The House hasn’t voted yet to appoint a select committee to investigate the 2012 attack on an American compound in Benghazi, but mere talk of creating one has sparked a week of political warfare in Washington.
Through their campaign vessels, Democrats are launching a preemptive strike in an attempt to undermine Republicans leading the select committee. Throughout the day on Wednesday and Thursday, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee kept up a steady stream of press releases, tweets and videos painting the Republican-led investigation as a political stunt intended to score political points before the 2014 midterm elections.
“This is a crass partisan [get-out-the-vote] program masquerading as congressional hearings — at the expense of the taxpayer, our national dignity, and (even worse) the memory of those lost,” wrote Mo Elleithee, the communications director for the Democratic National Committee, in a memo on Wednesday.
During a breakfast with reporters earlier on Wednesday, DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz drove home the message.
“I don’t think the motivation could be more clear. They wish to continue to politicize Benghazi,” Wasserman Schultz said. “They need to try to reignite it so they can motivate their base.”
Democrats have seized upon a Republican effort to raise money off the select committee’s efforts by highlighting and condemning a fundraising pitch from the National Republican Congressional Committee posted to the group’s website on Wednesday.
“Fundraising off the Benghazi tragedy is despicable and insulting and has no place in the national conversation,” said DCCC Chairman Rep. Steve Israel in a statement. The condemnation wasn’t part of an explicit fundraising effort, but it was posted on the DCCC website near a button for accepting online donations that read, “CONTRIBUTE NOW.” (The button is a permanent fixture on all DCCC pages.) After Republicans pointed it out, however, the DCCC removed the button.
The DCCC also produced an online video attacking Republican Benghazi-hearing related fundraising efforts, and the DNC on Wednesday popped a Web video criticizing the GOP focus on Benghazi as a midterm messaging stunt, “When in Doubt: #Benghazi.”
South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, the lawmaker tapped to lead the Benghazi investigation, has asked party groups not to fundraise around the committee. But the top two House Republicans, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Speaker John Boehner, declined to take a position on whether the NRCC pitch was appropriate when asked by reporters this week.
Democrats are also zeroing in on Gowdy, who will be the face of the GOP’s Benghazi campaign. Already on Wednesday, the DNC press shop was slipping unfavorable news stories to journalists about Gowdy. One story showed that Gowdy had mentioned Benghazi before supporters at a fundraiser in South Carolina last September; another featured highlighted comments from former acting CIA Director Michael Morell in which he accused Gowdy of being uninformed about the 2012 attacks.
For now, Democrats are showing no signs of letting up.
"As Republicans launch the eighth investigation into what happened, Democrats will continue to call them out for their shameful politicization of this national tragedy," DNC spokesman Michael Czin told Yahoo News.
The efforts to undermine the select committee’s credibility further suggests that Democrats may not participate in the panel. A growing chorus of rank-and-file House Democrats are urging leader Nancy Pelosi not to appoint Democrats to the five available slots on the committee, although she has not yet announced her decision. Democrats plan to hold a caucus-wide meeting Friday morning to discuss their strategy, Roll Call reported.