Schumer cutting monster checks to help out fellow Senate Democrats

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has gone on a late-season spending spree to help Democratic candidates.

A new campaign finance report shows Schumer cut two checks to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) worth $1 million each in September.

He has also poured money from his campaign account into state parties around the country. Friends of Schumer gave $250,000 to the Nevada State Democratic Party on Sept. 7, a crucial boost to embattled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

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Schumer's donations are sure to raise eyebrows because he himself is up for re-election this year, albeit against weak opposition. He is also widely expected to run for Senate Democratic leader if Reid loses his race in Nevada.

The gifts cement Schumer’s position as the Senate Democrats' biggest financial backer, and could make a difference if he makes a bid to lead Senate Democrats in the 112th Congress. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is seen as the other favorite to succeed Reid.

Schumer’s campaign also gave $25,000 to the Alaska Democratic Party, $50,000 to the Colorado Democratic Party, $50,000 to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and $50,000 to the Washington State Democratic Party, according to a report filed Wednesday.

The contributions were all made at the end of September and will help incumbents in tough races such as Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Patty Murray (D-Was.).

Schumer also gave generously to help incumbents who are not considered in danger, such as Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

In late September, Schumer's campaign gave $50,000 to the Democratic State Central Committee of Maryland, $25,000 to the Democratic Party of Oregon, and $20,000 to the Vermont Democratic Party.

He has given a total of $3 million to the DSCC this cycle.

A fundraising report filed Wednesday shows that Schumer gave the committee a $1 million gift from his campaign account on Sept. 14 and a second $1 million gift on Sept. 29.

DSCC Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) announced in mid-September that Schumer had made the Sept. 14 donation.

Schumer transferred the first $1 million from Friends of Schumer in August.

The New York senator reported $23.2 million in his personal campaign war chest at the end of Aug. Friends of Schumer reported $19.3 million in cash on hand at the end of September.

Speculation over a potential race for leader between Durbin and Schumer, the vice chairman of the Democratic conference, has intensified in recent days.

“While the public chatter of succession battle has died down, there’s a lot of scheming behind the scenes,” said a Democratic lobbyist who focuses on the Senate.

“It’s very possible that Reid could lose,” said the lobbyist. Reid is tied in the polls with his conservative challenger, Sharron Angle.

Reid didn’t help his cause by turning in what political experts viewed as a mediocre performance during his debate with Angle last week.

While Reid has focused on his race with Angle, Schumer and Durbin have taken the lead on helping Senate Democratic candidates around the country this fall.

From this past weekend through Election Day, Durbin is scheduled to host, headline or appear at campaign events in California, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin. His scheduler is trying to lock down another four events.

Both Durbin and Schumer have lavished hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions on Senate colleagues and candidates this election cycle. 

The gifts are highly appreciated in a campaign year when Democratic candidates have seen a record number of corporate-funded attack ads because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC.

Durbin has doled out $400,000 to Senate candidates and the state parties working to help them through his leadership political action committee, Prairie PAC, according a review of fundraising records going back to Election Day 2008. The most recent report covered the period from Oct. 1 to Oct. 13.

He has given the DSCC $30,000 from his leadership PAC and transferred $430,000 to the committee from his personal campaign account.

Durbin has also hosted nearly a dozen events for Senate Democratic candidates and the DSCC in Chicago this year.

Schumer has given $390,000 from his leadership PAC, Impact, to help Senate Democratic candidates this cycle, according to reports covering the period from Election Day 2008 to Oct. 13 of this year.

These contributions will be among the factors Democratic senators weigh if Durbin and Schumer square off in a race for Senate majority leader.

Talk of a potential race between Durbin and Schumer quieted over the summer after Angle won the Nevada GOP primary in June. Political experts thought Angle would be a weak opponent because of her penchant for controversial statements, but Reid has struggled to boost his approval rating much above 40 percent.

Conservatives have poured money into Nevada to defeat Reid. Angle reported raising a jaw-dropping $14 million in the third quarter of this year.

Reid’s debate against Angle gave his supporters more cause for concern.

“Sharron Angle won The Big Debate,” Nevada political analyst Jon Ralston wrote in the Las Vegas Sun. “She won because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid looked as if he could barely stay on a linear argument, abruptly switching gears and failing to effectively parry or thrust."