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House Democrats over controversial consultant ban

In a nod to liberals, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will no longer banish consultants who work for primary challengers.

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) và other progressives tư vấn the new DCCC chair's decision lớn reverse the ban. | Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

House Democrats’ chiến dịch arm is officially ending its controversial ban on political consultants who work with candidates challenging sitting Democratic incumbents in primaries, clinching a major victory for progressives.

Rep. Sean Patriông xã Maloney (D-N.Y.), the newly installed chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, officially reversed the policy on Tuesday morning. He initially pledged lớn nix it during his campaign for the chair role and finalized it this week.

Though it was in place for fewer than two years, it still stymied some liberal primary challengers and incensed the left, which celebrated its over.

“It"s an enormous win," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said in a recent interview, before Maloney"s decision was formally announced, noting the move sầu would open "a door for our tiệc ngọt lớn leverage strength from all parts of it.”

“The escalation và aggression against the progressive wing of the tiệc ngọt with an explicit forward-facing "blacklist" created a lot of dissuasion against candidates even considering grassroots organizing firms," she said.

Enacted in 2019, the new policy forbade the committee from contracting with or recommending khổng lồ any House campaign a consultant or firm who worked to lớn primary a sitting Democratic incumbent. It spurred an unexpectedly svào backlash — but was popular with members who are more prone to lớn primary challenges and don’t want their các buổi party apparatus, lớn which they pay dues, to enable their opponents.

The ban had long been an informal practice at the DCCC, but codifying it sent progressives into lớn a tailspin. Coming just months after Ocasio-Cortez felled a thành viên of Democratic leadership in 2018, the groups that propelled her to lớn Congress claimed it was an establishment attempt khổng lồ blunt their movement.

“We have sầu primaries to lớn make sure we have the best and the brighchạy thử in every các buổi party," said Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.), who successfully ousted a Democratic incumbent last year even after the new policy forced several of her consultants khổng lồ quit suddenly. “So primaries should be unencumbered by outside forces.”

Maloney reversed a policy created by his predecessor, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), in a somewhat tacit acknowledgment that it had backfired. It created enmity within the conference & a fierce clash with members of the Congressional Progressive sầu Caucus, including Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the then-co-chairs. Ocasio-Cortez, a powerful force ahy vọng the party"s liberal wing, was so outraged that she declined khổng lồ pay any dues to the committee và instead donated directly to candidates.

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The rule was seen as an overture by Bustos khổng lồ two key constituencies in the Democratic party: moderates who helped win the majority & feared challenges from the left; and the congressional Black & Hispanic caucuses, which have both seen an influx in primary challengers in recent cycles.

The CBC, in particular, made a show of banding together to lớn block the left from ousting one of their own: Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), who faced a challenger backed by a coalition of progressive groups, including the Justice Democrats. Beatty won, but now-former Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), a CBC member whose family has held his St. Louis district for decades, lost khổng lồ now-Rep. Cori Bush, a Blachồng Lives Matter activist also backed by those groups.

Not everyone lauded Maloney"s decision.

“I think that’s inappropriate,” said Democratic Rep. Jyên ổn Costa, a member of the fiscally conservative sầu Blue Dog Coalition from Central California, in an interview before the decision was finalized. Costa easily beat a progressive challenger in 2020.

“We’re supposed to be a team,” he said in an interview last week, adding that members shouldn’t help primary other members. “It"s the same principle as far as I"m concerned. We’re either a team, or we’re not.”

Still, DCCC remains a powerful gatekeeper và retains a significant amount of leverage. Even without an explicit rule in place, it can still choose lớn which vendors it doles out millions of dollars of TV and polling contracts for its independent expenditure arm. And it will have a large role in steering top challenger campaigns toward certain consultants & firms.

"No one should be looking for work around here if they want to go after one of our members at the same time," Maloney told last month. "But I don"t think the blanket ban ever made sense. And we"re gonmãng cầu replace it with a new approach."

During her tenure, Bustos included a question on a khung for firms that wish khổng lồ be on a DCCC-approved vendor list. Consultants had to lớn atkiểm tra that they understand the “DCCC will not conduct business with, nor recommkết thúc to lớn any of its targeted campaigns, any consultant that works with an opponent of a sitting Member of the House Democratic Caucus.”

The 2022 version of that size, which goes live Tuesday morning, will not include such a requirement.

Yet contentious primaries might be unavoidable in the 2022 cycle. Redistricting will almost certainly place members in new territory & make them more vulnerable.

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Primary challenges — and the amount of tư vấn they receive sầu or don’t receive sầu from top firms and strategists — have been a thorny issue inside the caucus for years. Some successful challengers have sầu won with the help of prominent Democratic pollsters or truyền thông consultants, including Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), who ousted incumbent John Tierney in 2014 and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), who beat Mike Capuano in 2018.

Part of progressives" argument against the ban was that it led to lớn less competition and deprived other candidates of more diversity và talent in the ecosystem of groups that work with campaigns.

"It ultimately, I think, works against especially newer vendors, vendors of color, people who might have sầu just come up more in the last decade in the business & who might have been taking more diverse types of clients,” Pocan said in a recent interview. “It"s good for the process to lớn not have some arbitrary rule out there.”

The committee has been able khổng lồ increase the amount it spent with diverse vendors, jumping from $4 million in năm nhâm thìn khổng lồ $28.6 million in 2020, according to lớn DCCC data. A new policy for 2022 also requires approved vendors to attover a diversity, equity & inclusion training offered by the committee.

Despite the ban, liberals still notched important victories. Three Democratic incumbents lost in primaries; two were longtime members who succeeded their fathers in Congress. Clay lost in Missouri, và Newman felled Rep. Dan Lipinski, a Blue Dog Democrat who opposed abortion rights & voted against Obamacare. A third, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the House Foreign Affairs Committee chair, lost khổng lồ now Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a middle-school principal backed by progressives.

And Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas),one of the most conservative sầu Democrats in Congress và a vocal supporter of the blackmenu, came within 3,000 votes of losing to lớn Jessica Cisneros, a 26-year-old attorney backed by Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Some consultants embraced the so-called "blackcác mục," even forming a trang web, dcccblackcác mụ, khổng lồ connect candidates with firms who were not afraid lớn flout the DCCC rules.

“There just aren"t a lot of people who want to lớn bởi vì Democratic consulting that hold the views of Bill Clinton and Bruce Reed anymore,” said Sean McElwee, co-founder of the Data for Progress, a liberal polling outfit. (Reed is a former chair of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and currently serves as a White House nhà trắng aide khổng lồ President Joe Biden.)

McElwee"s firm polled in Bush"s race in Missouri và for Bowman in Thủ đô New York, but said Data for Progress lost a client in Texas, Julie Oliver, who was running against GOP.. Rep. Roger Williams thanks lớn the committee"s new policy. The group polled for Oliver in June before being replaced by a DCCC-approved vendor.

“Treating progressives lượt thích they’re something that must be crushed," he said, "rather than partners who want to lớn build a better tiệc nhỏ that is more durable is not a healthy tactic."

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