Morris: Clintons replacing Democratic Party

With Howard Dean on rise they fear losing control of purse strings


Posted: November 25, 2003

5:00 p.m. Eastern

© 2003

Fearing Howard Dean is poised to capture the Democratic presidential nomination, Bill and Hillary Clinton are maneuvering to replace the party with a new group called "Americans Coming Together," claims former adviser Dick Morris in a New York Post column.

The group – launched with two $10 million donations from financier George Soros and Peter B. Lewis, chairman of the Progressive Corporation – is one-third of the way toward its goal of raising $94 million to finance a massive campaign against Bush, says Morris, who was President Clinton's chief political strategist during the 1996 campaign.

Hillary Clinton's connection to Americans Coming Together, despite campaign-finance laws, is "paper-thin," said Morris, with Harold Ickes, President Clinton's former deputy chief of staff, working closely with Soros to fund it.

"Ickes is about as independent of Hillary as Bill is," he said. "He is her chief adviser. His photo graces her memoirs. He was her key operative in securing the Senate seat in New York. To pretend that anything he would do is independent of Hillary is like saying that the left hand is independent of the right hand."

Morris believes the Clintons' move to circumvent the Democratic Party is to provide a "lifeboat" for the likelihood that when Dean takes the prize, he will fire their close associate, Terry McAuliffe, and take control of the Democratic National Committee.

"Dean seems destined to win the nomination and with it control of the party," Morris said. "So the Clintons are moving out."

Morris said when that happens, "no longer will its coffers be available to the Clintons to use as their private fund, channeling donations to candidates and causes they favor or that favor them."

So, before the handover, he said, "they are working on stripping the Democratic Party of its central role and giving it to the more pliant Americans Working Together, instead."

The Clintons' attempts to sidetrack Dean have failed, with Wesley Clark's campaign collapsing and John Kerry's campaign staff quitting, Morris said.

He notes the Democratic Party, limited to donations of $2,000 per person by the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, has been unable to raise enough hard money for a national campaign.

That means it essentially is ceding its main role to Americans Coming Together, Morris said.

Republicans are raising twice as much as Democrats are in hard money, $158 million to $66.5 million for the Democrats.

Americans Coming Together supposedly is an independent campaign committee, as required by law. But Morris contends Ickes has not honored the boundaries between supposedly independent expenditures and political campaigns required by the Federal Elections Commission.

"I almost fell through the floor of the White House early in 1996 when I attended a meeting chaired by Ickes of representatives of the political action committees of major American labor unions," he said. "Gathered in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, they each recounted their plans for 'independent expenditures' against the Republicans in the coming election campaign. The meeting, quite illegal in many ways, represented exactly the kind of co-ordination forbidden by the campaign-finance laws."