Senate Democrats’ super PAC targets Collins over Postal Service woes in new digital ad
The super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is launching a six-figure digital ad buy in Maine, targeting Sen. Susan Collins (R) for championing a bill over a decade ago that it says pushed the Postal Service “to the brink.”
The ad from Senate Majority PAC (SMP) centers on Collins’s role in passing the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which required the Postal Service to create a $72 billion fund for its employees’ post-retirement health care costs, spanning 75 years into the future. No other federal agency is subject to such a requirement.
Democrats widely blame that measure for much of the Postal Service’s current financial woes, which have emerged in recent weeks as a top concern of Democrats, who fear that a weakened Postal Service could disrupt mail-in voting in the November elections and potentially lead to scores of ballots going uncounted.
The SMP digital ad, shared first with The Hill, places the blame for the Postal Service’s problems squarely on Collins, who was the lead sponsor of the PAEA in the Senate.
“Maine can’t afford to have the Postal Service fail,” a narrator says in the 30-second spot. “But Susan Collins led the passage of a bill that weakened the post office, and saddled it with over $100 billion in debt.”
The ad will run on Facebook, YouTube and television streaming services beginning Tuesday.
Collins is one of the most vulnerable GOP Senate incumbents up for reelection this year and is facing a general election challenge from Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon (D). Nearly every public poll fielded in the last month shows Gideon leading Collins, and Democrats are spending heavily to unseat the four-term incumbent.
The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, currently rates the Senate race as a toss-up.
To be sure, the PAEA drew co-sponsors from both parties, including Schumer and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), currently the two top Democrats in the Senate. And it ultimately passed through the chamber unanimously.
Annie Clark, a spokesperson for Collins, said that the legislation had the support of postal worker groups at the time and was intended to relieve the Postal Service of billions of dollars in liabilities and give it flexibility to set postage rates.
Clark said that the attacks on Collins’s work on the legislation were disingenuous, noting that Collins and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) had introduced a bill last month that would provide the Postal Service with up to $25 billion to help offset losses and expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is a disingenuous effort by the Democrats to use the President’s mishandling of the current Post Office situation to attack Senator Collins for what, at the time, was a remarkable bipartisan legislative accomplishment – there had not been a successful major postal reform effort in Congress since 1971,” Clark said.
Maine, like most other states, has seen a surge in absentee voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. Primary elections last month set a record for absentee ballot requests in the Pine Tree State, with more than 200,000 Mainers requesting to vote by mail.
Maine was also among the 46 states that recently received letters from the Postal Service warning of inconsistencies between its delivery standards and state deadlines for receiving and counting mail-in ballots.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is calling the House back into session to address the Postal Service’s mounting financial crisis. The chamber is expected to vote Saturday on a measure to provide $25 billion in emergency funding to the Postal Service, though it’s unclear whether the Republican-controlled Senate will take up the legislation.
Collins has called on senators to return to Capitol Hill to act on a coronavirus relief package that includes funding for the Postal Service.
“Mainers deserve to know that Susan Collins paved the way for this crisis years ago, and is once again failing her constituents by refusing to take action as her own party derails the U.S. Postal Service,” Rachel Irwin, a spokesperson for SMP, said.
–Updated at 4:41 p.m.