Hillary Bashing by the Right: Crafty, Cruel, And Commoditized

The Supreme Court’s game-changing Citizens United decision grew out of the Hillary-bashing industry.

One of the big-time winners of Tuesday night’s Democratic Party debate has to be the Hate Hillary Industry; an area of commerce that has been around for decades cranking out books, videos, political advertisements, tweets, Facebook posts, and raking in oodles of money. In the next few months, In the coming weeks and months, the Republican Party, shadowy Super PACS, and assorted dark money outfits will make the Benghazi hearings and Hillary’s e-mail controversy look like a tea party on a summer afternoon.

Hillary Bashing, which started out as a small-time cottage industry has developed into a political/entrepreneurial trend. 

Although a political figure for most of her adult life, the rise of Hillary Clinton as her own political entity led seamlessly to the rise of a gaggle of media savvy veterans, public relations and advertising gurus, partisan pollsters, and run-of-the-mill ideologues, ready to both take her down, and enjoy the financial fruits of their labor. 

In early 2000, The Washington, DC-based National Conservative Campaign Fund issued a Special Report titled "Campaign Strategy to Stop Hillary Clinton," aimed at driving up her negatives, establishing a "Defeat Hillary Clinton" Web site, and running a protracted anti-Hillary media campaign. (Fifteen years later, Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy would inadvertently admit that the continuation of the Benghazi Committee was also aimed at driving up Hillary’s negatives.)

In April 2000, the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, DC-based right wing think tank, hosted a conference called "The Legacy and Future of Hillary Rodham Clinton." Co-sponsored by David Horowitz's Los Angeles-based Center for the Study of Popular Culture, the event, wrote journalist David Corn, "tilted toward the Hillary-sucks side." Later the same year, Morton Blackwell, who founded the profoundly conservative organization The Leadership Institute in 1979, established a group called the Emergency Committee to Stop Hillary Rodham Clinton. 

Five years later, Arthur Finkelstein’s Stop Her Now operation commanded media attention. Finkelstein, a master of the political attack ad who played a key role in George Pataki's defeat of New York State’s Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1994, set up a website aimed at cutting Hillary off at the pass and raising millions of dollars. Finkelstein also intended Stop Her Now to be a gathering place for conservative activists working against Hillary. Finkelstein’s thinking: Defeat her Senatorial re-election and end her White House possibilities.

"Stop Her Now" was eventually turned over to Republican Party political activist and businessman Richard H. Collins. Collins, a contributor to Rudy Giuliani's failed attempt to win the Republican Party's 2008 presidential nomination, and tried a different tack. His website, rechristened "Stop Her Now: Rescuing America from the radical ideas of Hillary Clinton," limited the vitriol, using humor and satire to expose the "real truth about Hillary Clinton." The site had a daily blog and featured 'The Hillary Show,' a weekly video lampooning the candidate and her Democratic Party colleagues.

2007-2008 was a pivotal time for Hillary Clinton bashers. It was obvious to conservatives that she would sail through the Democratic Party’s primaries and win the nomination. All sorts of preparations were thwarted by Senator Barack Obama’s meteoric rise and historic ride to the nomination, and ultimately the White House. What appeared to be a season of doom and gloom for conservatives, particularly Citizens United’s David Bossie -- who knew he had “the goods” on Hillary -- turned into the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling in 2010. The controversial Bossie played a key role in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed unlimited spending on election campaigns by corporations, unions and nonprofit organizations.

Here’s a brief Citizens United summary: Hillary: The Movie was produced by Bossie, based on his book Hillary: The Politics of Personal Destruction. The film contained interviews "with experts, opinion makers, and many of the people who personally locked horns with the Clintons." Those "experts" described Hillary as someone "steeped in sleaze" and who represented a "fundamental danger" to "every value that we hold dear." The film included a who's who of conservative commentators; Dick Morris, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, Tony Blankley, Dick Armey, Bay Buchanan, Mark Levin, Frank Gaffney, Gary Aldrich, Dan Burton, Michael Medved, Kate O'Beirne, and Larry Kudlow.

Bossie’s Citizens United intended to promote the movie with short targeted advertisements. A court ruled that the advertising for the film violated existing campaign laws about "electioneering" within 30 days of a primary. Having lost a similar case in 2004, over ads for Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, Bossie recast his organization as a legitimate filmmaking operation and so, when a lower court ruled against him, he was ready with the argument that eventually convinced Justice Anthony Kennedy and four of his brethren.

Ironically, "[Hillary] Clinton may become ... [Citizens United's] beneficiary-in-chief, poised to cash in like no other political candidate has before," Dave Levinthal wrote in a piece last year titled "Hillary Clinton: the 'Citizen United' candidate," posted at the website of The Center for Public Integrity.

On the Today show of January 27, 1998, Hillary Clinton suggested that there was a “vast right-wing conspiracy” that had been attacking against her husband for years. Although her coining of the term was treated as a gaffe, it proved to be an accurate description of what was happening then, and what was yet to come, particularly as it has manifested itself during President Barack Obama’s presidency. These days however, while it’s less of a conspiracy and more like politics as usual, thanks to the Citizens United decision, it will be next to impossible to find out which millionaires/billionaires are funding the attacks on Hillary.

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