Ben Smith at Politico:
The Republican National Committee plans to raise money this election cycle through an aggressive campaign capitalizing on “fear” of President Barack Obama and a promise to “save the country from trending toward socialism.”
The strategy was detailed in a confidential party fundraising presentation, obtained by POLITICO, which also outlines how “ego-driven” wealthy donors can be tapped with offers of access and “tchochkes.”
The presentation was delivered by RNC Finance Director Rob Bickhart to top donors and fundraisers at a party retreat in Boca Grande, Florida on February 18, a source at the gathering said.
In neat PowerPoint pages, it lifts the curtain on the often-cynical terms of political marketing, displaying an air of disdain for the party’s donors that is usually confined to the barroom conversations of political operatives.
The presentation explains the Republican fundraising in simple terms.
“What can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House, or the Senate…?” it asks.
The answer: “Save the country from trending toward Socialism!”
he 72-page document was provided to POLITICO by a Democrat, who said a hard copy had been left in the hotel hosting the $2,500-a-head retreat, the Gasparilla Inn & Club. Sources at the event said the presentation was delivered by Bickhart and by the RNC Finance Chairman, Peter Terpeluk, a former ambassador to Luxembourg under President George W. Bush.
The RNC reacted with alarm to a question about it Thursday, emailing major donors to warn them of a reporter’s question, and distancing Steele from its contents.
Ben Smith’s discovery of a 72-page RNC fundraising PowerPoint is a must-read, especially the giveaway slides that reveal the … seriousness with which the party views the fears of Tea Partiers.
Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite:
There is no mention of “progressives” or secret Maoists in the report but it’s hard to look at images like the one above and not conclude that someone in the RNC is a fan of Mr. Beck and his (often fear-mongering) chalkboard! Alas, Smith notes that Republicans are already distancing themselves from the presentation. You can see the full presentation here.
Pareene at Gawker:
Two Politico links in one day? Yes, well, this one is actually funny. Ben Smith has this 72-page document, and it is embarrassing. It is openly contemptuous of rich, major donors—it suggests that their political donations are ego-driven, and that they can be bought off with TCHOCHKES! (Presumably because they’re Jewish?) (Oh, and another great reason for rich folks to donate is apparently something called “access.”)
But it’s even worse on grassroots small donors, who are the only people Michael Steele‘s had any success with: it basically openly admits that their approach to campaigning is based around groundless fear-mongering and the fostering of a hysterical atmosphere of trumped up panic.
The document is also just funny because, you know, it’s Michael Steele’s RNC: young major donors had cocktails with Senator and diaper-sex enthusiast David Vitter last week, and soon they will attend a UFC championship fight and a professional bull riding event.
Jonathan Chait at TNR:
Apparently, the party is under no illusions about what motivates its base:
The small donors who are the targets of direct marketing are described under the heading “Visceral Giving.” Their motivations are listed as “fear;” “Extreme negative feelings toward existing Administration;” and “Reactionary.”
Major donors, by contrast, are treated in a column headed “Calculated Giving.”
Their motivations include: “Peer to Peer Pressure”; “access”; and “Ego-Driven.”
So, let’s see, you’ve got your paranoids, your reactionaries, your corrupt greedheads, your spineless cowards, and your all-around arrogant jerks. What, no category for “racists,” “repressed self-hating gays,” “the terminally heartless” and “philandering televangelists”? I thought they were going to hit every single Republican stereotype.
There’s plenty one can say about the imagery and scare lines that are supposed to be used to raise against President Obama — that he’s a socialist, et. al. — but what’s more interesting is that time honored strategy of using fear to get donations has been admitted and acknowledged…and shows, in a way, the contempt that the party has for its donors.
Democrats used quite nasty language in their fundraising solicitations against Bush, although none, I think, quite as egregious as this. Massaging egos and trigger points and using psychological techniques like peer-to-peer pressure — that’s Fundraising 101. But you’re not supposed to tell the donors — or anyone — that they’re being manipulated. The RNC has sent its members and donors a prophylactic e-mail disassociating itself and chairman Michael Steele from this episode.
It could hurt them in the wallet if donors get angry — a distinct possibility. Also, the RNC won’t be able to use the “socialism” tack in its pitches from now on…given that it’s associated with this particular PowerPoint.
How does the RNC get over this incident? Probably, they’ll have to can their finance director, Rob Bickhart, who authored the PowerPoint.
The “evil empire” gallery is stupid and amateurish (Reid as … Scooby Doo?) and “reactionary” has enough sinister connotations to qualify as an outright embarrassment, even if it wasn’t meant in the most unsavory sense of the term. But as much as we all enjoy dumping on the Steele-run RNC, I don’t quite follow Ambinder’s logic that this proves Republican donors are being “manipulated.” The base has been anxious about the White House’s statist agenda since Inauguration Day; the GOP doesn’t have to manufacture what already exists. In which case, the “manipulation” in their fundraising pitch is … what? “If you’re worried about Obama, help us defeat him”? Scandal. As for manipulating big donors by playing to their egos, fair enough, but surely wealthy contributors aren’t so naive that they don’t realize that’s part of the game. When my insurance agent tells me he likes my tie, I don’t seriously think he likes my tie. If I’m smart enough to detect an ego stroke in process, I take it millionaires are too.
UPDATE: Conor Friedersdorf at The American Scene
David Frum at FrumForum