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Tens of Thousands of People Raising Money to Defeat Collins If She Votes for Kavanaugh Is Not "Bribery," Say Her Opponents, It's Democracy

"The idea of Susan Collins attacking an effort by 35,000 small dollar donors as bribery is politics at its worst...Unlike Supreme Court judges, senators do not enjoy a lifetime guarantee of their seat; they are accountable to the people."

Protesters in Maine visited one of Sen. Susan Collins's offices last week to demand that she vote against Judge Brett Kavanaugh for an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Protesters in Maine visited one of Sen. Susan Collins's offices last week to demand that she vote against Judge Brett Kavanaugh for an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Photo: @Indivisible MDI/Twitter)

After Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) described a fast-growing fund that will go toward defeating her in 2020 if she decides to vote in favor of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a form of "bribery," the backers of that effort say such a reaction by the senator is clear proof she doesn't understand the concept of democracy.

"The idea of Susan Collins attacking an effort by 35,000 small dollar donors as bribery is politics at its worst," Marie Follayttar of Mainers for Accountable Leadership said in a statement. "Thousands of Mainers are trying desperately to tell her that she needs to protect abortion access and critical healthcare coverage across the country by voting 'no' on Kavanaugh...Unlike Supreme Court judges, senators do not enjoy a lifetime guarantee of their seat; they are accountable to the people."

Efforts to convince Collins to vote against Kavanaugh for a lifetime appointment are intensifying this week, with healthcare activist Ady Barkan amassing more than $1 million in small donations in a grassroots campaign and Planned Parenthood launching a six-figure ad buy targeting the senator.

"Senator Collins asked to hear from Mainers and here they are, loud and clear, asking her to oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court," said Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

The ads will appear online and on TV starting Wednesday, featuring Maine women expressing concern about Collins's potential vote for Kavanaugh. Should all 49 members of the Democratic caucus march in lock step against Kavanaugh's nomination, the Republicans won't be able to lose more than one GOP vote, making Collins—a so-called moderate who had claimed to hold pro-choice views despite voting for numerous anti-choice judges—a crucial target for Kavanaugh opponents.

Collins has thus far dismissed the steady calls for her to vote against Kavanaugh, as Barkan has traveled across the country promoting his "Be a Hero" campaign.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote Tuesday that Collins had brushed off 3,000 coat hangers which pro-choice protesters had sent to her office, as a reference to dangerous at-home abortions that thousands of women died from before the Supreme Court legalized abortion care with their decision on Roe vs. Wade in 1973: 

"I am pleased to say," Ms. Collins says with a small chuckle, "we had a group that has a thrift shop that helps low-income women ask us for 300 of the hangers. So at least 300 of them have gone to a very good cause."

Even if Collins has "chuckled" over the calls of Americans to vote against Kavanaugh—who is the least popular Supreme Court nominee in decades with just 38 percent of the public backing him—there is no question that Mainers protesters are making their voices heard not just in boots-on-the-ground demonstrations but also through a method elected officials generally pay attention to: financial contributions.

Barkan's Be a Hero campaign has asked Kavanaugh opponents to make small donations which will be given to Collins's challenger for her Senate seat in 2020 should she vote "yes" on Kavanaugh. If she heeds protesters' warnings and votes against him, the money will be returned to the donors.

As of Wednesday the fund was up to more than $1.1 million, rapidly approaching the goal of $1.3 million—the same amount Collins reportedly has on-hand for her 2020 re-election campaign—that Barkan's group has now set. An initial goal of $300,000 was quickly surpassed last week.

The campaign has clearly gotten the attention of Collins and her staff, prompting attacks from the senator as she prepares to cast a vote that could end her career.

"Through this grassroots effort, Mainers are making clear to Senator Collins that they will defeat her for reelection if she defies the will of the people and votes to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. The First Amendment guarantees their right to do so." —Jonathan Berkon, attorney"This quid pro quo fund-raising campaign appears to be the equivalent of an attempt to bribe me," Collins told the New York Times Tuesday. "Attempts at bribery or extortion will not influence my vote at all."

Jonathan Berkon, an attorney specializing in election law, defended the fundraiser and its proponents against what he called a "bogus legal threat."

"Through this grassroots effort, Mainers are making clear to Senator Collins that they will defeat her for reelection if she defies the will of the people and votes to confirm Judge Kavanaugh," Berkon said. "The First Amendment guarantees their right to do so. And federal law protects their right to pool their funds together now, when enthusiasm is at its peak, so that their campaign against a well-funded, four-term incumbent is viable two years from now."

On social media, a number of the campaign's supporters pointed out the blatant hypocrisy of attacking small donors for attempting to persuade Collins to represent their interests, while happily accepting millions in corporate and PAC contributions over her decades in public office.

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