Name game


Republican strategists have put a twist on a famous line from Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis in the run-up to next year's elections: Harry Reid must go down, and he must go down hard.

The all-out blitz on the state Democratic Party's quarterback is being led locally by longtime conservative activist Chuck Muth and his Dump Reid Political Action Committee. Mr. Muth's PAC isn't concerned with who might win June's crowded Republican primary and the right to take on Sen. Reid next November. Mr. Muth wants to spend millions of dollars delivering one resonant message: voters should sack the Senate majority leader.

It's a goal that already has the support of conservatives from coast to coast.

Not so fast, say the Democrats. Nevada Democratic Party Chairman Sam Lieberman has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging violations by Mr. Muth's PAC. The complaint says Mr. Muth isn't allowed to use Sen. Reid's name in his PAC title.

"The Federal Election Commission and the public need to be made aware of this inability or unwillingness to adhere to the fundamental laws governing PAC names and disclaimers," Mr. Lieberman said.

Talk about an incumbent protection racket. The rule prohibiting the use of names in PACs is in place specifically to shelter vulnerable lawmakers such as Sen. Reid from free expression that attempts to shine some light on their shortcomings. It flies in the face of the First Amendment and is woefully trivial.

"Campaign finance law ... is incredibly Byzantine," said Rob Kelner, chairman of the election law group at the Washington, D.C.-based firm of Covington and Burling. "It is very easy for, particularly new groups, to make mistakes as they are starting out, and it happens all the time."

Mr. Muth didn't take the complaint nearly as lightly. "Make no mistake," he said, "this is the majority leader of the United States Senate trying to shut down political speech by American citizens."

What Sen. Reid lacks in personality and likability he more than makes up for in his mastery of rules and procedures. He'll employ every trick possible to divert Mr. Muth and others from attacking his listing leadership.

But the fact that Sen. Reid and his minions would harass Mr. Muth over the name of a political action committee shows just how seriously the most powerful man in the Senate is taking his shrinking poll numbers.

 

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