Activists are trying something new in the battle over the confirmation of Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh: crowdfunding to persuade a Republican senator to vote no on his nomination.
In this case, that senator is Maine’s Susan Collins, a centrist who is seen by many as something of a swing vote in highly partisan congressional fights, including the Kavanaugh nomination. After all, Collins has backed abortion rights and was one of three GOP senators (alongside Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and the late John McCain) to vote against Trump’s “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act in 2017.
The campaign was launched by the Maine People’s Alliance, Mainers for Accountable Leadership, and the “Be a Hero” activist Ady Barkan, who’s been working to mobilize voters for the 2018 midterm elections.
Their goal is to raise money that will fund Collins’ Democratic opponent in the 2020 election if she votes to confirm Kavanaugh. Should Collins vote against Kavanaugh, all the money will be returned to donors. So far the group has raised $1.1 million from more than 40,000 pledges — and sparked plenty of debate.
“The people of Maine are asking you to be a hero, Senator Collins,” reads the campaign’s description. “Your swing vote could decide whether a rubber stamp for Trump’s anti-healthcare, anti-woman, anti-labor agenda gets confirmed to the Supreme Court–costing millions of Americans their healthcare, their right to choose, and their lives.”
Collins herself told conservative publication Newsmax that the effort would not change her vote on Kavanaugh, equating it with a bribe, and saying, “I think it demonstrates the new lows to which the judge’s opponents have stooped.”
An op-ed by the Wall Street Journal called the campaign a “strong-arm” tactic and suggested, “It isn’t clear this is even legal.”
3/ in the political system. That becomes very problematic when it’s unlimited. But this isn’t that. This is a very straightforward, ethical, legitimate way for people to express themselves politically. This is no different from any other kind of hard money contribution.
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) September 12, 2018
The campaign reflects the brutal reality of our political system: If the Koch brothers can spend hundreds of millions of dollars to sway politicians, perhaps it makes sense for average citizens to band together and wield similar power with their pocketbooks.
Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for the Citizens for Ethics and Responsibilities, told the Washington Post, “It seems kind of icky but it doesn’t rise to the level of bribery because there’s no agreement. It’s just the way money and politics tend to work these days.”
The campaign is just one of many designed to influence Collins’ vote on Kavanaugh, who opponents say could be the fifth vote in a majority Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Collins’ office has received 3,000 coat hangers as well as an onslaught of calls, some of which have been vulgar or abusive.