NOTE: Blumenthal spokeswoman Maura Downes would only confirm he attended the event, as did New Hampshire Rep. Paul Hodes.
Dems take flak for Canadian fundraiser
By David Catanese
July 13, 2010 02:03 PM EDT
Ten top-tier Democratic Senate candidates jet to Canada over the weekend for a fundraising junket with trial attorneys.
No, it’s not the setup to a punch line.
It’s what actually occurred this past Sunday, when a batch of Democratic contenders ventured to Vancouver for a rare group fundraiser, hosted by the Committee for a Better Future, also known as the political action committee for the world’s largest trial bar.
Republicans could hardly contain their glee. The optics of a foreign trip to hobnob with attorneys from the American Association for Justice offered a made-to-order line of attack that they deployed with ease, placing a host of campaigns in battleground contests on the defensive.
Of the 12 Senate candidates listed on the fundraiser’s contribution form, only two – Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Missouri Democrat Robin Carnahan – told POLITICO they did not attend the event.
Most campaigns didn’t want to talk about it. Three in Republican-leaning states, Louisiana’s Charlie Melancon, Kentucky’s Jack Conway and Indiana’s Brad Ellsworth, declined to respond to inquiries from POLITICO. The rest were left explaining – some gingerly, others aggressively and one with a joke.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee was most eager to hit Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the embattled majority leader who took away 20 percent of the cash raised from the event, according to the committee’s allocation formula.
“Harry Reid likes to brag that ‘no one can do more,’ but evidently he was referring to his ability to bolster Canada’s economy – not Nevada’s,” sneered NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh.
While an aide said Reid only flew to Vancouver for the evening, the official campaign response was expected: a withering assault on GOP opponent Sharron Angle.
“Let’s talk about who’s really out-of-touch. Sharron Angle wants to kill Social Security, calls unemployed Nevadans ‘spoiled’ and says it’s not her job to create jobs,” blasted a statement from the Reid campaign.
While the GOP launched ordnance against most of their Democratic opponents, their messages varied according to specific candidates.
For Rep. Mark Kirk’s campaign, it was about accessibility.
“Apparently, Alexi Giannoulias doesn’t have the time to hold weekday press conferences in Chicago but he does have time for special-interest fundraisers in Canada,” said Kirk campaign spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski, before highlighting the nearly $200,000 the Illinois Democratic Senate nominee has received from lawyers.
A spokesman for Giannoulias, who has already taken his share of licks for his family’s failed bank, said it was hypocritical to point fingers on donations when Kirk himself has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from attorneys.
“I don't see mention that Kirk has taken $430,000 from lawyers,” said spokesman Matt McGrath.
The same refrain came from Delaware Senate candidate Chris Coons, an underdog against popular nine-term Rep. Mike Castle. Castle, the son of a DuPont patent lawyer, has received more than $800,000 from lawyers and law firms, according to Coons spokesman Daniel McElhatton. Iowa Democratic Senate nominee Roxanne Conlin also attempted a reverse volley, pointing to “corporate PACs and lobbyists” who are financing Sen. Chuck Grassley.
In Connecticut, the GOP dusted off their strike at Dick Blumenthal’s character and integrity, asking whether the attorney general would come clean about his weekend jaunt.
“No more lies. Dick Blumenthal owes the voters of Connecticut a straight answer: Did he travel to Canada yesterday to raise money from his fellow liberal trial lawyers, or did he send his bag man Harry Reid to collect his share instead?” asked NRSC spokeswoman Amber Marchand.
Blumenthal spokeswoman Maura Downes would only confirm he attended the event, as did New Hampshire Rep. Paul Hodes.
Considering the circumstances in the Gulf – where the oil spill catastrophe approaches the three-month mark – the question for the three-term Melancon was inevitable.
“Surely, as BP conducts a risky procedure impacting the flow of oil spilling onto the shores of his district, Charlie Melancon would not make the reckless decision to run off to Canada on a campaign fundraising junket,” said NRSC spokesman Chris Bond.
Still, a few candidates embraced the event – none more than Ohio Democratic Senate nominee Lee Fisher, whose spokesman used the opportunity to craft a creative counterpunch.
Offered spokesman John Collins: “Lee was in Canada to see firsthand the jobs created by Congressman Portman after he spent 20 years in Washington supporting tax breaks for companies that shipped jobs overseas. Lee also plans to visit China, India and Mexico.”
Portman’s campaign called that response unacceptable, suggesting Fisher was making light of the situation of hundreds of thousands who have lost jobs during the economic downturn.
“It’s shameful that Lt. Governor Lee Fisher would try to hide his foreign fundraising trip with insensitive jokes. It is either OK to be hobnobbing with trial lawyers in Canada while taking a taxpayer-funded paycheck, or it is not,” said Portman spokesman Jeff Sadosky.
But the North Carolina Senate campaign of Elaine Marshall, who has struggled building the war chest necessary to mount a competitive challenge to Sen. Richard Burr, said it were unfazed by the barbs.
“Marshall and her husband were prominent attorneys and it makes sense that these are some of her friends. If Burr wants to get into a debate about where our money comes from, that’s a fight we welcome,” said campaign spokesman Sam Swartz, referencing the banks and oil companies that have poured money into the Republican’s coffers.
Also of note: Rep. Joe Sestak and Rep. Kendrick Meek were the only two non-incumbent Senate candidates in battleground states that didn’t make the guest list.
The American Association for Justice declined to describe the nature of the invites or how much was raised, with a spokesman only saying the group was proud to support candidates who reject corporate influences.
An NRSC official suggested the group would continue hammering opponents on the fundraiser, but one Democratic aide affiliated with a Senate campaign insisted the legs for this line of attack were short.
“When was the last time – if ever — the dreaded trial lawyer attack actually hurt a Democratic candidate? I know this is good for Republican fundraising, but do voters care? I submit they don’t,” said the aide.
Rep. Hodes attended Canada fundraiser
By Joel S. Gehrke Jr.
07/13/10 2:55 PM EDT
Responding to Washington Examiner inquiries, a spokesman for Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes’ Senate campaign confirmed that “yes, Paul did attend” the weekend fundraiser hosted by trial lawyers in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Hodes, who currently represents the northwestern half of New Hampshire, joined Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and several other Democratic Senate candidates at an event that critics say demonstrates the cozy relationship between the Democrats and trial lawyers.
This weekend run to Canada could be embarrassing for Hodes, given his claim (made while celebrating the DISCLOSE Act’s passage) that he “[fights] to end the influence that corporate and foreign special interests have in American elections.”