Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced Friday that she will support Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, all but certainly sealing his confirmation. But the decision could hurt her re-election campaign.
A group of progressive activist groups, hoping to push Collins to vote against Kavanaugh, launched a campaign last month to fund her eventual opponent in 2020.
The fundraising, at least, has been a smash success.
The senator's yet-undetermined Democratic foe will hit the ground running with a war chest of more than $2 million if Collins votes to confirm Kavanaugh, as she said she would in a nearly hourlong statement on Friday.
The Crowdpac fundraiser is being steered by the Maine People's Alliance, Mainers for Accountable Leadership and activist Ady Barkan, who co-founded the progressive Be A Hero campaign. More than 71,000 individual donors had contributed as of Friday afternoon from every county in Maine and other places across the country.
Donors' credit cards will be charged when Collins formally casts a yes vote as scheduled on Saturday. The funds will sit in an escrow account until her opponent emerges, Barkan and Be A Hero co-founder Liz Jaff told HuffPost.
"We haven't even started to hit on the fact that she just betrayed every Mainer and millions of Americans, specifically American women," Jaff said. The activist anticipates another wave of donations following the senator's decision.
The sums raised so far should make an impact in the 2020 election. Collins' last opponent, Democrat Shenna Bellows, raised about $2.35 million total in 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Collins raised about $6.23 million in the same election.
Her office has sharply dismissed the Crowdpac effort as a bribery attempt.
"Senator Collins will make up her mind based on the merits of the nomination. Threats or other attempts to bully her will not play a factor in her decision making whatsoever," spokeswoman Annie Clark said last month. (One ethics expert told The Washington Post that the effort might breach campaign finance laws, but others disagreed.)
Kavanaugh stands accused of sexually assaulting psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford at a high school party in 1982. Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh's at Yale, alleged that he once thrust his exposed penis in her face at an undergraduate party. Other people who know Kavanaugh have accused him of dishonestly characterizing his drinking habits during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month.
Although Collins stated that she would not vote to confirm any Supreme Court nominee who would likely vote against abortion rights, she has indicated that she does not believe Kavanaugh would do so.
Barkan told HuffPost that the senator's decision on Kavanaugh "tells the American people that Susan Collins believes that sexual violence is OK, that abortion should be illegal, and that lying to Congress carries no consequence."
The groups plan to "double down," Jaff said, to make sure Collins knows that "this is the worst vote she's ever made in her life."
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), whose indecision last week forced his Republican colleagues to push for a new FBI investigation into Kavanaugh, said earlier Friday that he also planned to confirm the judge barring any "big changes." Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said directly after Collins' announcement that he will support the nominee, too. Unlike Flake, who is not seeking re-election this year, Manchin goes before his red-state voters next month.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a centrist, indicated that she would vote no on Kavanaugh after spending the morning speaking with sexual assault survivors.
A final Senate vote is set for Saturday. If confirmed as expected, Kavanaugh will win a seat on the Supreme Court bench by one of the narrowest margins in decades.