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K Street Files: Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

Heather Podesta is disturbing delicate tribal tensions within the New Jersey Democratic delegation for organizing a debt retirement fundraiser this week for Rep. Robert Andrews’ (D) contentious 2008 Senate run.

Podesta’s office circulated an e-mail downtown last week under the subject line “If You’re Not Down at the Shore.” In the otherwise standard fundraising pitch, the Democratic lobbyist suggested contributions of $5,000, $2,500 and $1,000.

But it’s what Podesta wrote after signing off on the solicitation that is enraging some New Jersey Democrats.

In a postscript, she added that the fundraiser is to retire Andrews’ debt from his 2008 Senate primary challenge to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), an ill-fated bid that Andrews’ critics claim never stood a chance and wasted millions of dollars in the process — including money out of Lautenberg’s own pocket.

Now, Andrews’ foes say he’s “taking another bite out of the apple” by not combining his $250,000-plus in debt from his Senate run with his House re-election committee, which as of June 30 had nearly $175,000 in cash on hand.

Podesta’s epilogue attempts to clear up the complicated legal issue: “Please note that your contribution will apply to the debt reduction of Congressman Andrew’s 2008 Senate race. If you have already maxed-out to Rep. Andrew’s Senatorial campaign, you may donate to his Congressional campaign. If this is the case, please make checks payable to ‘Andrews for Congress.’”

A Democratic aide scolded Podesta, who did not respond to a request for comment, for meddling in a complicated Garden State Democratic family matter.

“Setting up this event is a politically tone-deaf maneuver,” the aide said. “While it may make Andrews happy, it will anger the rest of the Democrats in the New Jersey delegation.”

Another Democratic aide criticized Andrews for being stingy in a tough fundraising climate. “Money’s not infinite around here. He’s now raising money that could be used somewhere else,” the aide said.

Andrews spokesman Francis Tagmire rejected the criticism outright.

“We are acting responsibly by paying our debts from the Senate campaign,” he said in an e-mail, adding that it was “surprising that anyone would try to distract attention from our party’s efforts to pass key legislation like health care reform.”

Ad War Heats Up. The insurance lobby is pulling the trigger on a multimillion-dollar television advertising campaign to begin this week on health care reform.

Two sources familiar with the ad campaign said it will be largely positive and pro-health-care reform. One of the sources, a health care lobbyist, said the ads will tout the health insurance industry and its “constructive” contributions to health care reform.

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