Brett Kavanaugh Opponents Are Raising Money for Sen. Susan Collins’s 2020 Opponent — but Will Refund It If She Votes “No”

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is one of two Republican senators who may be “no” votes on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Bender introduced Ady Barkan, left, who is suffering from ALS and is traveling around the country to mobilize voters to support health care for all at a rally to support Rep. Keith Ellison's bid for Minnesota Attorney General Friday, July 13, 2018, in Minneapolis. Democratic voters will choose a candidate in an Aug. 14 primary. (Brian Peterson/Star Tribune via AP)
Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Bender not pictured) introduces Ady Barkan at a rally to support Rep. Keith Ellison's bid for Minnesota Attorney General on July 13, 2018, in Minneapolis. Photo: Brian Peterson/Star Tribune via AP

When Judge Brett Kavanaugh begins his Supreme Court confirmation hearings this fall, all eyes will be on a pair of Republican senators: Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins.

Both senators have signaled that they would be reticent to support a nominee who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and Kavanaugh’s past suggests he would eagerly do so as a Supreme Court justice.

Progressive activist Ady Barkan, who has the impairing condition of Lou Gehrig’s disease, spent the last five months crisscrossing the United States to campaign against Republicans who supported the tax law. He’s now pursuing an innovative tactic for pressuring Collins to vote “no” on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

His “Be A Hero” campaign has a simple message for the senator. Barkan will raise as much money as he can for Collins’s 2020 Democratic opponent. If Collins chooses to vote “no” on Kavanuagh’s confirmation, he will give it all back.

“Basically what we’re saying is, this money will be sitting there waiting for the challenger, but if she announces a position on Kavanaugh and helps kill the nomination, we will refund the money,” he told The Intercept. “So we’re trying to create good incentives for her and provide Democrats in blue states all over the country with a concrete way they can put pressure on her.”

Liz Jaff, the campaign manager for the “Be A Hero” campaign, explained the tactic to The Intercept.

“You can’t bribe a senator, right? Imagine if you said, ‘We will pay you $10,000 to vote no on Kavanaugh. That’s illegal,'” she rightly noted. “But what we can say is, ‘We won’t pay your future opponent if you vote no.'”

The campaign will use the Crowdpac platform, which allows candidates to collect pledges of contributions that can be released if certain conditions are met.

Barkan met with Collins recently. “We were just in Maine, nobody would listen. And so Ady’s thought is, ‘Okay, let’s try a new tactic. Politicians seem to listen to money. So let’s raise a shit-ton of money,'” Jaff said.

They’re asking people to pledge $20.20 to an as-yet-undetermined Democratic opponent. They won’t be charged unless Collins votes for Kavanaugh.

In addition to putting pressure on Collins, Barkan and Jaff hope to inspire someone to jump into the race against a Republican senator who has quite easily fended off Democratic opponents in the past.

“Let’s say we crowdfund … like $50,000. To start a campaign is pretty hard — if I’m thinking of running against Collins in 2020, and I know there’s a pot of money out there … if I decide to run and I get approved and I’m a good Democrat, I can start my campaign with $50,000 and that’s incredible,” Jaff said. “So it incentivizes other people to step up and run against her, because there’s a pot of money there.”

Correction: August 16, 2018, 1 p.m.
A previous version of this story misspelled the last name of Liz Jaff. It has been updated.

Top photo: Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Bender introduces Ady Barkan at a rally to support Rep. Keith Ellison’s bid for Minnesota attorney general on July 13, 2018, in Minneapolis.

Join The Conversation