Few things in Washington, D.C., make me laugh these days. But in her sit-down with CBS’ “60 Minutes” following her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, Maine Sen. Susan Collins served up a knee-slapper.

“I think that if our politics has come to the point where people are trying to buy votes, buy positions, that we are in a very sad place,” Collins told interviewer Scott Pelley.

The senator’s angst stems from a fast-growing account on the political fundraising site Crowdpac.com that centers on a simple message: Vote for Kavanaugh, Senator Collins, and we’re going to fund your Democratic opponent in the 2020 election.

The effort is spearheaded by progressive activist Ady Barkan, the Maine People’s Alliance and Mainers for Accountable Leadership. It has ballooned to more than $3.6 million since Saturday’s dramatic Senate vote to confirm Kavanaugh – despite his tempestuous testimony to the Senate over allegations that he committed sexual assault while in high school and college.

By Maine’s political metrics, $3.6 million is serious money. It’s far more than the $2.3 million that Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows raised in her bid to unseat Collins in 2014, and more than half the $6 million Democrat Tom Allen raised against Collins in 2008.

So, not surprisingly, it has Collins’ attention.


On several occasions, she’s called the donations a collective “bribe” and suggested that they might run afoul of federal law. Lately, she’s also taken to labeling it “extortion.”

Then, in her interview with Pelley over the weekend, she went full Pollyanna with her lament that “people” are trying to use their money (gasp) to affect what happens on Capitol Hill.

Fellow Mainers, I direct your attention to OpenSecrets.org, the widely acclaimed website through which the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics tracks who gives what to whom throughout our body politic.

Since she first ran for the Senate in 1995, according to OpenSecrets, Collins has taken in $21,244,022 in donations from all kinds of “people.”

Leading the top contributors are individuals and/or political action committees associated with General Dynamics, which owns Bath Iron Works. All told, they’ve chipped in $163,400.

Donors connected with the now-defunct credit-card giant MBNA Corp., which once ran a massive call center in Belfast, coughed up $154,304 before the company was acquired by Bank of America in 2006.


Lawyers and securities investors have donated just over $1 million each, while health professionals have kicked in $920,904 to keep sending Collins back to Washington.

This, for better or for worse, is how our system works. People, PACs and corporations with money to, shall we say, invest, survey the political landscape and funnel their funds to the candidate most likely to protect their interests in the halls of Congress.

As former South Carolina congressman Mick Mulvaney, now President Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, famously put it in a speech to banking executives last spring, “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

Enter Crowdpac’s “Fund Susan Collins’ Future Opponent” drive. As of Wednesday afternoon, 124,845 donors had put up $3,675,498, which translates into an average individual donation of just under $30.

Collins, citing unnamed lawyers with whom she’s spoken, suggests that these pledges somehow violate a federal bribery statute. The law targets anyone who “corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official … or offers or promises any public official … to give anything of value to any other person or entity with intent to influence an official act.”

Note the word “corruptly.” Where, pray tell, is the corruption in logging onto a website, punching in one’s credit card information and earmarking $30 for a yet-to-be nominated challenger – said transaction to be processed only if an incumbent senator votes “aye” on a pivotal Supreme Court nomination?


Folks, if that kind of targeted political contribution is bribery, then OpenSecrets.org just became the mother of all police logs.

And if it’s extortion, as Collins has also described it, then she should also acknowledge that our entire political system is a perpetual shakedown that began long before an underage Brett Kavanaugh was falling in love with beer and playing Devil’s Triangle.

In an email Wednesday, Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark called the Crowdpac donations “quid pro quo – trading this for that.”

“While there is more and more money in politics today, it is not offered on explicit quid pro quo terms because that is a crime,” Clark wrote.

Good point. The donors with the deepest pockets expect favorable results not just on one vote, but on many.

The simple reality here is that Collins had a decision to make.


She could believe accuser Christine Blasey Ford, who told the Senate Judiciary Committee without hesitation that she was “100 percent” certain Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a drunken party 36 years ago.

Or she could believe Kavanaugh, who told her it never happened.

Collins, in the end, believed the man. And try as she might to suggest that Ford’s memory is somehow defective, she chose to disbelieve the woman.

Now, with Kavanaugh safely seated on the nation’s highest court, we have Collins wrapping herself in the mantle of victimhood and expressing dismay that our national politics are driven by, perish the thought, cold cash.

Unlike the harebrained boycott of all things Maine proposed by those who would make Collins’ constituents pay for her perverse politics, the Crowdpac fund is now a reality. By the time Democrats get around to nominating her challenger for the 2020 election, my guess is that the amount of money collected will be well north of $4 million.

Collins can complain about that all she wants.


She can insist, as she did on “60 Minutes,” that she “did not try to weigh a political calculus to this decision.”

She can even go on insinuating that those donating to her future opponent are doing something illegal – even as the dough from friendlier quarters rises in her own re-election coffers.

But to bemoan the use of money – now that it’s aimed at her – as a newfound political weapon?

She’s got to be kidding.

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