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Collins Takes Heat in Maine for Kavanaugh Vote As New Report Shows She Raked in Campaign Cash From His Biggest Backers

Senator Susan Collins continues to draw scrutiny from Mainers for casting a key vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh after he sided with a minority on the Supreme Court to uphold a rigid anti-choice state law this week. And a new report shows how Collins’ campaign coffers were flooded with checks from Kavanaugh supporters after she cast her crucial vote — many of whom had never donated to Collins before or significantly ramped up their giving.

An analysis from The Daily Beast found that following her vote to confirm Kavanaugh, Collins raked in nearly $200,000 from donors who are also high-dollar contributors to the Federalist Society,” a major Washington interest group that supported Kavanaugh’s nomination and has been pushing to stack the federal courts with right-wing judges. In 2017 and 2018, Collins voted to confirm every single one of Trump’s judicial nominees — but Collins is now getting hall passes from Mitch McConnell to avoid casting controversial votes in a desperate attempt to erase her record of confirming right-wing judges with hostile views on reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ equality.

In Maine, the Portland Press Herald’s Bill Nemitz eviscerated Collins — whose re-election campaign is “hanging by a thread” — for breaking “another promise” to Mainers as her vote to confirm Kavanaugh “come[s] back to haunt her.” And an op-ed from University of Maine professor Amy Fried argues that Collins’ Kavanaugh vote could be the “nail in [the] coffin” of her re-election after losing endorsements from key pro-choice groups to Sara Gideon and months of defending President Trump with comments that “lack credibility” and undermine her fading brand as an independent voice for Maine. 

Check out more of the devastating coverage below:

The Daily Beast: Susan Collins Cast the Crucial Vote for Brett Kavanaugh. His Biggest Backers Returned the Favor.

By Sam Brodey and Lachlan Markay

  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has been the object of liberal ire since her 2018 vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Now in a tight re-election fight, whatever hopes she might have had of putting that episode behind her were dashed this week, when now-Justice Kavanaugh cast a dissenting vote in the Supreme Court’s latest decision to uphold the legal framework that grants access to women seeking abortions.
  • Collins, who’s staked out a brand as a pro-choice moderate Republican over her nearly 24 years in the Senate, has historically never been a favorite in the conservative legal circles embodied by the Federalist Society, a leading group of right-of-center attorneys and legal thinkers.
  • But that, apparently, has changed dramatically since Collins’ fateful vote. Since 2019, Collins’ campaign and two associated political action committees have raked in nearly $200,000 from donors who are also high-dollar contributors to the Federalist Society. Many of those who gave to Collins had never cut a check for her before. 
  • The group of 39 donors includes Leonard Leo, the former executive vice president of the Federalist Society and a driving force behind President Trump and the Senate GOP’s historically successful efforts to stock the federal bench with conservative judges. 
  • The groundswell in financial support that Collins is receiving from conservative legal bigwigs comes at a time when the nation’s courts have become increasingly politicized.

Portland Press Herald: Bill Nemitz: Collins stumbles over another promise made – and broken

By Bill Nemitz

  • Based largely on those assurances from Kavanaugh, Collins cast a critical swing vote to put him on the nation’s highest bench and thus tilt the court decidedly to the right.
  • But now, with her bid for election to a fifth term hanging by a thread, Collins once again has some explaining to do.
  • On Monday, Kavanaugh and a conservative minority on the court lined up behind a Louisiana law that would have severely limited a woman’s right to an abortion in that state.
  • And what about Kavanaugh, the onetime proponent of all things precedential? Did he back up all those lofty promises he made to Collins and follow Roberts’ lead? Not a chance.
  • So, here we are again, asking the same old questions: Was Collins hoodwinked? Or did she buckle under intense pressure from her Republican leaders and vote to confirm Kavanaugh, hoping all the while that when his promises to her evaporated, somehow none of us would notice?
  • What Collins completely dodged in her statement, however, was Kavanaugh’s glaring disregard, at this moment, for precedent. The legal principle that was supposedly so important to him – and to her – two years ago is apparently now an afterthought, a pledge he never had any intention of keeping.
  • At the same time, Collins sidesteps the obvious: While Kavanaugh said what he needed to say in 2018 about respecting Roe as precedent, he has no compunction whatsoever about dismantling it piece by piece. Sure, it’s an almost-half-century-old legal edifice, but that’s not going to stop the court’s most junior justice from throwing rocks through its windows.
  • The reality here is that Collins, either through naivete or political calculation, made a bet back in 2018 that Kavanaugh’s professed allegiance to stare decisis would not come back to haunt her. And now that it has, with her approval rating already tanking and Election Day just four months away, she can only insist nothing has changed, that she’s doing just fine on that Twister mat even as it gets pulled right out from under her.

Talking Points Memo: Nail In Coffin? Facing Toughest Race Yet, Collins Forced To Answer For Kavanaugh Vote

By Amy Fried

  • During the nomination fight, Sen. Susan Collins (R) bought into now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Roe v. Wade hedging, publicly asserting she believed Kavanaugh when he said he respected precedent. 
  • The usually aggressive Collins press operation didn’t issue a statement until late in the day Monday. And what was released merely attempted to spit-shine Kavanaugh’s role in the ruling. Collins said that she agreed with the ruling and contended that it didn’t portend anything for “whether abortion would remain legal.” Kavanaugh, Collins said, “gave no indication in his dissenting opinion that he supports overturning Roe.”
  • In reality, Kavanaugh’s dissent fit squarely with a possibility many abortion advocates feared — that states would be allowed to pass more and more restrictions and these would ultimately limit access to abortion. 
  • Collins’ purported centrist credentials have relied in part on her stance as an advocate of reproductive rights, and that sort of positioning works well in Maine. But, with her vote for Kavanaugh, Collins lost the endorsements of the political arms of two abortion rights groups, NARAL and Planned Parenthood.
  • Those weren’t the only endorsements Collins has lost in recent years. The League of Conservation Voters isn’t endorsing Collins’ reelection. And King, who endorsed Collins in 2014, said on June 17 he “would probably stay out of the election this year,” adding, “I think the people of Maine can figure out how to vote without my guidance.”
  • When it comes to those pro-choice and environmental groups, Collins’ losses have been Sara Gideon’s gain.
  • [T]he four-term senator has put herself in an ever difficult position in recent months. 
  • After the impeachment trial, Collins argued Trump learned a lesson from the proceedings, but Trump dismissed that contention. As John Bolton told Martha Raddatz, since Trump was “acquitted in the Senate … he didn’t learn lessons from it, other than that he could get away with it.” 
  • Asked about Trump’s pandemic response in early April, Collins made some criticisms, but ultimately said Trump “did a lot that was right in the beginning.” The Trump administration’s numerous pandemic failures, coupled with the now 125,000-plus American deaths as new outbreaks flare, makes Collins’ statement lack plausibility.
  • And with this ruling on abortion rights, Collins elides the reality that, contrary to what she said in explaining why she backed Kavanaugh, he didn’t follow precedent and did endorse limiting abortion access. 
  • By appearing too close to Trump and conservatives, while also not embracing Trump as closely as some Republicans would like, Collins runs the risk of losing voters from multiple parts of the political spectrum.
  • If incorporated into a broader, sustained campaign narrative, this abortion ruling could undermine Collins’ candidacy.
  • That’s because Collins’ recent statements conflict with the Maine model of political leadership that includes a willingness to stand up to one’s own party. And, because her comments lack credibility, they look like either naiveté or political gaslighting, and both conclusions conflict with Collins’ reputation for taking her work seriously.

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