Vote Gives Candidates, Parties Cash Influx

Posted March 23, 2010 at 6:30pm

With both parties’ bases still riled up over Sunday night’s momentous health care vote, House Members and candidates are now stepping up their efforts to cash in on the legislative battle that has generated such fervor.

National Republican Party committees have seen a large influx of cash from supporters seething at the passage of the Democratic-backed legislation, which President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday.

The Republican National Committee’s “Fire Pelosi” Web site and online fundraising portal, which it launched Sunday evening, tallied more than $1.1 million as of Tuesday evening. And a party source told Roll Call that the National Republican Congressional Committee had raised “in the hundreds of thousands” of dollars online in the 48 hours since Sunday.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not have any figures to release related to its recent fundraising, but it noted that an e-mail appeal sent out by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week on health care was its highest-grossing appeal of the year.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), who shouted “baby killer” on the House floor Sunday night, meanwhile, is seeking to tap into his 15 minutes of fame, a la Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) after his “You lie!” shout during Obama’s September address to a joint session of Congress. On Tuesday, Neugebauer’s campaign Web Site featured a 1-minute-plus Web video of the fourth-term Republican lamenting the fact that unborn children were “used as a bargaining chip” to pass the legislation.

“I spoke very passionately because I believed what was going on was not right for America,” Neugebauer says in the video, which is accompanied by a large “Donate Today” button. Neugebauer’s office did not respond to inquiries concerning his fundraising in the wake of his floor outburst.

He apologized Monday to Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), whom he interrupted with his shout, and said it was not directed at the anti-abortion Democrat.

Stupak, who ended up voting for the bill after the president signed an executive order affirming that the legislation will uphold existing restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion, has ginned up strong reactions on both his left and right flanks.

Stupak’s Republican challenger, surgeon Daniel Benishek, declared his candidacy last week and was initially accepting donations via PayPal before setting up a rudimentary placeholder site.

“As of [Monday] night we had over $50,000 from the Web site and that wasn’t including any checks or anything,” Benishek said. “We didn’t even have an online donation page until 9 o’clock or 10 o’clock Sunday night. Nobody expected this to happen, I wasn’t really prepared for it.”

As Stupak gave his speech, “my phone started ringing off the hook and then people started hitting my Facebook page.”

He went from 250 Facebook fans to more than 18,000 fans in less than 48 hours.

Stupak’s Democratic primary challenger, Connie Saltonstall, was using Web advertisements Monday hitting the Congressman to direct supporters to her ActBlue online fundraising page. And Tuesday, her ActBlue page was ranked fourth among the Democratic fundraising site’s “Hot Pages.” Across ActBlue, Saltonstall has now raised $73,000 since announcing March 9 she would challenge Stupak over his stand on abortion in the health care debate.

Vulnerable Democrats who voted for the health care overhaul Sunday were also high on ActBlue’s list of top pages. Freshman Rep. Mark Schauer (Mich.), a holdout on the bill until last Thursday, was ranked fifth, while an initiative to help 21 vulnerable Democrats, including Schauer, called “We Got Your Back,” raised $33,000 since the vote and ranked second.

However, the most successful ActBlue fundraising effort since the health care vote has been an initiative by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee to raise money for Democratic primary candidates running against more moderate Democrats, pulling in nearly $60,000 for long-shot challenger Krystal Ball in Virginia’s 1st district and Ann McLane Kuster, a top candidate in New Hampshire’s 2nd district open seat.

Republican challengers reported seeing funds begin flowing in over the weekend leading up to the vote, as the final undecided Democrats made their positions known. State Rep. Cory Gardner, Republicans’ recruit to take on freshman Rep. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), has raised $75,000 in either pledges or actual receipts since Markey announced Thursday she would switch her vote to “yes” after voting against the bill in November.

“We started getting phone calls and e-mails and people walking into the office, making $19, $20, $5 donations. We had people who had given before sending in another contribution,” Gardner told Roll Call. He also said the campaign was being contacted by people from outside the state who wanted to help. Gardner cautioned that he could not be certain all the money coming in was due to the health care vote, as he also won a straw poll and his chief primary opponent dropped out last week, but “the third leg of the stool was Betsy Markey’s ‘yes’ vote.”

Two other challengers to freshman Democrats who switched their votes from “no” to “yes” also saw a spike in fundraising. Seminole County businessman Craig Miller has raised $15,000 since Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) announced her stand, while Columbus financial consultant Jim Renacci raised more than $50,000 in the 48 hours after Rep. John Boccieri (D-Ohio) held a Wednesday press conference to confirm his support for the legislation.

Ryan Erwin, an adviser to physician Joe Heck’s (R) campaign against freshman Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), said the campaign didn’t do any fundraising outreach immediately after Titus’ announcement of her “yes” vote last week, but “on Saturday and Sunday we were getting contributions hourly, without a big push.”

Those type of unsolicited donations say “a lot more to me than responding to a blast e-mail” about the reaction to the bill, Erwin said.