Collins’ sup­port for Ka­vanaugh crashed op­po­nent’s site

The Progress-Index Weekend - - NEWS - By Kris­tine Phillips and Eli Rosenberg The Wash­ing­ton Post

A crowd­fund­ing site where ac­tivists have been rais­ing money to de­feat Sen. Su­san Collins in 2020 was in­un­dated with pledges Fri­day af­ter­noon, af­ter the Maine Repub­li­can an­nounced she would sup­port Judge Brett Ka­vanaugh’s nom­i­na­tion to the Supreme Court.

By 3:55 p.m., the site had crashed, ap­par­ently over­whelmed.

“Se­na­tor Su­san Collins has peo­ple more mo­ti­vated than we’ve ever seen be­fore,” Crowd­pac tweeted. “Hold tight, we’ll be back shortly.”

The site was back on­line a lit­tle less than two hours later. By Sat­ur­day morn­ing, the cam­paign that vows to sup­port Collins’ fu­ture op­po­nent had sur­passed $3 mil­lion — not an in­signif­i­cant amount for a po­lit­i­cal race in a state with among the small­est pop­u­la­tions in the coun­try (1.3 mil­lion).

A group of lib­eral ac­tivists be­gan the cam­paign last month to pres­sure Collins, a key swing vote in Ka­vanaugh’s nom­i­na­tion, to vote against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nee. If Collins voted no, do­na­tions would not be with­drawn from donors. If she voted yes, the pledges would fund the cam­paign of who­ever wins Maine’s Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion for the U.S. Se­nate in two years.

Maine Peo­ple’s Al­liance, Main­ers for Ac­count­able Lead­er­ship and ac­tivist Ady Barkan have dou­bled their orig­i­nal goal to $4 mil­lion. The un­usual fundrais­ing ef­fort is a sign of an en­er­gized Demo­cratic elec­torate and could set the stage for Collins’ re-elec­tion ef­fort.

As the pledges poured in Fri­day, yet an­other un­usual se­ries of events in these hy­per­par­ti­san times un­folded on so­cial me­dia: the on­line crowd­sourc­ing for a nom­i­nee and said nom­i­nee’s fu­ture cam­paign staffers.

“Who wants to run for Se­nate in Maine? There will be an army of sup­port­ers with you,” tweeted Jen Psaki, a for­mer White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

“Me,” Su­san Rice, Obama’s for­mer United Na­tions am­bas­sador and na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, replied, rais­ing a flurry of ques­tions about what her plans are.

Rice, whose fam­ily is from Port­land, Maine, later clar­i­fied, say­ing she’s not mak­ing any an­nounce­ments.

Jenna Lowen­stein, a Demo­cratic dig­i­tal strate­gist who worked for Hillary Clin­ton’s cam­paign, also said she had en­listed 75 po­lit­i­cal staffers to help elect Collins’ fu­ture chal­lenger. In a Google docs sign-up sheet she had cre­ated, Lowen­stein promised to send vol­un­teers to the even­tual cam­paign as soon as there is one.

“Noth­ing like start­ing with binders full of women (and men) ready to take up the fight,” she wrote.

A spokes­woman for Collins has sharply crit­i­cized the crowd­fund­ing ef­fort, call­ing it an at­tempt at ex­tor­tion.

“And any­body who thinks these tac­tics would work on Se­na­tor Collins ob­vi­ously doesn’t know her. Se­na­tor Collins will make up her mind based on the mer­its of the nom­i­na­tion. Threats or other at­tempts to bully her will not play a fac­tor in her de­ci­sion mak­ing what­so­ever,” An­nie Clark said in a state­ment be­fore the se­na­tor an­nounced her sup­port for Ka­vanaugh.

One ethics ex­pert told The Wash­ing­ton Post that the crowd­fund­ing cam­paign may very well vi­o­late fed­eral bribery statutes, which pro­hibit giv­ing or of­fer­ing any­thing of value to gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in ex­change for any acts or votes.

Marie Fol­layt­tar, codi­rec­tor of Main­ers for Ac­count­able Lead­er­ship, de­nounced bribery ac­cu­sa­tions.

“The idea of Su­san Collins at­tack­ing an ef­fort by 35,000 small dol­lar donors as bribery is pol­i­tics at its worst. Thou­sands of Main­ers are try­ing des­per­ately to tell her that she needs to pro­tect abor­tion ac­cess and crit­i­cal health­care cov­er­age across the coun­try by vot­ing ‘no’ on Ka­vanaugh,” Fol­layt­tar said in a state­ment.

Collins

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