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Commentary

Someone left a document behind at a resort in Boca Grande, Fla. It was a hard copy of a PowerPoint presentation from a fundraising seminar conducted Feb. 18 by the National Republican Committee’s finance director.

Already you sense trouble — or fun, depending on your point of view.

This material wound up in the hands of a Democrat who got it into the hands of Politico.com, the leading online national political news site. Politico went up with an exclusive article last week.

According to Politico, the RNC finance director says in this presentation that, when a party has no White House occupancy or congressional majority for fundraising leverage, it must raise money by fear and ego-stroking.

It says small donors can be “reactionary” and can be persuaded by fear — of supposed socialism and, more personally, of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, all of whom are spoofed as cartoon characters in the document.

Obama is presented as the Joker in the Batman series. Pelosi is Cruella DeVille. Reid is Scooby Doo.

The document says high-dollar donors can be brought around less by fear and more by appeals to their ego and through peer pressure. Some might feel a patriotic duty, the document acknowledges.

“What can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House or the Senate?” Politico quotes the PowerPoint presentation as asking, then answering: “Save the country from trending toward socialism.”

All of this puts the “FUN” back in “FUNdraising,” the presentation declares.

Told by Politico of the public surfacing of this material, the Republican National Committee essentially confirmed it, though with no evident fun, but mostly alarm.

It said the chairman, Michael Steele, had not attended this particular workshop and had nothing to do with it and disavowed any and all of its themes. The NRC said fundraising strategies get brainstormed all the time in politics, as in all types of marketing, and that no greater meaning should be read into anything. It said the personal ridicule was inappropriate.

Surely I need not make the obvious point that the cynicism takes your breath, or should.

The very premise of this GOP material is that you can sell the presidency or Congress if you have it to sell.

Failing that, you invoke no idea, no policy, no record of dutiful service and no promise thereof. Instead you raise incendiary fears and personally caricature the leaders of the other side. You insult the intelligence and sophistication of those whose pockets you hope to pick.

The Republicans will say fundraising always looks unattractive, like the sausage-making of legislating. They will say the Democrats are no better.

Never mind that those are the banal defenses of the child’s playground, reflecting the common cry of “they did it, too.” Never mind that we can never get better if we all excuse ourselves by the behavior of those we profess to disdain.

It’s true that both parties look for bugbears on the other side to stoke fears for fundraising. It’s true that fear is the most powerful motivator in our deeply polarized political society.

But at least the Democrats could say they’d tried lately to stimulate the economy, reform health care and modernize energy policy.

Republicans are hamstrung in those areas on account of their having done nothing since January 2009 other than say no.

So, failing the revelation of a similarly cynical document produced by Democrats, and since somebody needs to rise above the partisan yin and yang to make an obvious judgment once in a while, we must assume at this point that the Republicans actually are worse.

Or at least more careless with their sensitive materials.

John Brummett is an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock and author of “High Wire,” a book about Bill Clinton’s first year as president. His e-mail address is jbrummett@ arkansasnews.com.

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