The WashPost's dubious fundraising report

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

This A1 article is getting lots of attention, and fits in nicely with the Beltway's preferred Dems-are-in-big-trouble narrative:

Democrats Are Jarred by Drop In Fundraising

That's the headline. Should we count the problems with Paul Kane's article?

First, there's not one Democrat quoted in the Post piece who is "jarred" by the drop in fundraising, or anything like it. The Post simply makes that announcement itself. In fact, some Democrats quoted seem to suggest it was inevitable that a fall-off would occur given the historic amount of money the party raised during Obama's run. i.e. Don't fundraising tallies, even for committees that oversee Congressional races, often drop after presidential election year cycles, which now last two years long, including the primary season?

Yet Kane spends almost his entire article comparing fundraising tallies collected immediatialy after a presidential compaign, with tallies collected during one. Pretty obvious apples and oranges, no?

Then there's this graphic the Post used to show just how supposedly jarring the drop-off has been for Democrats.

Note there is no accompanying chart for GOP efforts so it's difficult for readers to get a sense of how the two parties compare. But also notice that through August of 2009, Democratic fundraising was up significantly as compared to the first eight months in 2005. (Despite that, the Post calls the Dems' 2009 efforts "poor.") So if you take out the most recent presidential cycle, Dems are raising more money than in 2005. Again, perhaps that's why the Post could find any Democrats who are "jarred."

And then there's this. The Post leans heavily on the idea that because furndraising in 2009 is down from 2007, that means big trouble for 2010's off-year, midterm showdown with the GOP:

Large-scale defeats in the midterms could be a crippling blow to the ambitious agenda mapped out by Obama's top advisers, particularly if they happen in the Senate, where Democrats caucus with a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority. The party will have to work furiously to defend at least six Senate seats and as many as 40 in the House, including many snatched from Republicans.

But back to that fundraising graph. Note again that Democrats are ahead of where they were in 2005, the lead-in year to the 2006 off-yeare midterm contests. And what happened in the 2006 midterms? Democrats scored huge wins over the GOP. So see the problem with the Post's analysis? The paper claims Dems are down in fundraising this years which could mean a problems for the off-year midterm contests. When in fact, Dems are ahead of their last off-year mid-term tallies, when Dems won big.

UPDATED: Another glaring problem with Kane's reporting:

Democratic political committees have seen a decline in their fundraising fortunes this year, a result of complacency among their rank-and-file donors and a de facto boycott by many of their wealthiest givers, who have been put off by the party's harsh rhetoric about big business.

That's the lede and it contains a sweeping assertion that there's "boycott" among the bigbest Dem donors. Wow, that seems like a big deal. How exactly does Kane back up that controversial assertion? Like this:

Other Democrats and their aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal party strategy, said that rhetoric toward big business has grown so antagonistic that it has become increasingly difficult to raise money on Wall Street, particularly after the controversy about bonuses and executive compensation.

Good grief. Does that very vague, very general reporting from Kane, based on off-the-record comments, in any way support his earlier, definitive claim that there's a donor boycott--a Democratic backlash--because of anti-big business rhetoric? Not even close. In the lede, Kane reports there's a "boycott" due to the rhetoric. Later in the piece Kane reports it's "difficult" to raise money from Wall Street due to the rhetoric. Which is it?

And where exactly is this populist, Democratic crusade against big business coming from? The Obama White House and Congressional leaders have been bashing corporate America this year? I must have missed it. And Kane includes no quotes to highlight the supposed push.

Kane does interview one wealthy private investor and longtime Democratic supporter. But the donor makes no mention of anti-big business rhetoric as the reason some donors may have stopped writing checks.

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