An unusual fundraising technique tying the release of campaign funds to how Maine Sen. Susan Collins votes on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh reached a milestone Tuesday, going over $1 million.

The “Be A Hero” campaign – coordinated by national health activist Ady Barkan, and liberal groups Mainers for Accountable Leadership and the Maine People’s Alliance – asks people to donate at least $20.20 to a future Collins opponent if she votes “yes” on Kavanaugh. If she votes “no” the money would be refunded to donors.

Collins has said she remains undecided. The moderate Republican, 65, would be up for re-election in 2020, although she hasn’t announced yet whether she would seek another term.

In a statement to Newsmax, a conservative news outlet, on Monday, Collins likened the fundraising effort to bribery.

“I consider this quid pro quo fundraising to be the equivalent of an attempt to bribe me to vote against Judge Kavanaugh,” Collins said to Newsmax. “This effort will not influence my vote at all. I think it demonstrates the new lows to which the judge’s opponents have stooped.”

SIGNIFICANT FUNDING

Marie Follayttar Smith, of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, said the organizers are not aware of any other fundraising campaigns that used similar tactics, but the groups wanted to try something different and thought of the idea during brainstorming sessions.

The $1 million, in a small, rural state like Maine, is significant funding for a Senate campaign. During the 2014 campaign, where Collins bested her Democratic opponent, Shenna Bellows, 68 percent to 32 percent, Collins spent $5.5 million and Bellows spent $2.3 million.

Most of the pledges in the “Be A Hero” campaign are small donations. About 26,000 of the 36,000 donations as of Tuesday afternoon were $20.20, according to the website.

The website, called Crowdpac and whose CEO, Jesse Thomas, worked on former President Barack Obama’s 2012 successful re-election campaign, has helped fundraise for more than 2,000 often liberal candidates and causes. The top fundraiser, by far, is the Collins/Kavanaugh pitch, with the next closest being more than $200,000 raised for a congressional candidate in Massachusetts.

Another Mainer, Dr. Cathleen London of Milbridge has announced she will run as a Democrat against Collins in 2020, and she has a Crowdpac page, that has so far raised $160.

London said if Collins votes for Kavanaugh, the money will go to “whoever wins the Democratic primary, whether it’s me or someone else.”

“This is grassroot efforts at their best,” London said.

The fundraising effort had reached $1,060,229 as of Tuesday night, according to the website.

PIVOTAL VOTE

Kavanaugh is a controversial nominee, and progressive groups argue he is likely to vote to overturn the 1973 landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade if it comes before the Supreme Court, or rule in favor of cases that would substantially limit women’s right to choose.

Maine Political Report



Collins and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are being targeted as possible “no” votes because they are both pro-abortion rights Republicans in a Senate that has a slim 51-49 Republican majority. If all Democrats and left-leaning independents vote “no,” it would take two Republicans voting against Kavanaugh to sink the nomination.

Collins has said she was encouraged by Kavanaugh’s statements that he considers Roe v. Wade to be “settled law” and “precedent upon precedent.”

The Supreme Court is currently split 4-4 between conservative and liberal justices. Kavanaugh would replace Anthony Kennedy, a centrist.

Collins’ pivotal position on the Kavanaugh nomination and, more broadly, as one of few centrists in the Senate, earned her a place Tuesday on this year’s annual list of “50 Ideas Driving Politics (and the people behind them),” compiled by the Washington, D.C.-based news organization Politico.

In the Politico piece, Collins affirmed what she has said for years: She’s not going to be swayed by loud noise.

“I will not try to assess the politics of it other than there will be people who are furious no matter what,” she said.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

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