The Huffington Post has a good rundown of the recent escalation in the feud between Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen over the impact of outside money in the Senate primary.
Maryland’s U.S. Senate Democratic primary between Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards, both strong proponents of campaign finance reform, is descending into a battle over who can be the biggest opponent of big money in politics.
Van Hollen sparked the latest clash began on July 16, when he proposed to Edwards that they both pledge to keep independent groups from spending on their behalf. Such pledges have been made in other races, such as Massachusetts’ 2012 campaign between Elizabeth Warren (D) and Scott Brown (R), and the 2013 special primary election between Democrats Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch.
Edwards rejected Van Hollen’s proposal, calling the offer an attempt to silence her supporters.
Edwards’ rebuff sheds light on the state of the hotly contested Democratic primary in Maryland, but the ensuing sniping between the campaigns reveals how potent the issue of campaign finance has become to the Democratic Party since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United.
The article also gives a good background to the state of the money race between the two candidates, and how they plan to continue to raise money in the future.
Van Hollen leads the money race in Maryland so far, with $4.2 million. Edwards has raised just short of $1 million. But Edwards has received prominent endorsements from Emily’s List, Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America — all groups that could help her fill that fundraising gap rapidly with appeals and independent spending.
It’s no surprise that the Edwards campaign sees Van Hollen’s pledge as a cynical attempt to freeze her allies out of the race.
“We’re not going to give in to a gag order for women, progressives and working families,” Edwards spokesman Benjamin Gerdes told The Huffington Post.
The Van Hollen campaign fired back that Edwards is the cynical one for not living up to her opposition to Citizens United and rejecting the path that Warren, the senator she has said she most wants to emulate, has taken.
A final point: this is not just an academic exercise or a simple fight between candidates. This issue matters to Democratic primary voters - a lot.
Democrats have almost universally lined up behind legislative attempts to fix the Citizens United ruling’s effect on campaigns. That includes Van Hollen’s Disclose Act as well as a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn the court decision.
The party has found that email fundraising solicitations mentioning the billionaire Koch brothers or the Citizens United decision get grassroots Democrats to open their wallets unlike any other issues. Calls to overturn the court decision often get the loudest applause from presidential candidates, whether it’s Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Hillary Clinton.
So expect this fight to continue, because whoever is perceived as getting the better of it is likely to gain a real advantage in the minds of not just donors - but also likely primary voters too.