There was a time when the Democratic and Republican national committees represented the absolute pinnacle of partisan organizations led by powerful bosses who chose candidates, funded their campaigns and dictated their votes.
To advance in public office at any level, an ambitious individual had to gain and keep approval from party elders, who mostly represented state Republican and Democratic committees and machines. Special interests mainly operated outside the formal party structure and had far less influence on the outcomes than the bosses.
As a result, choosing a presidential candidate could go on for days. John Davis, the 1924 Democratic nominee, for example, required 103 ballots before winning the nomination in a convention that started in Madison Square Garden on June 24 and didn't conclude until July 9.
Things are different today, especially within the Democratic National Committee, which though still nominally a creature of the 50 state Democratic parties, is mainly a tool by which the special interests that now filter candidates, fund their campaigns and dictate their policies control the Democratic presidential nominating process from opening primary to the final blow of the chairman's gavel that announces adjournment of the national convention.
Ostensibly the DNC is organized around state party committees, but the reality is that it mainly a conglomeration of people representing four major special interests, including Big Labor unionists, Big Green environmentalists, Big Law plaintiffs attorneys, and Big Insiders like George Soros and John Podesta.
In today's DNC, even groups ostensibly devoted to distinct voter groups are creatures of special interests. Consider, for example, how entrenched Big Labor is at the DNC. The DNC's National Democratic Seniors Coordinating Council is led by five officers, including:
• Steve Regenstreif, chairman, is a director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and a veteran labor movement activist.
• Maria Cordone is an official of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union.
• Frank Stella is a veteran leader in the American Federation of Teachers.
• Linda Chavez-Thompson is a former executive vice president of the AFL-CIO.
• Max Richtman, the only seniors leader who is not a labor leader. He is however, executive vice president of the Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, one of the most powerful nonprofit activist groups with close links of long standing to Big Labor and the Democratic Party.
Or consider the DNC's Veterans and Military Families Council. Among its key leaders is Christine Pelosi, daughter of the former House speaker, lawyer, and head of the AFSCME PEOPLE/New House PAC Congressional Candidates Boot Camp. The latter was behind 26 winning Democratic congressional candidates between 2006 and 2010.
"Change" is a term heard often around Democratic politics, and the DNC even has its own Change Commission, which was tasked with recommending reforms designed to eliminate the confusion that attended the role of "super delegates" -- mostly elected officials and other ad hoc delegates not chosen by primary voters -- in the 2008 nomination battle.
Being independent of the primary voting process, the more than 800 super delegates represent something of an X factor in the party's presidential contest. Since they are mostly elected officials who depend greatly on campaign money from the four key special interests, they can hold the balance of power that decides who gets the nomination.
There were complaints about the super delegates in 2008, however, so DNC Chairman Tim Kaine appointed the Change Commission to fix the problem. A 2009 DNC news release describes the Change Commission's members as including "grassroots activists, local and federal elected officials, labor leaders and a wide range of other backgrounds."
Indeed, according to the DNC release, five of the panel's 35 members are either labor leaders or people representing labor clients, two are trial lawyers who are political activists, and 10 are long-time liberal activists and organizers.
After holding multiple meetings and taking testimony from a variety of experts, the Change Commission's report contained hardly any changes at all. The special interest powers-that-be remain in power at the DNC.
Mark Tapscott is editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner.