DMV Daily: Is Stewart's Rally Losing Its Sanity?

Liberal groups co-opting moderate event

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    NEWSLETTERS

    As everyone knows by now, Jon Stewart is in town for his “Rally to Restore Sanity” on Halloween Eve. The agenda remains a secret, but all sorts of groups are glomming on to Stewart’s star power to promote their causes.

    It’s a shame -- while Stewart (and the real-life Stephen Colbert) are liberals, Stewart has long pushed for genuine discourse between left, right, and center, and the co-opting of his event by progressives undermines his theme.

    There’s been a lot of chatter about who Stewart has become. The guy who had that awful haircut in “Death to Smoochy” turned “The Daily Show” from a hit-and-miss collection of broad humor to television’s most stinging satire this side of the Smothers Brothers.

    While Stewart is political, he is more interested in deconstructing (and demolishing) today’s rapid-fire, surface-level media. He’s not another Al Franken. He’s more like an earlier TV comedian, Steve Allen, who started out doing intelligent humor but later evolved into a serious social critic.

    But for better or worse, this weekend’s rally will lean to the left, if only because that’s who’s gonna show up. Fans of the Huffington Post will be out in force, and groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Media Matters will also be there. (The latter is using the event to push an anti-Fox News campaign.)

    Locals are getting in on the action as well. Washington City Paper reports that GovLoop, “a social network of over 30,000 government employees,” will hold a “Government Doesn’t Suck!” rally a few hours before the main event. And with some media outlets warning reporters against making too public a show of it at the rallies, City Paper’s editor issued his own memo: “You may attend the rallies in a non-participatory fashion. However, because the rallies are comic events, you may not laugh. The act of not laughing, though, can be just as politically loaded as the act of laughing. Therefore, staffers are advised to politely chuckle, in a non-genuine manner, after each joke.”

    The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis reports At-Large D.C. Councilmember David Catania -- up for re-election three days after the rally -- is “is hosting a ‘Sign-Making Open House’ on Friday evening at his Dupont Circle headquarters, complete with ‘refreshments and sign-making materials so that you can state your thesis in the most intelligible way possible.’”

    Elsewhere in the DMV:

    * Speaking of signs, the unstoppable Write Fenty In campaign will be the subject of an Office of Campaign Finance hearing today to probe complaints from Democrats that signs from Fenty’s primary campaign are being illegally reused by the campaign. Vincent Gray supporters “say that under campaign finance laws, the write-in group should have to purchase its own signs,” the Post reports.  There’s also a Federal Election Commission complaint against Republican delegate candidate Missy Reilly Smith over her campaign signs, which do not contain the required line about who paid for them.

    * Gray hosted yet another town hall last night, this time in Ward 4. The ward was where Fenty got his start, but Gray won it easily in September. It’s also expected to see a fierce Council race two years from now. Asked about that at the event, Gray sidestepped, but incumbent Muriel Bowser, Fenty’s biggest Council backer during the primary, publicly reasserted her new support for Gray. The rest of the event was a rehash of Gray’s old standards from the rest of his tour: education reform will continue, he’d go to jail for statehood, taxes will only be raised as a last resort. (Former rival Leo Alexander, who also attended, says Gray will either have to raise taxes or slash services.)

    * Gray also told the Ward 4 crowd that he was “astounded” the Post is not backing Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh for re-election. Cheh’s in an unexpectedly competitive race against Republican Dave Hedgepeth, and Democrats are coming to her aid. Shadow Rep. Mike Panetta said Tuesday that Cheh “has been a powerful and restless advocate on the Council and the type of legislator that should make us proud,” and that she “has shown the commitment, experience, and judgment to tackle the major challenges facing D.C.”

    * Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., renominated last month in a four-way primary, is already eyeing the citywide Council seat that will be vacated by Kwame Brown, but he has other things to worry about first. The Post reports D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles is getting ready to subpoena Thomas “for documents related to his oversight of a nonprofit organization that is not registered with the Internal Revenue Service or in good standing with city regulators.” Thomas’s GOP rival Tim Day has made an issue of the nonprofit, and Nickles says Thomas has declined to voluntarily turn over the information.

    In her Washington Examiner column, Jonetta Rose Barras slams Thomas, as well as Council colleagues Marion Barry, Kwame Brown and Jim Graham for ushering in an “era of unscrupulous behavior.” Graham “allegedly covered up domestic violence perpetrated by his chief of staff and later used city fire department employees as waitstaff at his birthday and holiday parties.” Barry “gave a contract to a paramour to ensure her affections.” And Brown ran up huge credit card debts “and later was accused of misappropriating campaign funds.”

    * The four candidates in the At-Large Council race -- incumbents Catania and Phil Mendelson, Statehood Green David Schwartzman, and independent Richard Urban -- will debate today on WAMU’s “Kojo Nnamdi Show.”

    * D.C. Socialist Workers Party mayoral nominee Omari Musa tells me: “The minority rich rule this city, along with the federal government through the Democratic Party. It is their party, not ours. Voting for Gray means more of the same. Our goal is this election is to provide a voice for working people that reflects their interests. During our campaign, we have received increasing interest from the working people of the District in our proposals. Most sense or know that Gray is not the solution to home foreclosures, cuts in medical service, higher taxes and transportation [costs], and growing unemployment.”

    * A new Washington Post poll shows Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski with a huge lead over Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Eric Wargotz, her Republican rival. Mikulski has the backing of 64 percent of likely voters, to Wargotz’s 27 percent. Mikulski even draws the support of one in four voters who plan to vote for GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich.

    * Is Ehrlich the anti-Montgomery County candidate? Maryland Politics Watch thinks so: “Ehrlich’s positions are not just unattractive to county residents. In fact, when combined as a whole, they constitute the most blatantly anti-MoCo platform of any statewide candidate in recent memory.”

    * The Post makes its endorsements in Prince George’s County. For School Board, the paper backs Henry Armwood Jr., Donna Hathaway Beck, Carolyn Boston, Peggy Higgins, Jeana Jacobs, Steven Morris, David Murray, Aimee Olivo, and Amber Waller. In District 4, the only contested County Council race, the Post backs Ingrid Turner.

    * The Loudoun Times examines the three proposed constitutional amendments on Virginia ballots next week, which “focus on tax and revenue issues.”

    * The D.C. Young Republicans will travel to Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia in the last days of the campaign season to help GOP candidates. The D.C. GOP has asked them to lend a hand for local Republican candidates as well, to no avail.

    * Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli visited the Arlington County Detention Facility “to learn more about the jail’s programs to help inmates rejoin society,” ARLnow reports.

    * The New Jersey Nats: No, they’re not moving, they’re getting redesigned jerseys next month. Blogger William Yurasko writes, “If they do what I expect, it will be fine. Being the Nats though, they may find a way to screw it up.”

    Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC