Durbin and Schumer prepare for fight with donations to Senate colleagues

Durbin and Schumer prepare for fight with donations to Senate colleagues

The second- and third-ranking Senate Democratic leaders are doling out huge sums of cash, laying the groundwork for a leadership race should Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSenators briefed on US Navy's encounters with UFOs: report Key endorsements: A who's who in early states Trump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview MORE lose reelection.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump goes after Democrats over photo of drowned migrants Schumer displays photo of drowned migrants on Senate floor in appeal to Trump McConnell-backed Super PAC says nominating Roy Moore would be 'gift wrapping' seat to Dems MORE (N.Y.), the vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, has been the biggest giver to Democratic Senate candidates, contributing $210,000 to colleagues and candidates.

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During the same span, Majority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt McConnell opens door to vote on Iran war authorization Negotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline MORE (D-Ill.) has given $110,000 to Senate candidates.

The leaders gave money to newcomers and candidates facing tough races. But they also contributed to those whose reelection prospects seem solid, such as Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales MORE (D-Vt.), who last won in liberal Vermont with 71 percent of the vote. While Leahy probably does not need the money for reelection, Durbin and Schumer may feel they need to contribute to his campaign to cement his loyalty.

Both lawmakers gave the money through their leadership political action committees (PACs), which allies say is a sign that they are preparing for a possible leadership battle if Reid (D-Nev.) loses reelection, a prospect that is looking more likely.

Spokesmen for Durbin and Schumer declined requests for comment.

“You have a leadership PAC for a reason: You give to people that you want to support you at some point in the future,” said a former aide to one of the Democratic leaders. “Is a future leadership race part of the calculation when you give? Yes, it is.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi: Congress will receive election security briefing in July Adam Scott calls on McConnell to take down 'Parks & Rec' gif Trump says he spoke to Pelosi, McConnell on border package MORE (Ky.), on the other hand, seems to be strengthening his grip on the top job, giving away $330,000 through his leadership PAC in 2009. That exceeds the $310,000 he doled out in 2008 and the $275,000 in 2007.

But McConnell is facing pressure from conservatives to move the party rightward. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who has emerged as the strongest voice in the chamber for that movement, gave away $148,000 to candidates.

The situation with Schumer and Durbin is a delicate one. Both support Reid and do not want to do anything to undermine his reelection effort. But at the same time, they realize — as do many political analysts ­— that Reid faces a serious threat.

Reid’s job approval rating has hovered around 40 percent in recent polls, and the national political environment is shaping up as a challenging one for Democrats.

The Nevada lawmaker gave far less to Democratic candidates in 2009 than he did in 2007, the last off-year before an election year. In 2007, Reid contributed $197,500 to federal candidates and other political committees. Last year, he gave away $126,000.

Reid has given $95,000 to Senate Democratic candidates but targeted his gifts to challengers such as Rep. Paul Hodes, who is running in New Hampshire, and Rep. Charlie Melancon in Louisiana.

Reid did not give money to incumbents in cushy seats, focusing instead on his own reelection. He showered dozen of local candidates and political organizations in Nevada with money, including $5,000 to the Nevada Assembly Democratic Caucus and $2,500 to the Clark County Democratic Hispanic Caucus.

“While the size and number of contributions to candidates may vary, the goal of the fund has always remained the same: electing individuals who share Sen. Reid’s commitment to creating jobs and turning the economy around,” said Zac Petkanas, Reid’s campaign spokesman.

A Durbin ally said the possibility of replacing Reid is “far more in the mind of Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump goes after Democrats over photo of drowned migrants Schumer displays photo of drowned migrants on Senate floor in appeal to Trump McConnell-backed Super PAC says nominating Roy Moore would be 'gift wrapping' seat to Dems MORE than anyone else” but acknowledged that Durbin has by no means ignored the possibility.

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Durbin quietly secured the votes for Senate Democratic whip in the run-up to the 2004 election, when it was uncertain whether former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) would survive. Daschle’s loss opened up two positions in the Democratic leadership because Reid, who was serving as whip, ran for Daschle’s post.

A Schumer ally, however, argued that the New York lawmaker has always been a prolific Democratic fundraiser.

“Chuck’s level of activity of giving to his colleagues has been pretty consistent and Chuck wants to be the first to help out just generally,” said the source. “It’s part of the reason he led the [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC)] for two election cycles.

“Essentially, 14 Senate Democrats owe their seats to him and he wants to continue to protect that majority that he helped to build,” the source added.

Schumer gave $10,000 to Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPelosi: Congress will receive election security briefing in July The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Senate Finance leaders in talks on deal to limit drug price increases MORE (D-Ore.), $10,000 to Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate Health Committee advances bipartisan package to lower health costs Overnight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds Chris Murphy may oppose bipartisan health bill unless it addresses ObamaCare 'sabotage' MORE (D-Wash.), $10,000 to Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiLobbying World Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar MORE (D-Md.), $10,000 to Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and $10,000 to Leahy, none of whom is considered endangered. He made these contributions in late 2008 and earmarked them for the 2010 election cycle, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Durbin gave $10,000 to Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), $10,000 to Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), $5,000 to Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt VA chief pressed on efforts to prevent veteran suicides Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments MORE’s (D-Mont.) leadership PAC and $5,000 to Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.).

Schumer also gave to Feingold, Dodd and Dorgan.

Both lawmakers also gave to Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Tariff battle looms as Trump jabs 'foolish' Senate GOP Barbs start to fly ahead of first Democratic debate MORE’s (D-Minn.) election recount fund as well as $15,000 to the DSCC.

Reid, Durbin and Schumer filed the year-end fundraising reports for their leadership PACs with the Federal Election Commission last week, making possible a comprehensive comparison of their donations.

McConnell gave contributions to several GOP Senate candidates who are running in primaries against more conservative opponents. He has given $5,000 contributions to Carly Fiorina in California, Trey Grayson in Kentucky and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteKey endorsements: A who's who in early states Sinema, Gallagher fastest lawmakers in charity race New Hampshire senator to ask 2020 Dems to back repeal of state residency law MORE in New Hampshire since July of last year.

DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund reports on its website that it has contributed, raised, bundled and spent $256,000 in support of conservative candidates running in GOP primaries.

Money that is raised for candidates through fundraisers, the Internet or mail is not reported to the FEC.

Most of DeMint’s PAC support went to Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP lays debate trap for 2020 Democrats Mellman: Are primary debates different? Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Trump issues order to bring transparency to health care prices | Fight over billions in ObamaCare payments heads to Supreme Court MORE in Florida ($133,000), Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania ($51,000) and Chuck DeVore in California ($23,000), according to the PAC website.

A person familiar with McConnell’s fundraising operation said that the leader’s reported contributions to GOP candidates would have been much greater if it included money raised.

“It would at a minimum be double [the $330,000 reported],” said the source, who noted that McConnell helped DeMint raise $60,000 at an event last year.