Nearly everyone in Washington is familiar with EMILY’s List. But what about Al’s list?
Through his large email list of political supporters, Sen. Al Franken has quietly but steadily become one of the most sought-after and prodigious fundraisers among Democratic Senators outside of leadership. The Minnesotan — along with a handful of his rank-and-file colleagues — has been active this cycle in raising money for the almost two dozen Democrats and Democratic-held seats that are being contested on the November ballot.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) remain the four heavyweights among caucus fundraisers. But others are stepping up to help the Democrats protect their thin, four-seat majority, including Franken, Finance Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.), Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (Mass.) and Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Kay Hagan (N.C.) and, to a lesser degree, Mark Warner (Va.).
“Everybody is really helping us. Members understand what is at stake,” Murray told Roll Call last week. Washington’s senior Senator also serves as Conference secretary, the fourth-ranking leadership position.
Franken, who spent years as a well-known comedian and actor before turning to politics, tends to focus on local Minnesota issues and generally avoids talking to the national press. But the Senator, a hit with the liberal activist base of the Democratic Party, has been aggressively engaged nationally in party-building activities and on behalf of his Senate colleagues.
His email list is considered a lucrative source of campaign cash, and Franken has mined it this cycle on behalf of Elizabeth Warren, who is challenging GOP Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts; the Democratic parties of Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin; and 2012 incumbent Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). Additionally, Franken has traveled and headlined events for the Democratic parties of California, Michigan, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia.
Franken has also traveled for Democratic incumbents up for re-election this year, including Brown, Whitehouse and Sens. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Jon Tester (Mont.). “Having been an entertainer for so many years, Sen. Franken knows how to hold an audience’s attention. Couple that with his political knowledge and he makes a great fundraising surrogate for Democrats,” said a Democratic strategist who monitors Senate races.
Tester, locked in a tough re-election battle with Rep. Denny Rehberg (R), is considered to have one of the most difficult races of the 2012 cycle. If he loses, it won’t be for lack of assistance from his colleagues — much of which has emanated from his home-state colleague, Baucus.
The Finance chairman has raised more than $500,000 for Tester in an aggressive fundraising effort that is ongoing. A Baucus aide also confirms that Montana’s senior Senator has taken a special interest in helping Finance Committee Democrats who are up for re-election, including Cantwell, Stabenow and Sens. Benjamin Cardin (Md.), Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.).