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An organization best known for producing spreadsheets on lobbying and campaign expenditures and a Grammy-award winning pop artist with a constant political itch are making a strange-bedfellows pact to motivate voters before the election.
On Monday, Campaign Money Watch, a project of the Public Campaign Action Fund, is launching an aggressive campaign attempting to get both young and minority voters to the polls. It’s doing it with a bit of star power and sophistication usually reserved for a high-profile congressional candidate.
In addition to spending $750,000 on media advertising over the next week, Campaign Money Watch will be soliciting the services of Wyclef Jean to help promote the message. Jean, who is coming off a failed bid for the presidency of Haiti, will debut a song called “Election Time” for the campaign’s website: “They Win. U Lose.” And in announcing his participation in the late-campaign effort, he drew analogies between U.S. and Haitian politics that would strike some as, perhaps, a tad alarmist.
“After a month of campaigning for president of Haiti and the first six months after the earthquake helping the country start rebuilding, I sat back and looked around,” Jean said in a statement announcing the campaign. “What I saw and felt in the U.S., my second home country, with all the haters and money craziness in the campaigns, it almost puts the chaos of Haitian politics to shame, you know? It’s about making your voice heard. That’s what’s important, and I know that better than ever, so I want to reach the young people to remind them [of that].”
The underlying message — one that Campaign Money Watch makes regularly — is that corporate and special interest money is suffocating the political process. And while young voters tend to be more motivated than most by these concerns, the addition of a pop culture element is meant to give the campaign more prominence. In addition to Jean’s song there will also be “a celebrity media tour and tweetathon in the last 48 hours before the election,” organizers say.
Campaign Money Watch will target six states, all of them featuring tight Senate and House races — Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The $750,000 it is spending represents a hefty sum (though peanuts when compared to the checks written by third party groups and unions) and underscores the extent to which they and Democrats have come to view the 2010 elections as a litmus test for the political potency of the good government agenda.
“Americans believe that big-business dollars have too much influence on our elections, but we also must remember that a vote is a powerful weapon in combating the power of this special-interest money,” said David Donnelly, director of Campaign Money Watch. “Traditionally, midterm elections suffer from low participation, but this year voters need to understand that apathy and complacency are not an option, because more than seats are at stake–the change that the country committed to in 2008, and President Obama’s presidency, is in jeopardy. Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or Independent, choosing not to vote means letting the corporate interests win. And in this election, there are very clear choices between candidates who will fight for change and those who will hand Congress over to the special interests.”