By COREY DADE
A phalanx of liberal think tanks and interest groups -- anticipating a Democratic victory on Tuesday -- are mobilizing to push Sen. Barack Obama to the left of his campaign positions.
In recent weeks, groups have held conferences, drafted policy papers and lobbied campaign advisers in the hope of influencing what they believe would be the most receptive administration to the political left since Jimmy Carter. The Obama campaign declined to comment about pressure from liberal policy groups.
Left-leaning activists are trying to replicate the surge of conservative interest groups under the Reagan administration that shaped Republican politics for the next three decades, staking out positions well to the left of how Sen. Obama has tried to define himself near the political center. For their part, conservatives likewise are preparing for a McCain victory.
A number of the economic and social prescriptions being pushed on Obama advisers would require greater spending that almost certainly depend on raising taxes -- threatening Sen. Obama's campaign promise to cut taxes.
The Campaign for America's Future, a progressive Washington group founded by a former adviser to the Rev. Jesse Jackson's presidential bids, is organizing a conference for this month on creating a government-funded investment fund for public works projects. The Center for American Progress recently released a two-year, $100 billion plan for producing renewable energy, and its president, former Clinton administration Chief of Staff John Podesta, has been tapped to lead the Obama transition team.
Last month in Washington, an organization recently formed by Martin Luther King III, son of the slain civil-rights leader, attracted more than 100 leading activists on poverty and other social issues to a daylong conference. Mr. King demanded that the next president appoint a cabinet member dedicated to eradicating poverty. In a keynote address, Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs called for substantially higher tax collections to fund government investments in energy production, public works and eradicating poverty and other ills.
Sen. Obama's energy and economic policies include many of the same goals, but the senator says he will pay for his proposals with savings from cutting bureaucratic waste and ending the Iraq war.
The Center for American Progress likewise backs higher taxes based on a "pro-growth" structure steering funds to schools, health care, job training and technology innovations. Mr. Podesta's organization is one of several interest groups working with Mr. King's Realizing the Dream Inc. to push the federal government to cut the poverty rate in half over the next 10 years. The Census Bureau estimates that 12.5% of the population, or 37.3 million people, earned poverty-level incomes last year.
In addition to Messrs. King's and Podesta's organizations, other partners in the umbrella group, called Halfinten.org, include the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn, which has endorsed Sen. Obama and conducted a voter-registration drive that has drawn criticism from the McCain campaign, as well as federal and local investigations, for fraudulent names submitted in some states. Acorn officials have accused Republicans of exaggerating the instances to suppress turnout. The organization also acknowledges that some workers turned in improper registrations and have been fired and, in some instances, prosecuted, but that it has been helping authorities root out fraud.
Some groups already have emerged as Obama advisers, such as the Potomac Coalition, a collection of African-American former Clinton appointees and Senate aides, that advises the campaign on the economy. The members, many of whom now work on Wall Street, urged Sen. Obama to back the addition of homeowner assistance and a contracting provision for minorities and women in the $700 billion rescue of the financial sector.
Republicans say such lobbying proves Sen. McCain's charges that an Obama presidency would raise taxes to pay for a liberal spending agenda and deepen the federal deficit. McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers called Mr. Podesta's group "basically a satellite office for Obama" in providing research frequently credited in Obama TV ads.
Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro said Sen. Obama will stick to the tax-cut proposals he has outlined in the campaign.
Write to Corey Dade at firstname.lastname@example.orgPrinted in The Wall Street Journal, page A6