Democrats put their Representatives up for sale

How did Democrats manage to win a narrow 219-212 victory on cap-and-tax three weeks ago?  According to Glenn Thrush at Politico, they did it the old-fashioned way — they bought the votes.  Democratic leadership in the House dumped tens of thousands of dollars into the campaign coffers of Democratic waverers on the expansive and expensive energy-industry controls:

Three House Democratic leaders who were whipping members on the climate change bill gave tens of thousands in campaign cash to party moderates around the time of the 219-212 vote on June 26, according to Federal Election Commission records.

It’s impossible to tell if that torrent of cash was an attempt to schmear wavering Democrats — or just part of the usual cash dump made by leaders on the eve of the June 30 quarterly fundraising deadline.

Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) doled out $28,000 to reps who eventually voted yes on June 24, two days before the big vote — on a day when House leaders were doing some heavy-duty arm-twisting.

Clyburn recipients who voted for the bill included a who’s-who of battleground district Dems: Steve Driehaus, D-OH ($2,000); Martin Heinrich, D-NM ($2,000); Suzanne Kosmas, D-Fla. ($4,000); Betsy Markey, D-Colo. ($2,000); Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH ($2,000), Baron Hill, D-Ind. ($2,000); Alan Grayson, D-Fla. ($2,000); Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa ($2,000); Jim Himes, D-Conn. ($2,000);  Mary Jo Kilroy, D-OH ($2,000); Kurt Schrader, D-Ore. ($2,000); Jerry McNerney, D-Calif. ($2,000) and Tom Perriello, D-Va. ($2,000).

Pelosi and Clyburn claim that the donations were just the normal end-of-quarter cash dumps that leadership routinely give their members.  Perhaps, but the pattern of giving more than 16 months before the next election speaks to a certain strategy on pending legislation.  While the two did contribute to eventual opponents of the bill, the money went in this week primarily to swing voters on the issue, which makes it look less routine and more like they only mostly succeeded in buying support for the bill.

Besides, the vote got managed by Pelosi and Clyburn to allow as many moderates to keep their no votes while allowing the bill to pass.  The few that got the cash and still voted no may have been on deck to switch their votes if opposition continued to rise. The eventual votes from the group of recipients may have less to do with principled opposition than it did in covering their electoral rumps for the 2010 midterms.

When Democratic leadership has been whipping the vote for weeks and suddenly shows up with bags of money for the waverers, calling that “routine” may be more indicting than Pelosi understands.