If Collins backs Kavanaugh, her opponent gets $1M

WASHINGTON (AP) — A campaign urging Republican Sen. Susan Collins to vote against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has generated more than $1 million in pledges, money that would go to her opponent in 2020 if she decides to support the judge.

The senator and her Republican colleagues are decrying the effort in Maine as attempted bribery, as attention shifts from Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings to the question of how lawmakers will vote on his nomination.

The spotlight on Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski is particularly intense because they are viewed as the only two Republicans seen as potential “no” votes. With a 51-49 GOP majority, Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the court is virtually assured if either senator votes yes.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, came to Collins’ defense Wednesday, tweeting through his office account that “every Democrat should be condemning these antics in Maine — attempting to bribe Senator Collins to vote against Judge Kavanaugh and threatening sexual violence against staffers if she votes for him is absolutely disgusting.”

The latter point stems from allegations Collins made to The Wall Street Journal that someone had left a voicemail with one of her state offices in which “they actually threatened to rape one of my young female staffers.” Her office also provided The Associated Press with other examples of calls and letters containing vulgar insults.

In Maine, a trio of advocacy groups continued their fundraising efforts Wednesday with a running tally of pledges coming to about $1.1 million. Marie Follayttar, co-director of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, described her organization as a grassroots movement borne out of frustration with President Donald Trump’s election.

The groups states on the fundraising page that Kavanaugh is committed to “ending health care for people with pre-existing conditions. He is committed to overturning Roe v. Wade.” The groups then provide two scenarios:

— Collins votes no on Kavanaugh “and you will not be charged, and no money will go to fund her future opponent.”

— Collins votes yes on Kavanaugh “and your pledge will go to her opponent’s campaign, once that opponent has been identified.”

Collins’ spokeswoman said that amounts to quid pro quo: “You vote the way we want and we will keep more than a million dollars away from your opponent. Vote against us and we give her the money. It is basically a bribe.”