoveled $500,000 into the committee to pummel the other Democratic candidates on the July 7 primary ballot.
You read that right: one generous donor, her husband, 500K.
But it’s hard to quell suspicions of illegal coordination in this case — not when your campaign is conducted during a pandemic from one end of your dining room table, and the other end is occupied by your super PAC’s only donor.
That’s why the leading contender in the 2nd District primary, the eminent political author Brigid Callahan Harrison, has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, after she was on the receiving end of the PAC’s recent $75,000 digital attack campaign.
Kennedy, for her part, swears there was never any coordination or knowledge of PAC spending. Her husband is mute. But just to clear up misconceptions, she has asked Blue Organizing Project to cease spending on her campaign.
What’s that smell? Oh right, the stench of hypocrisy. https://t.co/Ge6guEfNxm
— Brigid Callahan Harrison for Congress (@BrigidforSJ) May 29, 2020
Two problems: Those ads are still running, Harrison says, and Kennedy hasn’t asked the PAC to refund the rest of her husband’s money.
One more problem: It takes a willing suspension of disbelief to accept that these two people did not coordinate a political strategy — not when they live together, eat together, raise five kids together, and share a passion for the family business.
Not when the business is politics and the family is a fourth-generation American political dynasty.
“You have to be stupid or Bloomberg-rich to spend $500,000 without mentioning it to your spouse,” said Matthew Hale, the Seton Hall political scientist. “And to pretend that (coordination) didn’t happen and then to ask the PAC with $500,000 of your husband’s money in it to stop helping you defines chutzpah.
“At least $75,000 of it was already spent on attacking Harrison, and you can’t put that genie back in the bottle. I suppose if Kennedy was a true good government reformer she could give Harrison $75,000 to make it even. But that is even more fanciful than her not knowing about it in the first place.”
An unaffiliated Democratic campaign expert was more blunt, noting that “it doesn’t pass the laugh test.”
Equally laughable is the fact that End Citizens United, the political action committee dedicated to untangling byzantine campaign finance laws and driving megadonors out of politics, is not budging from its endorsement of Kennedy despite the revelations in NJ Globe.
An ECU spokesman explained that they’re sticking with Kennedy because “the only way to unrig the system is to elect leaders like Amy who will fight to change the system and who will put principles first.”
Cue the timeless maxim from Groucho Marx: “These are my principles, and if you don’t like them, well, I have others.”
In 33 days, South Jersey Democrats will choose a candidate they hope can unseat Republican incumbent Jeff Van Drew in November. They will not succeed by nominating someone who makes amateurish, unforced errors that will provide Donald Trump’s favorite convert an easy, negative narrative.