Politics

Conor Lamb Helps Democrats Raise Campaign Cash

Pennsylvania special election results spurs fundraising pitches

A supporter holds up a lamb cutout before Conor Lamb, Democratic congressional candidate for Pennsylvania's 18th district, spoke to supporters at an election night rally March 14, 2018 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Democratic candidates and liberal organizations are seeking to capitalize on Conor Lamb’s apparent win in Pennsylvania, invoking his name in fundraising pitches nationwide.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers from Michigan to Nevada, along with groups focused on everything from political money to Social Security, are trying to seize momentum from Lamb’s showing in Tuesday’s special election to help them woo donors and to validate their policy views.

Opposition to the agenda of President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress already had energized Democrats. Now, donors from both parties say that Democrats are freshly buoyed after Lamb seems poised to capture a GOP seat in the House. Lamb, who has declared victory, is ahead of Republican Rick Saccone by a few hundred votes.

The apparent win “adds fuel to what is already a raging fire” of donor and voter enthusiasm, said Steve Elmendorf, a lobbyist and top donor to Democrats. “I think the biggest problem donors have is trying to figure out between all the pitches and all the candidates, what’s real and what’s not.”

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Just because a candidate, or a cause, invokes Lamb doesn’t make it money well spent, Elmendorf noted.

The Democrats’ House and Senate campaign arms have outraised — and outspent — their GOP counterparts so far in the 2017-2018 cycle, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The special election in Pennsylvania this week is unlikely to dramatically change the fundraising and donating landscape, said GOP lobbyist John Feehery.

“Republicans already had been playing pretty scared, and I don’t think this really changes a whole lot,” Feehery said. “If you’re an industry that is really worried about Democrats taking over, especially about the corporate tax rate, you’re going to want to support Republicans.”

Watch — Pelosi: Lamb Win in Republican District a ‘Tremendous Victory’

But Democrats, who need a net gain of 24 seats to take back the House, see a winning message in Lamb. Pelosi, the California Democrat whom Lamb said he wouldn’t support as the party’s House leader, dispatched a fundraising pitch Thursday, saying: “If we want to repeat this success in November, we need to continue making our voices heard and getting involved.”

Rep. Dan Kildee’s fundraising committee dispatched an email solicitation Wednesday, telling potential donors that “Conor’s win proves that working families across the country desperately want new leadership in Congress.”

Kildee, a Michigan Democrat running in a safe district, added in the email: “Conor’s win officially kicks off our mission to take back the House in 2018. Are you ready to fight with us for a Democratic Congress?”

Democrat George Franklin, a former Kellogg lobbyist, is seeking the seat of Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and similarly emailed supporters with a Lamb-themed pitch, calling the likely victory “historic.”

“The message voters are sending is clear, we need a check on the Republicans in control to provide some balance,” Franklin emailed supporters Wednesday. “Will you make a donation to keep us on track to win in November?”

The Senate campaign of Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., who is in a tossup race, sent a pitch saying that Lamb’s apparent win proved “that a flood of Republican special interest money is no match for a people-powered campaign. Momentum is clearly on Democrats’ side.”

And Angie Craig, a Democratic challenger to GOP Rep. Jason Lewis in Minnesota, also got on the Lamb fundraising bandwagon. That district is rated a toss up by Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales. “If we can turn out voters in the numbers we’re seeing in Pennsylvania, not only will Angie win — it won’t even be close,” said a fundraising email from her team.

Policy Impact

In addition to the candidates, a number of organizations that endorsed the Pennsylvania Democrat said Lamb’s showing made a case for their specific policy platforms.

End Citizens United, a group that is urging candidates to forgo money from corporate political action committees, said Lamb’s victory, as well as its own polling, showed that rejecting corporate PAC money “resonates with voters,” according to a PowerPoint presentation the group held Thursday.

Lamb rejected donations from corporate PACs.

Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United, said her group endorsed Lamb on Jan. 17 and worked with his campaign to “raise the narrative” of money and politics.

“He heavily incorporated that throughout his campaign,” Muller said Thursday on a call with reporters. “We know that messaging really helped Conor gain voter trust.”

She added that her organization’s polling found that Lamb’s position on campaign finance, especially his rejection of corporate PAC money, helped him win over moderate, independent and rural voters in the district.

Meanwhile, Max Richtman, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said that his group’s endorsement of Lamb reflected that voters want a lawmaker who “will protect Social Security and Medicare.”

“Voters cast their ballots for a candidate who understands their struggles,” Richtman said in a news release, “and will push back against attempts to cut and privatize Social Security and Medicare.”

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