MOVEON ISN’T BACKING OFF…. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was critical of progressive ad campaigns from groups like and Americans United for Change. Reid called their efforts to pressure Democratic lawmakers “very unwise and not helpful.” Earlier this week, DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen warned of a “circular firing squad,” adding, “We believe people should be focusing their efforts on expanding the Democratic majority — and that should be their singular focus.”

The groups see things differently.

MoveOn officials privately told people close to Van Hollen that they will keep targeting moderate Dems with ads, calls, and emails when circumstances warrant, according to a source familiar with their discussions. […]

In MoveOn’s first public response to Reid and Van Hollen, MoveOn’s executive director, Justin Ruben, politely rejected their admonitions and pointed to the high-levels of Dem unity in passing the budget yesterday.

“Our ads, calls, and e-mails had one simple goal: Encourage constituents to call their Member of Congress and support legislation that’s critical to reviving our economy,” Ruben said in a statement emailed my way. “Educating and engaging citizens around key issues like the budget is an important part of the Democratic process, it’s core to MoveOn’s mission, and we’ll continue to use these tools to make change.”

The part of this I’ve found confusing is that that MoveOn and Americans United for Change aren’t exactly taking radical positions here.

I’m trying to look at this from Reid’s and Van Hollen’s perspective. If, say, MoveOn and Americans United for Change were running ads going after Democrats because the congressional majority refused to raise the top income tax rate to 75% and buy everyone a puppy, I could imagine Democratic leaders on the Hill urging the groups to back off.

But, really, what is that MoveOn and Americans United for Change want? For Democrats to support a popular agenda. They’re urging “centrist” Dems to vote for measures like a progressive budget and health care reform. This helps leaders like Reid and Van Hollen instill some party discipline.

The DCCC chair said their “singular focus” should be on “expanding the Democratic majority.” Actually, for groups like MoveOn and Americans United for Change, the “singular focus” is making sure the expanded Democratic majority does what it was elected to do, advancing an agenda that voters already support.

Again, concerns from party leaders would make a lot more sense if the groups were making unreasonable demands of Democrats, urging them to take reckless political risks on unpopular issues that would undermine the party’s chances in the future.

But MoveOn and Americans United for Change are doing nothing of the sort.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.