Washington, D.C., March 31 (Rush Copy) – In recent weeks, leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties have quietly held a series of confidential meetings at the Washington Hilton aimed at forging consensus on a wide range of divisive political issues that have divided the nation. Lawmakers have brainstormed new legislation, party leaders have swapped ideas on strategy, and all have attempted to woo long-time donors to win their support for the efforts of the group, according to staffers familiar with the events.
An analysis of roll call records reveals that dozens of lawmakers, party leaders and even private donors have filtered in and out of the weekly sessions over the last two and a half months. "This is not your stereotypical meeting of well-heeled party leaders in a smoke-filled backroom," said one wizened aide who attended a number of the meetings. "You're not allowed to smoke at the Hilton," he quipped.
The closed meetings have been something of an open secret among Washington's chattering class. Media executives have been in attendance to coordinate messaging ahead of the group's official launch, which is tentatively scheduled for late spring or early summer. Word of the discussions first leaked to outside sources following an electronic snafu in which a number of internal documents from the group were forwarded to an independent researcher in northern Virginia.
"I don't think it was an accident," said Richard Folley, who received the documents earlier this week. "I was bcc'd on an internal email that had a bunch of attachments," he explained. A 'bcc,' or blind carbon copy, refers to the practice of sending a message to multiple recipients while concealing the fact that there may be additional addressees from the complete list of recipients. Folley shared the documents with this organization.
Among the most startling proposals floated by the working group is a plan to merge the Republican and Democratic parties into what would be, for all intents and purposes, a single entity. Proponents of the idea cite the danger posed to the traditional political order by the tea party and anti-war movements, and a number of independent citizens' groups aimed at countering corporate influence in the major parties.
The plan calls for cross-endorsements of individual candidates from both major parties, agreements to cease running challengers in non-competitive districts, and the passage of legislation to tighten up ballot access law to prevent independent and third party candidates from spoiling "choreographed contests," as one document puts it.
A parallel outreach effort would seek to ensure that private donations from individuals and corporations flow into the apparatus of the new "super party" rather than toward traditional partisan fundraising operations and outside groups.
Another document proposes new strategies for keeping the media on message and restricting access to decision-making positions from the public at large.
"Democracy is messy, we just want to clean things up a bit," said one participant in the negotiations who would only speak on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the talks.
Some observers have questioned the necessity of such an effort. "Under the two-party system, Democrats and Republicans have already achieved the wide majority of these goals," said Douglas Layman, a political scientist and researcher at George Washington University. "Party leadership is clearly concerned that they inhabit an increasingly precarious position in an increasingly unstable political order," he continued.
Others, however, welcomed news of the group's activities. "For too long, the parties have turned a blind eye toward the political implications of the growing disconnect between the people and their representatives," said Bill Warrens, a veteran political consultant and strategist who has worked on numerous high profile campaigns for Democrats and Republicans alike. "Without such actions, there will soon come a time when voters are no longer willing to support the lesser of two evils," he stated.
Contacted by phone, Democratic and Republican party officials declined to comment for this story.
A release from Starshine Media, a political watchdog group, sent via email: