Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The DSCC's Glass House

By Nathan L. Gonzales

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fired off an indignant press release Thursday on the heels of a Philadelphia Inquirer story detailing the work history of Christopher Lyon, a opposition researcher for New Jersey Senate nominee Tom Kean, Jr. (R).

Lyon's work experience includes research for the 1988 Willie Horton ad, which effectively demonized Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, and some anonymous mailings in a 2000 New Hampshire gubernatorial race which claimed that the wife of an opponent was involved in a strange sex cult. But Democrats are most upset about Lyon's involvement in an upcoming documentary about Sen. Bob Menendez's (D) political past.

"It's ironic that the Party that is supposedly good on values is so quick to violate the ninth commandment," DSCC spokesman Phil Singer said in the release, "The only way this environment is going to change is by voting for Democrats come November."

While Lyon's reputation and resume is certainly colorful, it is not criminal, and the DSCC is hardly the messenger to preach about standards in campaign research.

Last summer, two DSCC researchers, Lauren Weiner and Katie Barge, illegally obtained Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele's (R) credit report in their effort to dig up information on the future Senate candidate. Weiner used Steele's personal information, including his social security number, to impersonate the candidate, obtained his credit report, and used Barge's DSCC credit card to pay for it. The two staffers resigned soon after the incident.

In March, Weiner pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of fraud in connection with computers, but Barge was never charged. Until Lyon is convicted of a criminal charge, it might be wise for the DSCC to refrain from judging the GOP's research methods.

And even if you don't view the DSCC's rhetoric as hypocritical, you have to question the committee's political strategy. No candidate has lost a race because of a consultant's record. It's a waste of time and energy to take issue with a consultant and only meant to drum up anger within the party faithful. The average voter doesn't have any idea who the consultants are and won't be thinking about them on Election Day.

This item first appeared on Political Wire on July 13, 2006.