The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party fights back against the corporatist Third Way

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Oh Noes! The Beltway corporate media villagers are clutching their pearls and reaching for their smelling salts today because the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party is fighting back against the corporatist banksters of Wall Street from the Third Way "Democratic" think tank, whom the corporate media villagers always refer to as "centrist" and presume to speak for the Democratic Party.  As if.

Jonathan Martin at the New York Times reports, Coalition of Liberals Strikes Back at Criticism From Centrist Democrats:

In a sign of the left’s new aggressiveness, a coalition of liberals is trying to marginalize a centrist Democratic policy group that was responsible for a Wall Street Journal op-ed article this week that said economic populism was “disastrous” for the party.

The coalition, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and three other liberal advocacy organizations have urged their members to contact a group of congressional Democrats who are honorary leaders of the centrist group, Third Way. It published the op-ed article on Monday contending that the liberalism of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio of New York City and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts would lead Democrats “over the populist cliff.”

The article — written by Jon Cowan, president of Third Way, and Jim Kessler, its senior vice president for policy — criticizes progressives like Ms. Warren and Mr. de Blasio for opposing measures to cut costs to Social Security and Medicare.

The liberal groups’ campaign has already gotten results, the latest indication that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party is ascendant.

Mark Bergman, a spokesman for Representative Allyson Schwartz, Democrat of Pennsylvania, said she “read the op-ed, thought it was outrageous, disagrees strongly and told Third Way that.” Ms. Schwartz, who is locked in a primary campaign for governor of Pennsylvania, is an honorary chairwoman of Third Way.

While the liberal organizations have been concentrating on members of Congress, Ms. Warren raised questions about the funding sources of policy groups like Third Way. Without specifically mentioning the group, she sent a letter on Wednesday to the chief executives of six of the country’s biggest banks asking them to reveal the groups they help finance.

Shareholders, she wrote, “have a right to know how corporate resources are spent, and, even more important, policy makers and the public should be aware of your contributions and evaluate the work of the think tanks accordingly.”

And on Thursday, the liberal blog Daily Kos announced that it would endorse and raise money only for candidates who promised not to join Third Way.

Taken together, such hardball tactics suggest that emboldened progressives intend to tap into the populist energy coursing through the Democratic Party to ensure that their elected officials hold to the liberal line. 

“Given that we are a vast majority of the party’s voters, and represent many of the party’s financial contributors, to see that level of disrespect shown to Elizabeth Warren’s message, you know, we needed to answer fire with fire,” said Mike Lux, a longtime liberal strategist.

By directly going after Ms. Warren, who has an avid following among progressives, Third Way all but ensured that it would get the fight it seemed to want to pick.

Holly Yeager at the Washington Post reports, Democratic centrists battle party liberals:

An ugly feud broke out among Democrats this week after a centrist Democratic think tank criticized Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s populist policies, drawing an angry response from liberal groups that support the Massachusetts lawmaker.

The battle began with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by leaders of Third Way, who noted the passion that some progressives feel for the economic populism of Warren and Bill de Blasio, New York’s mayor-elect. “Nothing would be more disastrous for Democrats,” they wrote. They got tougher after that, using words such as “reckless” and “fantasy” to describe Warren’s recent proposal to increase Social Security benefits.

On Thursday, under pressure from liberal groups that consider Warren their champion, several members of Congress who serve as honorary co-chairmen of Third Way entered the fray.

“I’m tired of the politics of polarization,” Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) said in a statement. “We need to find ways to build bridges, not tear them down. Opinion pieces attacking people are unproductive, and do nothing to help solve the challenges that our nation is facing.”

Kind and others stopped short of breaking their ties with Third Way, as several groups, including MoveOn.org and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, had called on them to do. But their rapid responses highlighted the growing influence of liberals within the Democratic Party, including some who are keen for an alternative to Hillary Rodham Clinton and have encouraged Warren to run for president in 2016. The freshman senator said this week that she plans to serve out her term and won’t run for the White House.

Several of Warren’s defenders complained about what they said were Third Way’s close ties to the financial world, and Warren, the driving force behind the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, fired her own shot in that direction. In a letter sent Wednesday, she asked the chiefs of the country’s six largest financial institutions to voluntarily disclose their contributions to think tanks.

Third Way showed no sign of stepping away from the fight. The op-ed, published Monday, was featured prominently on the group’s Web site Thursday.

“We have a very significant disagreement that is about policy,” said Jonathan Cowan, president of Third Way, who wrote the piece with Jim Kessler, the group’s policy chief. “It’s a huge argument, and it’s in­cred­ibly important and healthy to have a big-tent Democratic Party that can vigorously debate big policy disagreements,” Cowan said.

Rep. James E. Clyburn (S.C.), the assistant Democratic leader and another Third Way co-chairman who was encouraged to break with the think tank, had no comment Thursday, a spokesman said.

A spokesman for Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), another co-chairman, said the congressman “has worked with Third Way on a range of issues, such as immigration reform and the Affordable Care Act, but on this matter they strongly disagree. The congressman has and will continue to fight to protect Social Security and Medicare.”

Lydia DePillis at the Washington Post wrote yesterday, Elizabeth Warren wants banks to disclose think tank donations. Shouldn’t everybody?

The bank-busting Sen. Elizabeth Warren, stung by an attack from the center-left think tank Third Way, responded with a salvo of her own Wednesday: She wants financial institutions to disclose their contributions to all such Beltway institutions that inform political debate with their funders shielded from view. The implication, which Warren leaves to the left-wing press, is that Wall Street is funding the anti-populist backlash.

But why stop there?

Washington asks for a lot of transparency from those who come to influence it. But it's a time-honored rule of politics: When sunlight shines on one dark corner, those who don't want to be seen flee to another.

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As NPR has documented, "social welfare groups" have found out ways to be activists while keeping their donors secret. And even new executive rules meant to stop the flow of "dark money" uncorked by Citizens United have loopholes of their own. The same thing is happening with think tanks. It's increasingly apparent that these institutions have become a convenient outlet for interest groups seeking credible channels by which to espouse their views.

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Think tanks are incredibly important in shaping discussions in Washington, and therefore policy. Many do disclose their donors, and vigorously insist that their positions have nothing to do with the foundations, corporations, and individuals that fund them. But that simply cannot be true for everyone: Moneyed interests don't just distribute cash out of the goodness of their hearts, after all. It's simply naive to believe that an institution's output wouldn't reflect the priorities of the people who allow it to exist. And besides, if it were true that money doesn't buy influence, why would it be a problem for the public to judge for itself?

Of course, it would be difficult to force all 501(c)(3)s to disclose all of their donors; many do legitimate charitable work and it would be unfortunate if new rules prohibiting anonymity were to chill their supply of funds. But we also can't pretend think tanks don't have as much sway as political campaigns over policy outcomes, and should have to tell us a little more about who's doing the talking.

Full transparency, full disclosure for everyone. I don't buy this "chilling effect" argument always made by wealthy elite plutocrats.

One response to “The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party fights back against the corporatist Third Way

  1. Great comments. Thanks for posting it.