So has a crowdfunded effort to bully Susan Collins into opposing Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation worked as intended? Collins still hasn’t officially announced her decision, but as predicted yesterday and today, the intimidation attempt has backfired even as its fund has grown from $900K to $1.3 million. The senator from Maine called it a “quid pro quo” demand that amounts to a bribe attempt, blasting Kavanaugh’s opponents for “new lows” in the campaign against him:
“I consider this quid pro quo fundraising to be the equivalent of an attempt to bribe me to vote against Judge Kavanaugh.
“If I vote against him, the money is refunded to the donors. If I vote for him, the money is given to my opponent for the 2020 race,” she said.
She emphasized “this effort will not influence my vote at all,” adding, “I think it demonstrates the new lows to which the judge’s opponents have stooped.”
Note the vehemence of this response. Collins could have simply said that she’s fine with defending whatever choice she makes in her next election and that the Kavanaugh chips can fall where they may. Collins might not have announced her decision, but that statement — especially the last sentence — doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement for the case against Kavanaugh. When you defend someone against their opponents by noting the “new lows” to which they have “stooped,” it at least suggests a strong element of sympathy for the person being defended.
On the other hand, it might be an attempt to set up a “pox upon both houses” argument for a no vote. It’s possible, but not terribly likely. Even if Collins goes on the attack against progressives now, it won’t save her from the wrath of Republicans for a nay vote on Kavanaugh later, especially if that tubes his nomination. And a nay vote won’t save her from the wrath of progressives anyway — they’ll still be gunning for her in the next election, and shooting down Kavanaugh over their tendentious and dishonest arguments over his testimony won’t prevent it.
However, Newsmax thinks that progressives organizing this effort might face some consequences of their own:
The ActionNetwork.org states that MFAL operates a federally registered political action committee. Maine People’s Alliance is a 501(c)4 organization, that is, a tax exempt group acting to promote socially beneficial objectives. But the actual fundraising campaign is being hosted by a San Francisco-based, for-profit website Crowdpac.com. …
A prominent Republican elections attorney, Cleta Mitchell of Foley & Lardner, told Newsmax this unusual fundraising effort may violate election laws.
“They’re trying to tie her official action to their threat that they’re going to give $1 million to somebody to run against her, if she doesn’t vote the way [they want her] to.”
Mitchell questioned the legality of the attempt to politically strong-arm Collins.
“It is certainly raising the specter of whether or not this violates the United States criminal code to prohibitions against attempted bribery, by linking official actions to monetary reward,” she said.
Mitchell wants an FEC probe into the MFAL-MPA campaign against Collins. The FEC probably will take a pass, but the IRS might take an interest in the group’s 501(c)(4) status. This certainly comes close to “electioneering” as opposed to “lobbying,” which would require the group to file under 527 rather than 501. It’s at least close enough to potentially give its organizers a very big headache, and to spend a lot of that $1.3 million on lawyers rather than candidates. Their attack on Collins might not have been their only miscalculation.