Some Dems use votes on healthcare bill for new fundraising push

Some vulnerable Democrats are using their controversial vote in favor of the healthcare bill to raise money before the first-quarter reporting deadline.

Freshman Rep. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), who voted against the bill in November, sent out a fundraising appeal before supporting the bill Sunday. 

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“Quite simply, this is a better bill than the legislation I opposed last fall and it does more to contain costs while providing increased health insurance coverage,” she said, explaining her vote. She then asked supporters to help her raise $30,000 by Friday.

Freshman Rep. Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.), who voted no then yes as Markey did, made a similar appeal. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also made a pitch for contributions. 

“The world is closely watching and the media will use the critical March 31 filing deadline as a referendum on our historic health insurance reform,” Pelosi wrote in an e-mail to supporters.

And some Democratic challengers used the Republican members’ no vote to drum up contributions.

“I urged Congressman Jim GerlachJim GerlachBig names free to lobby in 2016 Ex-Rep. Gerlach ditches K St. in return to campaign world Ex-Sen. Pryor heading to K Street MORE to support this historic reform, but tonight he voted ‘No,’ ” former journalist Doug Pike (D), who is running against the four-term Pennsylvania Republican, wrote in an e-mail Sunday. Pike asked for a $25 contribution.

The finance report filing period ends March 31. Reports are due to Federal Election Commission (FEC) by April 15.

“Rarely do you see where there’s actually a particular vote that a member has taken that they’re raising money off of,” said Bill Allison, an editor with the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group. “It’s not unheard of for members to ask for support when they think that they’re in trouble, but to actually cite an individual vote is rare. But rarely do you have a bill that’s quite as massive as the healthcare bill is.”

Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, said members are always scrambling on the last days of the quarter to raise money. 

“If they think they can [tout their vote] safely, there’s no doubt they’d want to publicize their advocacy,” she said.

Democrats expect the bill’s passage will help energize their base.

“There’s no question our 4 million-plus grassroots supporters are showing tremendous energy and are very excited that health insurance reform became the law of the land,” Ryan Rudominer, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman, said in a statement.

The feeling is mutual among Republicans and their allies. 

Republican Pat Herrity, who’s challenging Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerry ConnollyDemocrats stage protest during brief House session 3 rays of sunshine on Pentagon foreign aid Dem protest ignites debate about control of House cameras MORE (D-Va.), asked for contributions so that he can “work tirelessly to repeal this bill.”

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), sent out an e-mail pitch Monday asking for donations to help end “Pelosi’s reign as Speaker.”

“Republicans have the recruits and with the end of the first quarter in TEN days, it is critical we continue to build momentum. That is why between now and the end of March, House Republicans will match every dollar you contribute to the NRCC,” Sessions wrote.

The repeal pitch is also energizing conservative activists to donate and volunteer. 

Eric Odom, who heads the Tea Party-affiliated Liberty First PAC, said the political action committee had received more than $10,000 in donations since Sunday’s vote. Moreover, he said 300 people have signed up to volunteer at the organization’s phone banks.

“They’re looking to fire those who supported this bill,” Odom said of the volunteers. The group plans to use the money and volunteer hours in its voter outreach program.

Some gubernatorial and Senate candidates from both sides of the aisle are also using the passage of the healthcare bill to shake loose contributions.

Experts contend that the 2010 cycle is likely to be the costliest midterm election to date, in part because the healthcare debate has been so contentious. For instance, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose political arm ran millions of dollars in advertising against Democrats in conservative districts, doesn’t plan to stop spending. 

“Our healthcare advocacy will be continued against the reconciliation bill and into the election,” said a spokeswoman for the group.

The Center for Responsive Politics estimates candidates and party committees alone will spend close to $3.7 billion by Nov. 2. 

“Additionally, the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission could precipitate millions more in spending by special interest groups looking to advance their own agendas,” Krumholz said. 

In 2006, candidates and party committees spent $2.8 billion on the election.