Just about a year ago, we stood shoulder to shoulder with people from all over the country who were united in the fight to save our democracy, our healthcare and to protect the rights of all Americans. For the third time since his nomination, a large from group from MFAL traveled to D.C. to protest, to share stories and beg Senator Collins to vote against Kavanaugh.
On every level this fight was personal and we did everything we could to stop the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.
Collins refused to listen.
We cannot let her forget her vote for Kavanaugh and we will never let her represent Mainers again.
By Stephanie Ebbert Globe Staff,March 3, 2019, 7:04 p.m.PORTLAND, Maine
Senator Susan Collins’s reputation for bipartisanship has brought her respect across the aisle over 22 years in Washington, D.C. But these days, the famously temperate 66-year-old senior stateswoman from Maine is inspiring the kind of liberal animus more typically directed at people named Trump.
“Betrayed” is a word that comes up.
“I used to think that she was kind of a voice of reason. I thought she could maybe go across the aisle and get some things done,” said Pam Cunningham, a Boothbay Democrat who voted for Collins last time around.
Collins’s vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has galvanized left-leaning activists like Cunningham, who are actively trying to unseat her in 2020 — and though they don’t yet have a candidate, they have raised nearly $3.8 million.
Early in the Donald Trump era, Collins was eyed optimistically by Democrats as someone who might save their day. But the Supreme Court vote was the latest in a string of positions Collins has taken where, after lengthy, attention-getting deliberations, she sided with the GOP. For some voters, hope in Collins has curdled into vengeance.
“The Maine electorate has had it with her not voting with the majority of her constituents,” said Amy Halsted, co-director of the Maine People’s Alliance, a statewide community organizing group that has about 32,000 members. “They no longer believe her claims to be a moderate.”
At the same time, the political mood in Maine has been volatile. The state supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016, and after two terms of the combative conservative Governor Paul LePage, flipped the state government blue in November, handing Democrats the governor’s office, Senate, and House.
Given that backdrop, Democratic organizations were already viewing Collins as vulnerable. Now, they are trying to attach to her blame not only for her own votes, but for those of Kavanaugh.
When he, for instance, dissented on an abortion rights case this month, left-wing political organizations pounced on Collins. Demand Justice, a judicial advocacy group, launched a digital ad targeting Collins and warning, “We Won’t Forget.” The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee panned Kavanaugh’s ruling, calling him “Senator Collins’s Supreme Court Judge.”
Of course, Collins was alternately cheered by the right, which rewarded her mightily for her pivotal support for Kavanaugh. In the three months following the vote, Collins set a career high for quarterly fund-raising, drawing in nearly $1.8 million. The previous quarter, she had raised only $140,000.
“People generally like Susan Collins in Maine. I would never underestimate her,” said Brian Duff, a political scientist and associate professor at University of New England in Maine. “But I do think she’s uniquely vulnerable this go-round.”
Activists have been birddogging Collins since the opening days of the Trump administration,
protesting Cabinet appointees and staging sit-ins in her office, said Marie Follayttar, a sculptor who founded Mainers for Accountable Leadership. The Maine People’s Alliance intends to knock on doors to reach hundreds of thousands of voters this year, highlighting Collins’s record and arguing that she is not representing Maine voters’ interests.
In a statement, Collins suggested she is still calling them like she sees them and pointed to a number of votes she has taken against her party — opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the nominations of Cabinet appointees Scott Pruitt and Betsy DeVos, for instance.
"Often these outside groups, on both sides, want 100% fidelity to 100% of their views 100% of the time,” Collins said in a statement. “But I’ve always believed that neither side has a monopoly on good ideas and that in order to craft the best policy, you need to bring both sides to the table to find common ground.”
Collins also said she is accustomed to being in the public eye, “as a centrist who is willing to work across the aisle and who must often cast the deciding vote.”
But she said she is concerned “by the appalling hyperpartisanship that has repeatedly prevented us from getting things done on behalf of the American people.’’
Early on, when Collins bucked the Republican Party and voted to preserve the Affordable Care Act, Mainers gave her a hero’s welcome, literally cheering her return to the Bangor airport. But later she voted for a tax bill that would undo a key part of the health law, the individual mandate.
Then, the signs greeting her at the airport simply said, “Shame.’’
“Collins had given so many Mainers hope that she would protect our health care with her votes against the repeal of the ACA,” said Follayttar.
While Collins had long carefully honed her reputation as a moderate, Duff pointed to recent votes he views as “obviously problematic,” including her support for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and her vote for a tax cut package that will increase the deficit.
“She has very little chance of explaining that vote in a way that makes sense to Maine voters,” Duff said.
Conversely, he thought she was consistent in her vote for Kavanaugh, which she painstakingly explained it in a 45-minute floor speech in October. “It was articulate, thoughtful, consistent with the way she has spoken and voted through her career,” he said.
That wasn’t the way that Collins’s critics heard her speech, however.
“I have never been so disappointed in anybody in my life,” said Laurie Fear, an addictions counselor and activist who lives in Portland.
That was also an ugly and trying period for Collins, who faced protesters at home and at her offices, whose aides fielded rape and death threats. Her house was visited by a haz-mat team after she received an envelope purporting to contain ricin. Activists sent to her 3,000 coat hangers,
symbolizing the tools of back-alley abortions that activists say women would resort to if Kavanaugh helped roll back abortion rights.
Anti-Kavanaugh activists also raised money and pledged to donate it to Collins’s next opponent if she voted to confirm the nomination. She called that tantamount to bribery.
“Anyone who thought I would auction off my vote to the highest bidder obviously doesn’t know me. I made my decision based on the merits of the nomination,” she said. “This effort played no role in my decision-making whatsoever.”
That is heartbreaking to such people as Cunningham — who joined other Maine women to meet Collins in Washington in hopes of persuading her to vote against Kavanaugh.
She opened up to Collins about her own attempted rape, which she had seldom spoken of, in the hopes of explaining why a woman would not immediately report a sexual assault, as was the case with the women who accused Kavanaugh.
“We all thought maybe our stories would get through to her on a personal level, a woman-to-woman kind of thing,” said Cunningham.
Later, Collins sent her a form letter that mentioned that very meeting with survivors of sexual assault as evidence of the thorough deliberations she undertook in making the decision. “She was using my story to try to portray herself in a favorable light,” Cunningham said. “I really don’t think she did take our opinions into consideration.”
Ariel Linet, a disability attorney and Portland constituent who called and visited Collins’s offices trying to urge her to vote against Kavanaugh, said she no longer views Collins as a moderate. “I don’t think that she’s taken any brave stances against her party,” she said. “I think she’s hemmed and hawed a lot and ultimately always toed the party line.”
Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.
Mainers Defend Their Right to the First Amendment and Fight Back Against Bogus Attacks from Senator Susan Collins
In a heated atmosphere around the Supreme Court nominations, an online fundraising pledge campaign supported by Mainers for Accountable Leadership, the Maine People's Alliance, and Be A Hero, founded by national health care advocate and ALS patient Ady Barkan has now raised over $1.2 million online from more than 40,000 small dollar donors to unseat Senator Collins, IF she decides to support the nomination of Kavanagh to the Supreme Court. See the campaign's metrics in real time by clicking here.
Instead of paying attention to the messages from her constituents, Senator Susan Collins ran to a notorious right wing news outlet to call the campaign “bribery.”
Jonathan Berkon, a partner in Perkins Coie’s Political Law Group, defended the legality of the program. “Through this grassroots effort, Mainers are making clear to Senator Collins that they will defeat her for reelection if she defies the will of the people and votes to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. The First Amendment guarantees their right to do so. And federal law protects their right to pool their funds together now, when enthusiasm is at its peak, so that their campaign against a well-funded, four-term incumbent is viable two years from now. It is shameful that Republicans are using bogus legal threats to stifle this grassroots enthusiasm.”
"The idea of Susan Collins attacking an effort by 35,000 small dollar donors as bribery is politics at its worst,” said Marie Follayttar, the co-director of Mainers for Accountable Leadership.
“Thousands of Mainers are trying desperately to tell her that she needs to protect abortion access and critical healthcare coverage across the country by voting ‘no’ on Kavanaugh.”
“Sen. Collins owes it to her constituents to hear them out, and explain why Judge Kavanaugh's demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade, opposition to covering pre-existing conditions and repeated lies is not disqualifying. If she doesn't, we absolutely have the right to prepare to unseat her. Unlike Supreme Court judges, Senators do not enjoy a lifetime guarantee of their seat; they are accountable to the people.”
Ady Barkan, one of the founders of the Campaign said “Senator Collins took over $5 million from PACs and large donors like the Koch brothers. In exchange, she voted to cut their taxes and take healthcare away from people like me. Senator Collins may not really know what small dollar donations are, because during her last election campaign less than 3% of her money came from small dollar donors, while 44% came from PACs, but that still doesn't excuse smearing a grassroots effort from regular people pleading with someone in a position of power to do the right thing.”
Barkan, father dying of ALS, filmed the initial video begging Senator Collins to “be a hero” and vote “No” on Kavanaugh. Barkan originally gained national fame when he confronted Sen. Jeff Flake mid-flight with a plea to vote no on the tax bill.
Other support has been flooding in to the campaign that is well beyond $1 million now and gathered another $50k within the hour of Collins complaining that small donations could be seen as bribery.Just a handful of responses can be seen here:
My name is Marpheen Chann, a board member at the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center and a volunteer organizer with Mainers for Accountable Leadership; and I had to do something.
In a recent blog post, I wrote:
I am a first-generation U.S. citizen born in California to a Cambodian refugee family. After we moved to Maine in the mid-90s, I was separated from my family and later adopted.
Thousands of Mainers came together from all over our big and beautiful state to say that we have zero tolerance for the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy and the separation of migrant children from asylum-seeking families.
But now, we have to put our money where our mouth is by making a donation, signing up, and laying the groundwork to get out the vote this November and elect leaders who respect the will of the people.
These next few months and the 2018 Midterm Elections in November will be OUR referendum on the Trump Agenda; OUR moment to reaffirm our values as a society and as a people.
That is why we cannot afford to stay on the sidelines and sit out.
If President Trump’s separation of immigrant families makes you mad as hell, turn that anger into action.
If President Trump’s Muslim ban makes you mad as hell, turn that anger into action.
If the Trump administration’s attack on women’s rights makes you mad as hell, turn that anger into action.
If the Trump administration’s war on civil rights, human rights, voting rights and LGBTQ rights makes you mad as hell, turn that anger into action.
President Donald J. Trump is a clear and present danger to our democracy and it’s going to take OUR DEMOCRACY to fight back.
This July 4th holiday, let's celebrate and declare our interdependence together as a community, as lights in the darkness in the fight to save the soul of America. Join me in taking action today.
Mainers for Accountable Leadership
Mainers for Accountable Leadership: Pressure our federally elected representatives to uphold the Maine values of equality, acceptance, and diversity.
Please join us by visiting our website www.mfal.me, joining our facebook page, following us on twitter @MFALpac, or sending us an email - firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Get trained:
Nonviolent Direct Action Training, MFAL FB Events page
July 14, 9Am – 3 PM, Portland, MEJuly 15, 9 AM- 3 PM, Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine
Open-Call Training, MFAL FB Events page
July 22, 1:30-4:30 pm, Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church
Come learn more about the issues, bystander intervention training, organizing 101
2. Get Educated, Donate, Volunteer
Visit these websites to get educated on the issues specifically related to immigrants, and donate as you are willing and able:
3. Volunteer or Join a Group
You can volunteer at any of the above listed organizations, or also join groups specifically dedicated to voter turn-out, including: Engage Maine; Maine People’s Alliance, Maine Civil Liberties Union; Maine League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters of Maine; Maine League of Young Voters; Opportunity Maine; EqualityMaine; and Maine Women’s Lobby.
Moral Based Organizing
Moral Movement Maine or the Poor People’s Campaign
These are groups of people, locally based, all-across Maine where many newly activated people work together. Please email us at email@example.com and we can send you the running list.
4. Use the Power of your Wallet
You can donate to the organizations listed above or MFAL PAC.
You can also boycott the companies that are explicitly profiting from Trump’s “zero toleration” immigration campaign: https://grabyourwallet.org/Action%20Alert.html
Call our federal elected and make your voice known:
TOGETHER, WE CAN.
Alright Mainers, Senator Collins and Senator King need to hear from us TODAY!
Mike Pompeo is Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State: chief diplomat, who will represent us around the world. He will push Trump's extreme racist agenda and lead us further along the path to war.
Pompeo has promoted religious intolerance, a hostility to human rights, bigotry, and torture. He opposes LGBT and reproductive rights and will not promote the American values of sexual freedom and gender equality or the health of women around the world. Pompeo is a climate change denier. He will not protect the health and well being of our people and our future while negotiating abroad.
Our state and country is one of diversity of thought, people and religion. Pompeo is out of line with Maine and American values, and cannot be confirmed. These values, and not Mike Pompeo's, must be the foundation of our international policy.
We must speak out against his confirmation today! Please share widely, and forward to your friends.
Marie Follayttar Smith
Director, Mainers for Accountable Leadership
"Stop focusing on how I look, my color, my accent or my religion. I’m here. I’m an American.
I pay my taxes. I’m doing something for myself, for my family, for our community.
I’m doing something for this country.
Everything that I’m doing is what makes a good American citizen, but yet I can’t be considered that because of a place that I was born. It’s horrible that I’ve lived here for 15 years and my status, my identity is an alien number on a piece of paper.
No human is illegal.
We are all Americans"
Senator Collins is a pivotal Senator in the healthcare vote. Health Care is a moral issue.
Dear Senator Collins:
As Maine faith and community leaders, speaking from many traditions, we agree on the dignity of every human life and the fundamental moral principle that all should have access to consistent, affordable, and quality health care.
Speaking with one voice, we implore you to oppose the Better Care Reconciliation Act on moral grounds. Its cruel cuts to Medicaid will take coverage and care away from many of Maine’s most vulnerable seniors, children and people with disabilities.
This immoral bill, which was drafted in complete secrecy, would also raise health care costs for low-income seniors and hardworking families, and deprive millions of health insurance. It puts people with pre-existing conditions in jeopardy of discrimination and losing affordable, quality care. It leaves seniors and veterans without the assistance they need to afford private insurance.
Amid all this needless suffering, it carves massive tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans. It is the very definition of unjust legislation.
Senator Collins, as Mainers of faith, we remind you that public service calls for sound moral judgment. This bill presents a test of whether you can withstand partisan pressure and do what is right for your constituents -- especially those who need help the most. You cannot in good conscience support this legislation. God is watching, and so are we.
PORTLAND (WGME) -- A number of protesters gathered on the steps of Portland city hall Sunday, asking Senator Susan Collins to denounce President Trump and take action on specific policy issues.
The Stand Up to Trump rally began at 10:30 a.m. and focused on impacts of health care repeal and Trump cabinet appointments.