Even as the federal government ran out of money last night prompting a partial shutdown, political parties, candidates and partisan advocates seized the moment to fatten their campaign bank accounts.
Both sides saw green by invoking the name of Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican freshman who delivered a 21-hour speech urging the defunding of the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 health-care law known as Obamacare.
“He has become the poster boy for the shutdown,” said Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington-based group that tracks lobbying and political giving. “You’re looking for that lightning rod. For Democrats, he’s public enemy No. 1, and for Republicans, he’s Paul Revere leading the charge against the Affordable Care Act.”
As Cruz spoke through the night Sept. 24 on the Senate floor, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus sent out an e-mail seeking donations. “Today, Senator Cruz has taken the fight to defund Obamacare to the Senate floor,” he wrote. “I hope you will join me in standing with him in solidarity.”
Kirsten Kukowski, an RNC spokeswoman, said the party raised “a lot” while declining to specify the amount.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee mentioned Cruz as well, saying that Senate Democrats were able to overcome “Ted Cruz’ stalling tactics.” Over a picture of Obama, the DCCC asks recipients to “show your support” in its e-mail. “Give $3 or more right now to help us take on Republicans blocking Obamacare,” the committee requests.
The appeals for contributions not only coincided with the Sept. 30 deadline for renewing the federal budget, which Congress failed to do. They also were timed with the end of the third quarter reporting period, when parties and candidates are already in the hunt for donations.
“History shows that any opportunity to capture everyone’s attention and to make headlines is a prime opportunity to fund-raise,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group that tracks political giving. “It’s naturally a good opportunity to raise immediate money and also collect names for potential future donors. It’s money now and the possibility of money in the future.”
The Democratic National Committee raised $850,000 in the 24 hours preceding today’s partial shutdown of the government, the party organization’s best single day of fundraising this year, said a DNC official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.
Another Senate leader of the effort to defund the health-care law, Florida Republican Marco Rubio, distributed an e-mail seeking funds for Arkansas Representative Tom Cotton’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. Cotton joined the House Republican caucus in opposing a short-term budget bill that didn’t curtail Obamacare.
“My conservative colleagues and I fought tirelessly on the Senate floor to prevent the American dream from slipping away and stop more taxpayer money from being wasted on this job-killing law,” Rubio wrote. “Tom would be an indispensable ally for our cause.”
The Tea Party Express, which supported Cruz’s successful 2012 bid for the Senate, sent an e-mail Sept. 26 urging supporters to contribute to the advocacy group and to ask Republican senators to block the budget bill.
“If you agree with us and would like us to continue our fight, please consider making a generous contribution today,” chairwoman Amy Kremer wrote. “Unfortunately, funding such a fight is not cheap and we are up against forces that have deep pockets.” Republican consultant Sal Russo, chief strategist of the Sacramento, California-based group, sent out the same appeal on Sept. 30.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee started by former South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint, has a donation box in the center of its website that also seeks signatures of health-care law opponents. Through Sept. 27, the site said 1.9 million people had signed its petition to Congress to eliminate funding for the law. The site also includes videos from Cruz and Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican.
“Join Mike Lee and Ted Cruz in the fight to stop Obamacare,” the site said. “Help us spread the word with these TV advertisements. Donate.”
House Majority PAC, a super-political action committee that raises money in unlimited amounts to elect Democrats to the House, sought donations for a “rapid response” to Republican efforts to hold “our economy hostage.”
Organizing for America, the advocacy group born out of President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, today sought contributions of as little as $5.
“This fight just got a whole lot more real and a whole lot more urgent -- right now, we need to know who’s going to help hold these Republicans accountable,” executive director Jon Carson wrote in an e-mail sent to supporters.
Moveon.org, an advocacy group that supported Obama’s re-election, sought donations for online ads criticizing the congressional Republicans. The group said it would run ads targeting Republicans who failed to prevent the shutdown.
“If we play our cards right, 2013 could become known as the year the Tea Party relegated itself to the dustbin of history,” Moveon.org wrote.
As for Cruz, two fundraising events were postponed to keep the focus on the senator’s effort to defund the health-care law, said Rachel Dawson, finance director of his Jobs Growth and Freedom Fund leadership PAC.
To contact the reporters on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at email@example.com; Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at email@example.com