Joint Victory Campaign 2004
Launched November 5, 2003
Harold McEwan Ickes keeps a low profile. However, as the Shadow Party’s unofficial chief executive, his growing power is obvious to Washington insiders. “[H]e is the most important person in the Democratic Party today,” outside the official Kerry campaign, says Democrat strategist Howard Wolfson.
Like most Shadow Party leaders, Ickes rose from the New Left. A Freedom Rider in the civil rights movement of the early 1960s, Ickes subsequently traveled to the Dominican Republic, where he involved himself in a coup attempt by a junta of leftwing colonels in 1965. He worked on the 1968 Eugene McCarthy campaign and the 1972 George McGovern campaign. Ickes met Bill Clinton in 1972, while both were working on Operation Pursestrings, a grassroots lobbying effort aimed at cutting off aid to South Vietnam. Ickes later spent fourteen years as a partner in the Mineola, Long Island law firm Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, notorious for the long list of violent, mob-run labor unions it has represented.
Ickes left the firm to join the Clinton White House as deputy chief of staff from January 1994 through January 1997. One of his key duties in the White House was suppressing Clinton scandals and defusing federal investigations. “Whenever there was something that [Bill Clinton] thought required ruthlessness or vengeance or sharp elbows and sharp knees or, frankly, skulduggery, he would give it to Harold,” former Clinton advisor Dick Morris told Vanity Fair.
Ickes’ true loyalty is to Hillary, however. The Boston Globe called him “a special favorite of the president's wife.” During his stint at the White House, Ickes headed a secret unit for Hillary, dedicated to suppressing Clinton scandals. It operated, in effect, as a Counsel’s office within the White House Counsel’s office. In his book The Seduction of Hillary Rodham, David Brock refers to Ickes’ special unit as the “Shadow Counsel’s Office.” Its operatives included Mark Fabiani, Chris Lehane, Jane Sherburne and perhaps others. Ickes reported directly to Hillary Clinton on all matters related to the work of this special unit. In time, Ickes would graduate from running Hillary’s Shadow Counsel’s Office to running an entire Shadow Party.
Hillary recruited Ickes as chief campaign advisor for her 2000 Senate run. According to Ickes, he accepted the job after a four-hour meeting with Hillary on February 12, 1999 -- the same day that the U.S. Senate voted on Bill Clinton's impeachment. “I’m really doing this out of my friendship for Hillary, pure and simple,” Ickes told the Associated Press on June 17, 1999. “She called and there was no way I was going to say no to Hillary.”
Harold Ickes formed the Joint Victory Campaign 2004 on November 5, 2003 – the same day that he also formed The Media Fund (see below). JVC 2004 is the chief fundraising entity for the Democrat Shadow Party. A 527 committee, it is run jointly by America Coming Together (ACT) and The Media Fund (TMF). JVC collects contributions for these two groups and divides the money between them, whence the funds are disbursed further down the line, as needed. In 2004 alone, JVC has channeled more than $53 million into the Shadow Party network – $38.4 million to The Media Fund (TMF) and $19.4 million to American Coming Together (ACT).
Since it is little more than a money conduit, JVC has attracted less press attention than its sister organizations ACT and the Media Fund. However, JVC did surface briefly in a February 5, 2004 Washington Post editorial questioning the shadowy nature of its financial transactions. The editorial noted that a mysterious 527 committee calling itself the Sustainable World Corporation had suddenly sprung into existence in Houston, Texas on December 10, 2003. Seven days later, it donated $3.1 million to Joint Victory Campaign 2004, which then divided the money between ACT and the Media Fund. The Washington Post attempted to discover the source of the $3.1 million donation, but hit a brick wall. The editorial notes:
“Sustainable World Corp. lists only a post office box in Houston as its address. Directory assistance has no number for it. Searches of ordinary business databases come up empty. We tracked down Lewis Linn, the Houston accountant who is listed as its registered agent, and asked him about Sustainable World; he said he was bound by professional constraints to keep information about it confidential. Asked if he would check to see whether those behind Sustainable World would let him reveal their identity, Mr. Linn called back to say, `I've talked to my clients, and they wish to remain private.’”
When the Post called Harold Ickes, it was lucky enough to catch him in a candid and forthcoming mood – which is not his usual posture toward the press. Though under no legal obligation to answer the Post’s question, Ickes generously explained that Houston investor Linda Pritzker of the Chicago Hyatt hotel family was the mystery benefactor behind Sustainable World Corporation. “It's nice that Mr. Ickes answered. But a system that permits these kinds of huge donations to be made under a cloak of anonymity is deeply troubling,” commented the Post. Janice Ann Enright – Ickes’ partner in the Washington lobbying firm The Ickes and Enright Group – also happens to act as Treasurer for the Joint Victory Campaign 2004.
The Media Fund
Launched November 5, 2003
While Malcolm, Glantz and Rosenthal were cobbling together the coalition of labor unions, pro-abortion activists and environmentalists that would later emerge as America Votes, Ickes sought to organize what he informally called a “presidential media fund” or sometimes just “a media fund” – a 527 committee that would raise money for campaign advertising. Unable to think of a catchy moniker for his “media fund,” Ickes finally just settled on The Media Fund, launching it under that name on November 5, 2003.
The Media Fund (TMF) functions as an in-house advertising agency for the Shadow Party. TMF conceptualizes, produces and places political ads on television, radio, print and the Internet. “The Media Fund is the largest media buying organization supporting a progressive message,” says its Web site. Ickes explained to New York Magazine in a June 28, 2004 interview. “The goal of the Media Fund is to create, test, and then air ads that raise issues that we think are important in this election. … [However,] we are not in the business of electing or defeating candidates.” Ickes had to add that last sentence for legal purposes. Such paper-thin disclaimers form the Shadow Party’s only bulwark against federal prosecution under the McCain-Feingold Act. Ickes’denial notwithstanding, electing and defeating candidates is of course The Media Fund’s sole purpose.
TMF – whose president is Erik Smith – has been extremely active in creating and airing attack ads against President Bush in battleground states. Drawing on top talent from Madison Avenue advertising firms, The Media Fund seeks to convince Americans that President Bush pursues what its Web site calls a “radical agenda” which has “given us a country less secure, a foreign policy in disarray, record job losses, deficits that mortgage our children's future, environmental policies that abandon common sense and attacks on civil liberties that undermine the very premise of our democracy.”
The Media Fund has received over $51.6 million in donations since its launch. Much of the money is hard to trace, however, since it was first laundered through Joint Victory Campaign 2004. Soros money has doubtless found its way into the mix. Soros has poured millions into Joint Victory Campaign 2004, as have close Soros associates Peter B. Lewis and Stephen Bing.
The Thunder Road Group
Launched early 2004
Launched in early 2004, The Thunder Road Group was the last of the Seven Sisters to appear, but arguably the most vital of the lot. The Boston Globe called Thunder Road the “nerve center” of the Shadow Party – its unofficial headquarters. “[The Thunder Road Group] is an operation unlike any other in politics, devising strategy, message, and public relations services for the 527s,” writes Brian C. Mooney of The Globe.
A soup-to-nuts political consultancy, Thunder Road combines the roles of strategic planning, polling, opposition research (dirt-digging), covert operations (dirty tricks) and public relations. It coordinates strategy for The Media Fund, America Coming Together and America Votes. Its founder Jim Jordan is frequently quoted in the press as a spokesman for other Seven Sister groups.
Jordan is an attorney long active in Washington as a Democrat spin doctor. Among other high-profile assignments, Jordan handled press relations for the Senate committee investigating DNC fundraising in 1997 and for the House Judiciary Committee during the Clinton impeachment. Riding the whirlwind of Clinton-era scandals charged Jordan with a zest for what he calls “intense political, hand-to-hand combat.”
Jordan attained his highest public profile when he served for nearly a year as John Kerry’s campaign manager, from December 2002 to November 2003. But, as Kerry’s poll numbers sank, so did Jordan’s power in the campaign. Kerry fired Jordan suddenly on the night of November 9, accepting resignations the following day from other top staffers loyal to Jordan. It was a full-fledged purge. As Jordan’s team left, Kennedy loyalists moved in. Mary Beth Cahill, Stephanie Cutter, Bob Shrum and other well-known operatives of Senator Ted Kennedy quickly siezed control of the campaign. New York Times pundit William Safire credits Jeanne Shaheen, national chairwoman of Kerry’s campaign, with masterminding the putsch. On November 12, 2003, Safire wrote:
“The Kennedyization of the Kerry campaign was carried out by Jeanne Shaheen, the former New Hampshire governor. She prevailed on the candidate to fire his longtime manager, Jim Jordan, and replace him with Mary Beth Cahill, Ted Kennedy’s chief of staff. Cahill has impeccable far-left credentials, from Emily’s List fund-raising to Representative Barney Frank’s staff. She is an ideological soulmate of the superb writer and Kennedy Boston braintruster Robert Shrum…”
Jordan did not remain long out of work. Less than a month passed before Harold Ickes and Ellen R. Malcolm recruited Jordan to handle publicity and strategy for the Shadow Party – in particular, for The Media Fund, ACT and America Votes. In order to handle the growing volume of work pouring in from his newfound friends, Jordan launched his own company in early 2004. He named it Thunder Road after a Bruce Springsteen song whose lyrics declare, “It's a town full of losers, and I'm pulling out of here to win.”
A July 27, 2004 article in The Hill reports that Jordan had collected about $1.7 million in consulting fees and was drawing an $85,000 salary at that time. But what exactly was Jordan doing for that money? He is no mere press secretary. Jordan freely acknowledges that his group engages in “opposition research” – the favored euphemism for dirt-digging among political strategists. Some reports indicate that Jordan’s covert operations go beyond the garden variety of Washington smear-mongering. For instance, the American Spectator reported on April 9, 2004 that Jordan may have helped stage-manage the media circus that disrupted the work of the 9-11 Commission, nearly bringing the investigation to a standstill.
Even before Condoleeza Rice made her opening statement to the Commission, Thunder Road operatives began bombarding reporters with e-mails attempting to discredit her. The e-mails continued for three hours straight, while Rice testified. More seriously, the American Spectator reports that a staffer for America Coming Together said, “We’d heard that [former National Counterterrorism Coordinator Richard] Clarke had some help with writing his testimony and in prepping for the questioning. … The rumor is that he ended up getting some help from Kerry’s people, but indirectly through Thunder Road.”
Richard Clarke’s testimony to the Commission later turned out to be rife with contradictions and misinformation, as the Commission’s final report makes clear. If indeed the Thunder Road Group helped prepare that testimony, then it helped obstruct an investigation of grave importance to America’s national security.
Since Jordan’s firing, a new shake-up at Kerry headquarters appears to have put Clinton operatives back in the driver’s seat. Mike McCurry, Joe Lockhart, James Carville, Paul Begala, and other Clinton loyalists now seem to be calling the shots at Team Kerry. What this portends for the Shadow Party is hard to discern. Some commentators have questioned whether Kerry’s new handlers necessarily have the Massachusetts senator’s best interests at heart. Given the Shadow Party’s evident commitment to running Hillary for president – quite possibly in 2008 – a Kerry administration would only get in the way. Certainly, the Shadow Party has a wide range of options at its disposal for subtly undermining Kerry, even while pretending to help him. Only time will tell whether it chooses to exercise those options.
To read Part I click here
Richard Poe’s latest book is Hillary’s Secret War: The Clinton Conspiracy to Muzzle Internet Journalists (WND Books 2004).