CAN’T BUY LOVE: U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, left, of North Dakota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, both Democrats, have been outspoken in their criticism of Majority Leader Harry Reid. But their most recent campaigns also received significant boosts thanks to political spending from Reid’s political coffers.
By Rob Port | Watchdog.org North Dakota Bureau
BISMARCK, N.D. — At least a half-dozen members of the Democrat caucus in the U.S. Senate voted against lame duck Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continuing his leadership position in the new Congress.
But those senators benefited from millions of dollars in political spending from Reid and his affiliated political action committees. In one race, Reid’s money may well have been the margin of victory.
But money, it seems, couldn’t buy Reid love.
Six U.S. Senate Democrats who are on the record opposing Reid — Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Mark Warner of Virginia — have benefited from more than $15.5 million in direct campaign contributions and independent spending in the 2012 and 2014 election cycles from Reid’s Searchlight Leadership PAC and his Majority Super PAC, according to financial disclosures. In two races, spending by the Majority PAC was the largest source of independent expenditures in the cycle.
Without Reid’s money, Heitkamp might not be serving her re-election bid. In addition to a $10,000 direct contribution from Reid’s leadership PAC, Heitkamp benefited from more than $3.2 million in independent spending from Majority PAC, which ran ads attacking her opponent Rick Berg.
Majority PAC was the largest independent spender in North Dakota’s 2012 Senate race, putting more independent money into the state than even the Democrat and Republican parties.
Ultimately Heitkamp beat Republican Berg by a margin representing less than 1 percent.
Heitkamp voted to keep Reid as majority leader in 2012, but rejected him in 2014.
“No,” Heitkamp said when asked if she supported Reid after a closed-door meeting of Senate Democrats last week. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
McCaskill was more outspoken in her opposition to Reid.
“It’s about the perception that we need to change things, it’s just that simple. It’s just simple common sense,” she said.
McCaskill saw Reid’s political spending play a major role in her 2012 campaign. Reid poured millions into the 2012 U.S. Senate race in Missouri. Majority PAC was again the largest independent spender in the race, paying for more than $3.7 million in advertising attacking Republican Todd Akin and supporting McCaskill.
In 2012, Virginia’s Kaine received the most from Reid’s political coffers, benefiting from more than $6 million in direct campaign contributions and independent spending. Majority PAC come in second only to the Crossroads GPS PAC in independent spending.
Thus far in the 2014 cycle, Louisiana’s Landrieu, who must survive a Dec. 6 runoff election against Republican David Cassidy, has enjoyed more than $2.4 million in Reid-related spending, with Majority PAC representing the second largest source of independent spending behind the Patriot Majority PAC.
Manchin, of West Virginia, and Warner, of Virginia, each received a $10,000 contribution from Reid’s leadership fund but did not see any spending from Reid’s Super PAC in the most recent election cycle.