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Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

4:04 PM, Apr 24, 2007 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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Since the midterm elections, Republicans have embraced the role of the loyal opposition in Congress -- doing their best to shift the debate in the House and Senate more to the center. On the war on terror, federal spending and congressional reform, there have been important victories.

But at the same time, they're working to elect Republican majorities in 2008. And one important goal is to emulate a major liberal success: web presence and organization. There's no question that one important reason for Democratic success in 2006 was the issue focus, fundraising, and organization of the left. While there are many bright folks working at a number of sites to use the web to generate votes for conservatives and Republicans, one startup worth looking at is the Majority Accountability Project. It looks like a site worth bookmarking.

If you head over there today, you'll note one story for example, that calls into question the ethics and reform credentials of the new House majority:

On January 23, 2007, Roll Call's Josh Kurtz reported "the 41 (sic) freshman Democrats in the House have formed a new political action committee," the Democratic Freshmen PAC. But according to Federal Elections Commission (FEC) records, the PAC was actually formed on November 29, 2006, three weeks and one day after the Democrats' respective elections.

Even more disturbing is who the new Representatives tapped to run their fundraising arm.

William Oldaker, a longtime appropriations lobbyist, was quietly named Custodian of the PAC, whose stated mission is "the reelection of freshmen Democratic Representatives in 2008." In 2005, Oldaker was the subject of a scathing report compiled by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), which questioned whether he used his fundraising prowess to influence members of Congress.

"As the treasurer of 23 political committees…Oldaker has signed off on more than $2 million in donations since 1998 to the parties and candidates he is paid to influence," the CPI study found. "At the same time that these committees doled out millions to politicians, some 100 companies paid Oldaker's lobbying firms $14 million to influence some of the same lawmakers."

In a news release not long after the CPI study was released, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) criticized the practice of lobbyists such as Oldaker serving as fundraisers for lawmakers. CREW head Melanie Sloan said of such relationships, "I think it's a little too cozy."

Following the public criticism, Senators Harry Reid, Byron Dorgan and Edward Kennedy all dumped Oldaker, who had been heading their respective leadership PACs. Shortly after their announcement, Sen. Blanche Lincoln followed suit, removing Oldaker as her PACs treasurer.

It's just one more item to file away in the 'meet the new boss' category -- and one that (as far as I know) has not been touched by any major news outlets.

I suspect that Majority AP will play a significant role in holding the feet of the new leadership to the fire.