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16 September 2008
Obama unleashes the 527 groups
Barack Obama thought that he had an implicit deal with John McCain whereby both teams would reign in their 527 groups to ensure a clean election, and on that basis he told his people not to form or contribute to any such group. That was another of his big mistakes which he is trying to recover from, and the word has now gone out that Democrat 527 groups can start appealing for funds and then mount their campaigns. The problem is, has Obama left it too late?

A 527 group is named after a section of the American tax code which allows for tax exemption status for political advocacy groups that are not directly connected to a political party. A 527 group cannot support a particular candidate, but what it can do is support an issue. Although the Democrats have more 527 groups supporting their causes, it is the Republicans who are famous for the effectiveness of their groups, such as the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth who helped to demolish John Kerry's candidacy in 2004.

What may have changed Obama's mind is the decision of a 527 group called the Clarion Fund to distribute 28 million copies of a terror scare DVD called Obsession. The Clarion Fund involves the usual gang of right wing nutters such as Daniel Pipes and is tied in to a second organisation called WatchObsession.org which is also helping with the distribution of the DVDs. They take the view that there is a quantitative difference between Islamic bombers and those who enjoy blasting abortion clinics. That is on the basis that the "clinic bombers do not want to take over the country, as Muslim terrorists do." It might be argued that the Muslims want to change American foreign policy whereas the Christian based head-the-balls really do want to take over the USA, so they have got that one arse-about, but you can't argue with nutters who want to appeal to knuckle-draggers.

Has Obama been terminally wrong-footed by his mistake not to encourage independent groups to go to bat on his behalf? Raising funds to create videos and other agitprop materials should not be all that difficult, and certainly you would expect the film and television industries to lend their expertise to whatever projects emerge.

The problem is that it takes time for a message to sink in to the popular consciousness, and that leads inexorably to the question, do Obama and his supporters have the time left to create the image that they want of John McCain and the Republicans?

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