See How This Works?
Let’s say you’re in the Republican Party, and you notice that one of your swing-district Congressmen, Dave Reichert, is facing a serious challenger who has raised twice as much money as him in the first quarter. Worse than that, this challenger, Darcy Burner, is getting a lot of good press for having raised all that cash.
What to do? Well, since there’s no penalty for filing flimsy complaints with the Federal Elections Commission, why not file a complaint that suggests Burner has been violating campaign finance rules? That will make it seem like she’s been raising all that money because she’s playing fast and loose with the rules, not because she has momentum. Great idea!
Step 1: Have the State Republican Party write up the complaint. Mail it off, post it on the web, and send an email to local bloggers and reporters headlined: “8th District Democrat named in campaign violation complaint.” That’ll get their attention. And it does! Bloggers post it (here and here), and the next day the Seattle Post-Intelligencer picks it up, as does the King County Journal.
Step 2: Nevermind that the Burner campaign has already answered the allegations, calling them “frivolous.” The seeds of suspicion have been planted. It will take the FEC weeks, if not months, and maybe even until after the election, to determine whether the complaint has merit. In the meantime, encourage conservative blogger Stefan Sharkansky to do a running series of posts on the subject (here and here).
Step 3: Feed the story to the conservative Washington Times so that when it dutifully reports on the allegations (as it did today) Sharkansky can do a post announcing “Darcy Burner Makes the National News. Ouch.”
And there you have it: Aspersions cast, doubts raised, a “national story” created, and all of it just in time for Reichert’s campaign kickoff next Tuesday!