Big donors pouring cash into Massachusetts Senate race
By Paul Kane
In a final push to keep their filibuster-proof majority, Senate Democrats turned to Edward M. Kennedy's widow for a fund-raising appeal on behalf of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is struggling to win a special election to succeed the late Democratic senator.
Victoria Reggie Kennedy, in an e-mailed fund-raising pitch, framed the surprisingly close race between Coakley and state Sen. Scott Brown (R) as the defining moment of her husband's legacy, because a Brown victory in the Jan. 19 election would likely derail the massive health-care legislation now in the final stages of negotiations.
"Ted fought for national health-care reform for 40 years. He believed that every American deserved their chance at the American dream, but that as long as an illness or preexisting condition could bankrupt an American family, that great goal could never become a reality. We need Martha Coakley to continue our shared fight. ...This race will be very close and we need you to get us to victory," Kennedy wrote Wednesday.
Sen. Kennedy, whose staff helped write the bill as he battled brain cancer, called national health reform the "cause of my life", and a Brown victory could give Republicans a critical 41st vote, enough to sustain a filibuster.
Coakley and national Democrats have been caught flat footed by Brown's late surge in the race, both politically and financially. As the winner of the Democratic primary on Dec. 8, Coakley was considered the overwhelming favorite because of the state's Democratic tilt. Fund-raising reports showed that Coakley had raised $4.2 million by late November. Brown's campaign, meanwhile, had raised just $467,000 at that point.
Coakley's campaign raised an additional $1 million in the final six weeks of the year. But that's when Brown's campaign began to take off, raising more than $750,000 in that period and an additional $300,000 from large donors in the first 10 days of the new year, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. With conservatives around the country smelling the chance for an upset, Brown raised $1.3 million over the Internet on Monday, his campaign announced. He is now expected to spend more money than Coakley in the final week of the race.
Democrats had so taken the race for granted that Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) did not cut a check to donate to Coakley's campaign until Friday, when his political action committee sent $5,000, just 11 days before the election. Other last-minute donors to Coakley's campaign include the state's governor, Deval Patrick, who gave $2,400 last week from his own personal account. (The governor identified his occupation as "public servant" on forms filed with the Federal Election Commission.)
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), whose own political prospects have grown more dire because of her support of the health-care legislation, gave $5,000 from her PAC last week to Coakley. She's one of 14 Senate Democrats to make donations in the last few weeks. Just three members of the state's House delegation -- Reps. Barney Frank (D), Stephen Lynch (D) and John Olver (D) -- have donated to her campaign since she won the primary.
The appeal from Victoria Kennedy is part of a last-minute effort to sway wavering voters by appealing to the late senator's legacy, something that Coakley had not been tapping into earlier in the campaign. Victoria Kennedy, who did not endorse a candidate in the crowded Democratic primary, publicly endorsed Coakley last week, their first appearance together.
"We have just 6 days to do the hard work of electing Martha Coakley so that we can continue the agenda that Ted made the fight of his life," Vicki Kennedy wrote Wednesday.
Her fund-raising appeal was sent out by other Democrats who have their own fund-raising networks, including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who called Brown a "far-right-tea-bagger Republican" in an email to his donors.
"It would be bad enough to lose this seat -- and Democrats' 60th vote in the Senate -- right before the final health care reform vote. But it would be even worse for the decisive 'no' vote to come from Ted Kennedy's old seat," Schumer wrote.
January 13, 2010; 7:07 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , 50 States , Health Care
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