Democratic Party Chief Blasts Undisclosed Outside Spending

BY Beth Summers  October 14, 2010 at 3:31 PM EST

Tim Kaine

Nineteen days before voters head to the polls for the 2010 midterm elections, the head of the Democratic National Committee is cautiously upbeat about his party’s chances for success. But that won’t halt his plans to keep hammering Republicans for what he claims is their use of “secrecy as a marketing tool.”

Speaking to reporters in Washington, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine acknowledged that midterm elections are typically unkind to the party in power. “We’re running into a headwind, running uphill,” he said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

“But,” he continued optimistically, “as I’m driving around the country, I’ve been in 40-plus states as DNC chair now, and I believe there’s a strong uptick in energy on the Democratic side. We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and Election Day, but we’re seeing generic polls, both in terms of congressional ballots and enthusiasm polls, in Democrats’ favor.”

The former Virginia governor touted a new feature on the DNC web site, where viewers can type in their zip code and see “the real effects of the steps President Obama and Democrats have taken to rebuild our economy” in their own congressional district.

Brushing aside concerns over the impact of the Tea Party movement, Kaine attempted to turn the conservative energy that dominated many Republican primaries this year into a positive for his party. He ticked off races in Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada and Alaska as examples where Democrats facing opponents with Tea Party support are faring better than they might have otherwise. “We are going to win seats we would have lost six months ago because of the Tea Party,” Kaine said.

Kaine faced several questions about the recent focus by Democrats on undisclosed campaign contributions as a salient political strategy. When asked if it was fair to say the public wasn’t focused on third-party expenditures right now, Kaine disagreed. “I think this a big story,” he said, citing a recent Bloomberg poll that found 47 percent of likely voters were less likely to support a candidate whose campaign ran ads funded by anonymous business groups. (Forty-one percent said it would not matter.) He said the topic of undisclosed donations resonates with Americans because it “ties in to one of our themes” — the economy.

Chairman Kaine doesn’t expect the attacks on Republican groups like American Crossroads and the Chamber of Commerce to go away anytime soon. Democrats are “very serious about this issue of the Chamber,” he said. President Obama and other Democratic Party leaders have suggested publicly that the group has included foreign money in their campaign donations, a charge that has not been proven and the Chamber of Commerce denies.

“Come on,” Kaine retorted. “Their statement is that they’re keeping the international money separate. Okay, their lobbyist says that. There’s one way to demonstrate that … .We think they ought to disclose who is funding their ads so that the American public can be confident that it isn’t a matter of foreign interest money influencing American elections.”

He was less enthusiastic about West Virginia Gov. and Senate candidate Joe Manchin’s recent television ad. When asked for his thoughts on the ad, which shows Manchin using a piece of climate change legislation as target practice, Kaine admitted, “I’m not wild about it.”

“The part I most don’t like is, you know, the fixing what’s bad about Obamacare. He had two very good Democratic Senators who voted for that bill, and they voted for it because it probably has as much to offer the residents of West Virginia as virtually any other state, if you look at health stats and stuff like that,” he added.

Kaine quickly went on to praise Manchin, calling his fellow Democrat “a great Governor,” and predicting he would go on “to be a fine U.S. Senator.”