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Donors Reward Dems Who Pushed Public Option

Ryan Grim

The three representatives -- Alan Grayson (Fla.), Chellie Pingree (Maine), and Jared Polis (Colo.) and -- have so far received more than $20,000 each, with the rest going to Howard Dean's Democracy for America group and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), which organized the campaign and set up website to raise funds.

Liberal bloggers have quietly raised nearly $90,000 in the past few
days to reward three freshman House Democrats for organizing an effort
to put the public health insurance option back into the Senate health
care debate.

The three representatives -- Chellie Pingree (Maine), Jared Polis
(Colo.) and Alan Grayson (Fla.) -- have so far received more than
$20,000 each, with the rest going to Howard Dean's Democracy for
America group and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC),
which organized the campaign and set up this website.

"It was easy to raise money for [the three members] because they did
exactly what voters consistently say they want Democrats to do," said
PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor. "They fought for bigger change
instead of smaller change, and by fighting for the public option they
showed they were willing to directly challenge corporate power on
behalf of everyday people."

Grayson delivered a petition with
tens of thousands of names to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
(D-Nev.) calling on him to re-insert the public option if he planned to
make changes to the Senate bill using the majority-rule process known
as budget reconciliation.

Pingree and Polis, meanwhile, circulated a letter
calling on Reid to do the same. Some Democrats privately worried at the
time that the letter would garner fewer than the 65 signatures that an
earlier demand letter had pulled in and indicate fading support.

Instead, 117 members signed the letter, thanks
in part to thousands of calls generated by PCCC, DFA and Credo Action
to Democratic offices, urging them to sign. The action is an example of
the kind of inside-outside coordination that progressives in Congress
rarely engage in.

Still, it likely won't be enough to sway the Senate, Speaker Nancy
Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on a conference call with bloggers this week.
Instead, she said, the Senate is most likely going to conform to the
deal that was struck between the White House, the Senate and the House
before the Senate Democratic caucus lost its 60th vote.

"They have to do what they have to do to get whatever they need to
move the process along," Pelosi said. "I totally respect the process
that they are going forward with and I also respect my members'
enthusiasm for initiatives that we felt strongly about in the House
bill. I don't know that that enthusiasm was shared across the board in
all three elements of the negotiation."

The enthusiasm for the freshman effort does show, at least, that there is a reward -- beyond public support -- for Democrats who push policies favored by the progressive base.

"The $60,000 we raised in 24 hours for these Healthcare Heroes is an
example of how the Democratic base rewards bold leadership and those
willing to fight for a public option," said DFA's political director
Charles Chamberlain. "It's time for Washington insiders to wake up to
the fact that following Joe Lieberman's lead will depress the
Democratic base in 2010 and result in big losses, while following the
lead of these Healthcare Heroes will fire up Obama voters who still
want real change."

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