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Morning Jay: Democrats, Inc.

6:00 AM, Feb 17, 2012 • By JAY COST
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Two news stories from this week underscored the most important development in Democratic party politics in the last thirty years. First, from the Washington Free Beacon:

Politico Influence reports that House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and minority whip Steny Hoyer raised $400,000 last night at a fundraiser held at the home of Democratic lobbyists Heather and Tony Podesta. Heather Podesta runs the firm Heather Podesta and Partners.

Heather Podesta’s clients include liberal bogeymen such as the for-profit education industry and Brookfield Asset Management, the real-estate company that owns Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan and which ultimately gave the NYPD the green light to evict the Occupy Wall Street movement from its grounds in November 2011. Pelosi is a vocal supporter of the occupiers, having once said, “God bless them.”

Second, from Bloomberg:

President Barack Obama returns to New York on March 1 for his first campaign fundraiser with investment bankers and hedge fund managers since asking Congress in his 2013 budget to increase taxes on the wealthy.

The president’s hosts include Ralph Schlosstein, chief executive officer at Evercore Partners Inc. (EVR), and his wife, Jane Hartley, co-founder of the economic and political advisory firm Observatory Group LLC, who were assured last week by Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager, that the president won’t demonize Wall Streetin his re-election pursuit.

The $35,800-per-person dinner at ABC Kitchen, the first of the evening’s four fundraising events, is being hosted by many of Obama’s top Wall Street donors, according to a person familiar with the matter. Sponsors include Blair W. Effron, partner and co-founder of Centerview Partners LLP; Marc Lasry, managing partner and founder of Avenue Capital Group; Mark Gallogly, a managing principal of Centerbridge Partners; James Rubin, managing director of BC Partners; Robert Wolf, UBS AG’s chairman for the Americas; and Antonio Weiss, global head of investment banking at Lazard Ltd.

The Democratic party used to be the party opposed to big business. Andrew Jackson was reviled by business elites, and William Jennings Bryan scared the living daylights out of them. Neither of those men would be caught dead asking for money from such lobbyists and bankers, who would never give them a dime, anyway!

But that is obviously no longer true. What we have instead is a party whose leaders simultaneously press the case for “fairness” while giving unfair access to wealthy donors such as these. And that has basically been the way of the world for the last 30 years; since the mid-1980s, the Democrats in Congress have usually matched or exceeded the GOP in terms of contributions from business and professional PACs.

Why has this happened? It has to do with the two sided nature of the modern Democratic party. On the one hand, the party promotes progressivism as its public-spirited governing philosophy. This is the ideology that animates the pages of The New Republic, The Nation, and well-intentioned liberals everywhere: The idea that a powerful central government can bring about social justice and true equality. But there is another side of the coin, less commented upon and much less noble: The Democratic party is also a massive patronage operation that uses the vast regulatory and redistributive powers of the federal government to attract and maintain political clients, whose loyalty stems not simply from the party’s public-spirited philosophy but also the special benefits they enjoy for being coalition members.

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