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September 6, 2006
GOP Spent Millions ... On Lieberman? Doubt It!

I know the White House would prefer to see Joe Lieberman beat Ned Lamont in the Connecticut general election, but the story reported by Insight Magazine seems pretty far-fetched. Yesterday evening, the online publication asserted that the White House has funneled millions of dollars in Republican contributions to Lieberman's independent re-election bid:

The White House funneled millions of dollars through major Republican Party contributors to Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s primary campaign in a failed effort to ensure the support of the former Democrat for the Bush administration.

A senior GOP source said the money was part of Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove's strategy to maintain a Republican majority in the Senate in November. The source said Mr. Rove, together with Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, directed leading pro-Bush contributors to donate millions of dollars to Mr. Lieberman's campaign for re-election in Connecticut in an attempt that he would be a "Republican-leaning" senator.

"Joe [Lieberman] took the money but said he would not play ball," the source said. "That doesn't mean that this was a wasted investment." ...

The source said that under Mr. Rove's direction, the GOP has abandoned its Senate candidate in Connecticut, Alan Schlesinger, who has dropped to about five percent in the polls. Mr. Schlesinger has failed to win the support of any national Republican and has virtually no contact with the White House.

First, let's take the story at face value. Assuming it's true, it would be incredibly damaging to both Lieberman and the White House. As Joe Gandelman notes in his TMV post, one can hardly shake the source of campaign contributions while taking the money. Lieberman could claim every day that millions of Republic dollars would have no influence on his politics, but who would believe him? If NARAL dumped a million dollars into Rick Santorum's campaign, would anyone believe that a deal had not been cut?

It would also prove embarrassing to the White House, although less so than Lieberman. In a year where the Republicans look to take a beating at the polls, why would the GOP sink so much money into a candidate with almost no dfference between him and his challenger, except on the war? That money could go elsewhere -- say, here in Minnesota or in Maryland -- where a real gain in a seat could take place.

In fact, this story makes almost no sense whatsoever. It comes to Insight, which is hardly a liberal publication, through a single source, which they claim as "senior" within the GOP. It offers no on-the-record sources or any data whatsoever to substantiate the allegation. The only source that does go on the record is Alan Schlesinger, the hapless and hopeless Republican candidate in the race against Lieberman and Lamont, who complains about his abandonment by the White House and national GOP.

It's true that George Bush has declined to endorse Schlesinger, who has lied about gambling debts and marginalized himself from the beginning of this race. However, the White House and the GOP have played the Lieberman-Lamont race up just enough to get the Democrats to waste resources and energy in Connecticut, allowing the GOP to apply its resources elsewhere. The Republicans would hardly waste any more than a few thousand dollars just to keep the temperature high in the race.

The GOP faces a tough midterm election, and they need to funnel resources into key races to hold onto real majorities in both chambers. Millions of dollars will buy a lot of advertising on local television and radio for these campaigns. The RNC simply cannot afford to toss away that kind of cash to bolster a Democrat with a more liberal voting record than Harry Reid, even if he is a supporter of the war in Iraq.

And say what you will about Karl Rove, but he can count, and he can tell the difference between a Democrat and a Republican (except in Rhode Island). Karl isn't about to send a few million to Lieberman no matter how much he likes him.

I'd suspect that this single source has another agenda regarding Lieberman, Lamont, and Schlesinger. It sounds like someone who isn't happy with the level of support Schlesinger has received from the White House and the RNC, and who now wants to kneecap Lieberman with allegations of Republican co-option. His list of contributors can be easily accessed at Interestingly, the site has no such list for Lamont.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 6, 2006 5:01 AM

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» White House Funneled Millions To Lieberman Campaign? from It Shines For All
"The White House funneled millions of dollars through major Republican Party contributors to Sen. Joseph Lieberman's primary campaign in a failed effort to ensure the support of the former Democrat for the Bush administration," Insight Magazine reports... [Read More]

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Campaign season is one time of year where you really have to be even more cautious than usual in believing things you read in the media. It is the time of year when sneak attacks get reported as straight news of course. Which is why I'm k... [Read More]

Tracked on September 6, 2006 10:59 AM


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