The Center for American Progress, the new liberal think tank started by former White House chief of staff John Podesta, is ratcheting up its campaign against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, producing anti-DeLay ads and using the DeLay case in its fundraising appeals.
The Center, which bills itself as a “nonpartisan research and educational institute,” has launched a campaign which it calls “Drop the Hammer.” On Thursday morning it sent an e-mail to supporters asking them to “help keep the pressure on Tom DeLay.”
The “Drop the Hammer” campaign is designed to target corporations which have contributed to DeLay. “Corporate America shouldn’t use your consumer dollars to support Tom DeLay’s unethical behavior,” the e-mail says. The Center has specifically targeted American Airlines, Baccardi, Nissan, RJ Reynolds, and Verizon for their contributions to DeLay’s defense.
The Center has created a website, dropthehammer.org, to coordinate the effort. It has also produced new radio ads denouncing DeLay and is asking supporters to contribute to the effort. “They call Tom DeLay the hammer, because he stops at nothing to get what he wants,” one of the ads says. “Tell these companies to drop the hammer.” Another ad compares DeLay and his organization to the TV crime family in The Sopranos.
The Center for American Progress is made up of two components. One, the Center itself, is a so-called 501(c)(3) organization, a fully tax-exempt charitable organization. Contributions to the Center are tax-deductible. The other part of the Center is the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) organization, which is also tax exempt but which cannot receive tax-deductible contributions. It is allowed to engage in lobbying, but not openly partisan campaigning.
The anti-DeLay appeal is being run by the Action Fund. “Help us keep the heat on,” the Center e-mail says in asking supporters to contribute. “Help us get these ads on the air.” On dropthehammer.org, a message says, “Your support will allow us to fight Tom DeLay’s abuse of power and help us promote progressive ideas through rapid response communications…”
The Center’s campaign has received a few notices in the press, but has not been mentioned in either the New York Times or the Washington Post. The Post has reported on an effort by conservative groups, among them the Heritage Foundation to support DeLay. But Mike Franc, head of government relations for the Heritage Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) organization, told National Review Online that Heritage has not produced any ads — radio, television, or print — relating to the DeLay matter. Franc said that Heritage has also not launched an Internet campaign on the DeLay issue, nor has it used the DeLay case in fundraising appeals. “It’s not as if we have a war room set up,” Franc said. On the other hand, he added, Heritage has invited DeLay to speak at one of its events (DeLay has not yet responded), and Heritage president Ed Feulner has publicly defended DeLay.
“The big picture is that we’re recognizing that on more than 90 percent of the issues, we’re in firm agreement with Tom DeLay and appreciate what he’s done over his career,” Franc said.
Meanwhile, the Center for American Progress is promising to put still more pressure on DeLay, saying it is “deeply committed to restoring ethics in government.”
–Byron York, NR’s White House correspondent, is the author of the new book The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President–and Why They’ll Try Even Harder Next Time.