Democrats Plan Campaign Finance Alternatives

The midterm elections are only about six months away, and with the administration's strong approval ratings, Democrats and their supporters are looking for ways to gain ground at the polls.

But the new campaign finance reform law has made grassroots outreach more complicated and has some left-leaning groups scrambling as never before.

Fox News has learned that dozens of election-year demonstrations criticizing Republicans and the president for ties to fallen energy giant Enron Corp. have been coordinated by a little-known group called the Progressive Donor Network.

Documents show the network held a private conference in Washington earlier this month to discuss ways of raising and spending money when new campaign finance laws kick in after election day.

Some of the most powerful Democratic-leaning special interests attended, including the National Abortion Rights Action League, People for the American Way, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, environmental groups, labor groups, and others.

"There are already practitioners who are figuring out the new strategies," said Larry Noble, executive director and general counsel at the Center for Responsive Politics.

Noble said it was inevitable that once national political parties were banned from receiving unregulated soft money, the cash would simply be funneled through special interests.

"The concern was that it would go to these third-party issue groups that would use the money in some way to mirror what the parties are doing or to shadow what the parties are doing so they would be indirectly influencing federal elections," he said.

Progressive Donor Network documents suggest they will raise and spend on "targeted TV, radio, phones, mail" using a "network of allied organizations."

"What this is an attempt for the like-minded organizations to work together, much as Republicans have done," said Joe Andrew, former national chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

So far, Republicans do not have official outside organizations designated to coordinate efforts among their friendly special interests. They may, however, develop them in light of the Progressive Donor Network's activities and its potential successes.