Senate Democrats Get Creative to Help Harry
Senate Democrats have been pursuing all fundraising avenues to help save Majority Leader Harry Reid’s job, with nearly every Member of his caucus giving generously to his imperiled re-election campaign, the Nevada Democratic Party and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Reid’s biggest backers include two of the Conference’s most powerful and ambitious Senators: Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Finance Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.), both of whom have used their ample campaign coffers to aid the Nevada state party’s get-out-the-vote effort. Reid is locked in a virtual dead heat with former GOP state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle as he looks to secure a fifth term.
Reid’s Democratic colleagues understand the stakes. A Reid win is crucial to avoiding a divisive intraparty battle between Schumer and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) to succeed him as the Senate Democratic leader. That’s a contest most Senate Democrats would like to avoid after what is expected to be a bruising election in which they are all but certain to lose several of their own ‘ if not the chamber itself ‘ and very likely control of the House.
With their leader in peril, Democrats have tried to spread their wealth to ensure Reid’s success.
Senate Democrats have given more than $379,000 to Reid’s re-election campaign and nearly double that ($712,000)to the Nevada Democratic Party this cycle, according to a Roll Call analysis of campaign finance records and CQ MoneyLine. Schumer and Baucus are responsible for more than $600,000 of the money given to the state party, which will play an essential role in getting voters to the polls.
Reid has raised more than $17 million for his re-election bid, while Angle has raised more than $21 million, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Reid’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
Everyone seems to have a slightly different formula for helping Reid. Schumer, who appears to have given the most money, was expected Wednesday to cut another $250,000 check from his personal campaign funds to the Nevada Democratic Party, bringing his total state party donations to $510,000.
Baucus, who understands Reid’s victory helps keep him atop the Finance Committee, gave $100,000 to the state party in September from his re-election fund. Schumer is facing token opposition this year, and Baucus is not in cycle. Both Senators have also used their leadership political action committees to give $10,000 to Reid’s re-election campaign as well.
Other Senate heavyweights have opted to help Reid in myriad ways. Durbin’s Prairie PAC has given $10,000 to Reid’s re-election campaign and $5,000 to the Nevada Democratic Party. But he has also hosted three Chicago fundraisers and one Washington, D.C., fundraiser for the Majority Leader this cycle. Durbin’s fundraising strategy, one Democratic source said, has the added benefit of helping to introduce Reid to new donors.
Durbin, Reid’s No. 2 in leadership, has also traveled to Nevada twice to campaign with Reid and lent him a campaign staffer who specializes in Hispanic outreach.
Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray (Wash.), who is in a pitched battle for her seat, gave $10,000 to Reid and $5,000 to the state party.
Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) has also hosted two fundraisers for Reid in her home state, and she gave $10,000 to the Nevada party.
Rank-and-file Members are all over the map: 31 of 59 members of the caucus gave the maximum $10,000 ‘ $5,000 each for the primary and the general election ‘ to Reid’s re-election campaign from their leadership PACs.
But some Senators went beyond that.
For instance, Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) was among the top rank-and-file contributors to Reid, giving $10,000 from his Reuniting Our Country PAC and $4,000 from his personal campaign account.
Lieberman has proved to be an aggravation for Reid: He endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) over President Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race and changed his stance on health care reform last year.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein not only gave Reid the maximum contribution from her PAC, but the California Democrat also produced $2,300 from her own pocketbook to aid the Majority Leader and gave an additional $5,000 to the Nevada Democratic Party.
Similarly, Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller maxed out to Reid from his PAC, but the West Virginia Democrat also dug into his own bank account to give an additional $2,800 to Reid.
Sen. Tom Carper (Del.) also attempted to outdo his rank-and-file colleagues. While most Democrats gave a maximum of $5,000 to the Nevada party, Carper threw in $10,000, after first maxing out to Reid’s campaign.
Sen. Jim Webb gave relatively little from his Born Fighting PAC ‘ he gave just $2,500 ‘ but the Virginian was one of the few Democrats to give an in-kind donation of $1,849 for catering.
Freshman Members were more likely than old bulls to give the maximum amount to Reid, and Members up for re-election this year generally gave less. Most Democrats contributed to Reid from their leadership PACS, if they have them, rather than tapping into their own campaign funds.
Notably, six Democrats do not appear to have given to Reid or to the Nevada Democratic Party this cycle, including Sens. Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Roland Burris (Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Carte Goodwin (W.Va.) and Ted Kaufman (Del.).
Bennet is in a competitive battle to stay in the Senate, while Burris, Goodwin and Kaufman are all leaving after the November elections. Gillibrand is up for election this cycle, but she faces a clear ride to secure a full term, while Akaka isn’t up for re-election until 2012.
But Akaka, Gillibrand and Bennet have used PACs that they are affiliated with to contribute to the DSCC.
Goodwin and Kaufman do not have any established campaign committees or PACs, given their status as appointed placeholder Senators who never planned to run for office. What little Burris raised has primarily gone to pay off legal debts associated with his controversial appointment by former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).