The Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority:

Modus Operandi: That Bob Perry came to play means LCRM slime is on the way

mo·dus ope·ran·di ("mO-dus-"ä-per-'ran-dE, -"dI) noun. A method of procedure; especially : a distinct pattern or method of operation that indicates or suggests the work of a single criminal in more than one crime.

On November 3, 2006, the general strategy and tactics of the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority were set in stone. That's the day that Houston homebuilder Bob Perry gave the orgnization $100,000 to help it achieve its declared goal of gaining Republican control of the Louisiana House of Representatives since Reconstruction. Perry's was one of two $100,000 contributed on that day, but it was his involvement in and contribution to the LCRM that committed the organization to conduct smear campaigns against Democratic candidates for the House, some Senate races and, possibly, some statewide races.

Bob Perry has given more money to political campaigns than any other American since the 2000 election. according to a March 2007 article in Texas Monthly magazine, giving something like $29 million in the 2004 and 2006 federal election cycles alone.

Very large chunks of that money have gone into what in federal elections are called "527s" — independent political committees not directly tied to political parties or candidates. The 527s to which Perry has contributed have spent Perry's dollars in ads that arrive in the final days of an election cycle, that viciously attack their targets (almost always Democrats) with claims that prove to be false or misleading.

Smear campaigns are Bob Perry's political modus operandi. That he was among the earliest and heaviest hitters to contribute to the LCRM is a clear indication of what LCRM is about and what it will be doing to Louisiana Democrats in the final days leading up to the October 20 primary.

Perry was a major contributor to Tom DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority — the organization after which the LCRM was named and modeled. The degree of admiration that the organization's founders, Senator David Vitter and his wife Wendy, have for DeLay's organization is made stark by the fact that Texans for a Republican Majority and DeLay were under criminal indictments in Texas at the time the Louisiana branch of the franchise was created. Perry also contributed to Vitter's 2004 Senate campaign. So, the Vitters' admiration and fascination with DeLay and his tactics (and his ties to Bob Perry) might well go back to the days when Vitter served in DeLay's Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Small Potatoes are Bigger in Texas

The $100,000 contribution Perry made to LCRM in 2006 was pretty small potatoes compared to the checks he was writing elsewhere during the same period. Internal Revenue Service records cited by the political funding site, indicate that Perry gave $2 million on Septeber 1, 2006, to a 527 called Americans for Honesty on Issues. Perry gave that organization another $1 million on October 27, 2006. Perry's $3 million in contributions accounted for all but $29,480 of the organization's total contributions — and those other dollars appear to be a post-election rebate from a media firm.

Perry also donated $5 million in August and September of 2006 to something called the Economic Freedom Fund, according to Open Secrets.

The Billings (Montana) Gazette reported that almost $400,000 of that money was used to attack Democratic Senate candidate John Tester who was challenging incumbent Republican Conrad Burns. Tester defeated Burns, whose campaign also received peronsal contributions from Perry.

Americans for Honesty on Issues and the Economic Freedom Fund used Perry's $8 million in 2006 money to attack Democrats Senate races in Missouri, and Tennessee, and House races in Indiana, Colorado, Iowa and Kentucky, and the governor's race in Minnesota. This may not be a complete list.

LCRM Has Shown its Hand

Despite Bob Perry's past activities, the question remains: are these valid indicators of the approach the LCRM will take in coming weeks? After all, just because the LCRM has modeled itself after one of the most ruthless political operations in the country — adopting a localized version of its name, recruiting one of its top contributors — arent' the LCRM's members just DeLay/Perry wannabes?

The LCRM has already demonstrated its fealty to the Perry method in Louisiana through its actions in a March 2007 special election for the vacant House seat in District 94.

In that race, LCRM did not endorse a candidate, but acted as an independent third party and launched a last-minute vicious, misleading and false direct mail campaign against Democrat Deborah Langhoff.

This independent third party approach will be how the LCRM spends the bulk of its money in October. The campaign finance laws and the LCRM's dollars on hand tell the story.

The Math Behind the Method

The LCRM had $735,545 on hand at the end of the campaign reporting period that ended in June. With their committed base of about 25 individuals and companies on a schedule to pony up $50,000 each year, and with the possibility of another $100k contributor stepping forward, it is likely that the LCRM will go into the last month of the campaign with about $1 million in hand (allowing for campaign expenses like polling, production, mailing, etc.).

Let's say they decide to endorse candidates in the 38 races they list on their website as possible pickups. Let's allow for the fact that they might get greedy/desperate and get involved in 50 races in all, in the House and the Senate.

Under Louisiana campaign finance laws, as a large PAC, the LCRM would be limited to $5,000 in direct contributions to candidates in the primary election cycle. Using the 50 race number, multiplied by the $5,000 per candidate cap, that would bring their total direct expenditures on campaigns in the primary to $250,000.

While that $250,000 is an impressive number, it is not nearly as impressive as the $750,000 that this stategy would leave on the table. But, the LCRM has no intention of leaving that money on the table. Instead, following the Perry modus operandi, the LCRM will use that money to launch smear campaigns in Democratic candidates in races it deams important. Those races could include not only those for seats currently held by Democrats, but also seats held by Republicans where Democrats constitute a threat to capture those seats.

Because these expenditures will be independent of the control of any candidate or party, there will be no legal limt on how much money the LCRM can spend against any candidate in the primary cycle. They will be able to spend as much as their very deep pockets will allow them to spend.

As Jack Kent so aptly demonstrated in his third party attack ad campaigns against Buddy Roemer in 1991 and 1995, concentrated attack campaigns can be very effective. But, what voters in other states demonstrated in 2006 where Perry's dollars were spent in smear campaigns is that they are not so easily fooled.

Therein lies a strategy for Louisiana Democrats: warning voters about the impending LCRM attacks. The attacks are coming. Like the attacks in other states and the attacks against Deborah Langhoff, they will be vicious and they will be misleading.

Forewarned is forearmed

Since Democratic candidates can't hope to outspend the LCRM (or their more polite but equally Republican cousins of the Blueprint Louisiana group), Democrats need to develop an alternate path for responding to the LCRM.

A way would be to expose the LCRM and to inoculate the public. That is, Democrats should work to turn the LCRM's strength into its weakness. The LCRM's greatest strength is its ability to raise large sums of money from a very small base of donors. That is also its greatest weakness — thanks in no small measure to decades of old line Republican campaigning against "special interest money" in campaigns.

The LCRM is the smallest special interest group in the state that is — through the power of $100,000 commitments from their core members — trying to become the most powerful one. These people are the fattest of the fat cats who are writing huge checks in order to pursue an unprecedented attempt to grab political power here.

Democrats should be talking at the LCRM right now and this is how we should be talking about them: about how this cabal of wealthy individuals and businesses is trying to buy control of the Louisiana Legislature. We should be talking about their modus operandi; about how they will use smear campaigns to try to achieve the goals that they cannot win on the merits of the issues themselves.

This very public discussion of the LCRM can inoculate voters against the impact of the waves of slime that will shortly come crashing upon them. Knowing the context in which these smear campaigns will emerge can help voters make sense of them and — quite possibly — focus their anger on those trying to manipulate them by engaging in these campaigns that are based on the concept of spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Keep your slicker suits handy. The LCRM slime is about to blow!

More to come — Soon!

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Louisiana Democrat2Democrat by Mike Stagg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.