The tensions between EMILY’s List and Chris Van Hollen are heating up fast. The Post reports this morning that EL has filed an FEC complaint regarding Van Hollen’s communications with EL donors.
A powerful Democratic women’s group says Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has been targeting its donors to peel away support from his primary rival, Rep. Donna F. Edwards, for Maryland’s open Senate seat.
In a complaint to the Federal Election Commission filed Monday, Emily’s List said that Van Hollen illegally used the group’s financial disclosures to send out a fundraising solicitation to its donors.
“We are taking action to protect you from actors willing to abuse the system,” Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock said in a letter to donors who have supported Edwards.
The “abuse” turns out to be a letter responding to an earlier EMILY’s List email that among other things referred to Van Hollen as a Republican.
Supporters in at least eleven states got a letter and solicitation from the Van Hollen campaign. The campaign letter, by former NARAL Pro-Choice America board chairman Rosalyn Levy Jonas, refers to an email in which Emily’s List identified Van Hollen incorrectly as a Republican.
“Sadly, Emily’s List, which I have always supported in the past, has become a party to . . . deception,” Levy Jonas said.
Emily’s List says that the email was an honest mistake sent only to a test audience of 5,000 people and that it immediately offered to send a correction.
In her letter, Levy Jonas touts Van Hollen’s credentials on women’s issues, saying he helped elect female candidates when he was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is a close ally of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and has the backing of a co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.).
Things are getting so out of hand that NARAL, hardly a group of shrinking violets, is scrambling (😜) to stay out of the crossfire.
Given the explicit organizational affiliation by our former board chair in a letter on behalf of Chris Van Hollen, we want to be clear that we had no knowledge of the letter prior to its dissemination,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement. “We feel lucky to have two solidly pro-choice legislators in this critically important race.”
That last bit is actually the takeaway for me. Both candidates have great records on choice and other issues. So EMILY’s List is making a mistake trying to demonize Chris Van Hollen on this basis. They’re free to support whoever they wish but it becomes very problematic when they start trashing a a candidate with such a pro-choice, pro-woman record and agenda. There was no chance that Chris Van Hollen could get endorsed by EMILY’s List (they only endorse women), but they’re treating him like a Republican - in the larger sense, it’s no accident that an email went out with that epithet in it, because that’s usually who EL is attacking. But they really, really ought to be more aware of who they’re dealing with here. It makes them no friends - it’s terrible coalition building to be attacking Van Hollen like this.
I’d go so far as to say they should have thought about all this before they endorsed Donna Edwards. But having done so, they’re not helping either their candidate or their larger purposes by acting in this manner. NARAL’s approach is the right one here, but I suspect that the rhetorical war between EMILY’s List and Chris Van Hollen is just getting started.