At least one constituency was thrilled by recent reports suggesting that the seemingly endless Minnesota Senate race could drag out even longer, perhaps for years — Washington fundraisers.
The epic Senate recount battle between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken is turning out to be an incomparable gravy train, lining the pockets not just of the lawyers who are making a small fortune off the case, but also of groups ranging from the Republican Jewish Coalition to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Coleman and Franken have raised more than $12 million between them since the election, mostly to pay their mounting legal bills. But they aren't the only ones raising money off their fight — it's also viewed as a potential cash cow by noncombatants who are trying to milk it for everything it’s worth.
Democratic fundraising appeals frame the contest as an opportunity to ease congressional obstacles to President Barack Obama’s bold agenda and a chance for payback on another post-election power grab — Bush v. Gore.
To Republicans, the battle is about drawing a line in the sand after taking a brutal Election Day beating and claiming the moral high ground on voter-protection efforts — an argument typically associated with Democrats.
“When people find out what happened, they’re outraged,” said Michael Thielen, executive director of the Republican National Lawyers Association.
His group, which is registered as a so-called 527 political committee but does not make campaign contributions, sent out fundraising appeals to support its own operations that highlighted alleged inconsistencies in reviewing disputed ballots and disenfranchisement of military voters.
“We need to expose these illicit attempts to steal the election and seat Al Franken in the Senate.
Thielen said he was “shocked about the response and the interest” to the e-mails and the court fight.
Democratic activists are also energized, said longtime Franken friend Paul Begala, the consultant and commentator, because their party “is awfully close to giving this president the filibuster-proof majority he needs. And I think that’s why the Republicans are fighting this beyond the bounds of reason. They have very little respect for democracy. They didn’t care that Bush got fewer votes than Gore.”
Begala, who headlined a Saturday fundraiser in Minnesota for the state party (which is helping Franken pay his legal bills), last week lent his name to a pair of appeals from the party’s House and Senate campaign committees linking Franken’s fight to that of the Democratic candidate in last Tuesday’s too-close-to-call upstate New York congressional special election.
In fact, hours after the polls closed without a clear winner Tuesday, both parties were pleading with their donors for more cash by ominously predicting the razor-thin race could become Franken-Coleman II.
Citing a Republican legal maneuver to impound ballots for review, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Executive Director Jon Vogel e-mailed his list asserting, “We've seen these kinds of tactics before — just look at Al Franken who is still fighting for his seat in the Senate after November's election. We already have a legal team on the ground but we know this is going to be extremely expensive! We need your help again and we wouldn't ask again if it wasn't so critical.”
Vogel’s counterpart at the National Republican Congressional Committee, Guy Harrison, implored his donors: “Don't Let'em Pull a Franken.”
“Democrats have almost succeeded in stealing the election in Minnesota and seating Al Franken,” he wrote in an e-mail seeking donations “to make sure the will of the residents of New York’s 20th District prevails in the final outcome.”
The DCCC, in turn, tried to turn the e-mail against the GOP, forwarding it to Democratic donors Friday with a personal message from Begala.
“Are you ready for the granddaddy of hypocrisy?” Begala wrote.
“Republicans just accused Democrats of trying to steal elections! Yup. The same party that stole an entire presidential election in 2000 and is right now still trying to steal a Senate race in Minnesota just sent this outrageous e-mail to their supporters,” reads the e-mail, which concludes with the customary plea for cash.
Aided by higher contribution limits for their joint recount committees than they faced during the campaign itself, Coleman and Franken themselves have set a blistering fundraising pace post-election. Altogether they’ve likely held more than a dozen fundraisers.
Coleman, who had held the seat for six years before it was made vacant during the court battle, had raised $5 million between Election Day and mid-February, according to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Coleman’s campaign did not respond to requests for updated figures, which it will be required to report April 15 to the Federal Election Commission.
Franken, meanwhile, has pulled in $7 million post-election, said spokeswoman Jess McIntosh.
Both sides also have benefited from fundraising by their respective party’s national senate campaign committees, which figures to pick up as a result of a March FEC decision allowing the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the NRSC to solicit maximum $30,400 individual contributions into special recount funds that don’t count against regular contribution caps.
But no matter how much cash Coleman, Franken and their allies raise for their court fight, it’s unlikely their campaign committees will emerge with much in the kitty, say sources with knowledge of the candidates’ finances and legal bills.
“Marc Elias [Franken’s lawyer] is very good, but he’s not cheap,” said a Democratic operative with knowledge of the party’s fundraising and Franken’s operation.
Coleman, meanwhile, has signaled that he also will use his campaign account to pay legal bills stemming from a federal investigation of one of his donors.
To help defray those costs and make up for the loss of his Senate income, in December Coleman took a consulting gig with the Republican Jewish Coalition, for which he’s traveled the country partly helping the group prospect for donors.
“Everywhere he goes, he’s like a rock star,” said someone familiar with Coleman’s work for the RJC. Coleman has helped the group immeasurably, the source said. “There’s just a high interest in the race.”
NORPAC, a relatively little-known New Jersey-based political action committee that supports pro-Israel candidates from both parties, last month sent out a fundraising appeal for Coleman. Karen Pichkhadze, an official with the PAC, said the response was “actually pretty quiet.”
The group raised less than $2,000, which it forwarded to Coleman, she said.
“I think it’s kind of fading,” Pichkhadze said of the fervor over the race.
THIS WAS COPIED FROM THE POLITICO (By Mark3030)
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