ELECTION ’08: Scoring Secretary of State Seats for Dems

ELECTION ’08: Scoring Secretary of State Seats for Dems


By Sarah Laskow, http://www.publicintegrity.org

Plagued by memories of Florida’s Katherine Harris and Ohio’s Ken
Blackwell, a little-known 527 group helped win secretary of state posts
for Democrats in five swing states during the last election cycle. Now
the group has its sights on four more.

The Secretary of State Project, which as a 527 non-profit group can
exert influence on elections, raised more than $500,000 in 2006 to
ensure no right-leaning secretary of state will swing the 2008
presidential election to the GOP, as they did in Florida in 2000 and
Ohio in 2004. So far the group has scored victories in Nevada, New
Mexico, Minnesota, Iowa, and Ohio.

The SoS Project organizers formed the group “to
protect our elections from dirty Republican tricks,” according to the
group’s website. In many states, secretaries of state oversee voter
registration, election rules, voting machines, and recounts.
Positioning allies in these slots became a key strategy and a natural
starting point.

Though disclosure forms do not capture the group’s involvement, the SoS
Project has generated huge financial support for the seven candidates
it supported last election season (the group backed losing candidates
in Colorado and Michigan). While $500,000 might not seem like much
compared to some of the figures being tossed around in national races,
that sort of money makes a huge difference in state races.

For instance, the SoS Project reports giving Jennifer Brunner $167,000
toward her race for Ohio’s secretary of state spot (when she won the
seat being vacated by Blackwell, the Democrats’ nemesis from the 2004
presidential race). That amount puts the group among the campaign’s top
three donors. According to its website, the group also contributed 10
percent of the campaign budget for Mary Herrera, who won the New Mexico
secretary of state race. The remaining money (around $300,000) was
dropped in contests where the largest donors were putting in just
$15,000.

Using ActBlue, an online fundraising tool for left-leaning activists,
the SoS Project raised, on average, $250 per donor. Major funding for
the group itself, however, came from some prominent Democratic
fundraisers.

Analysis of state election data provided no apparent similar nationwide effort being made by Republicans.

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