For Senators, the Season for Cash and Coal

By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, December 27, 2007

They weren't dreaming of a white Christmas last week in the Senate. No, as the legislative session came to a close, Senate leaders were dreaming of a green Christmas.

Rather than nice Christmas cards, they sent out fundraising pitches attacking one another in the never-ending search for campaign cash. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, chaired by Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), unleashed a withering e-mail pitch from consultant James Carville comparing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to the Grinch. In Carville's turn as Dr. Seuss, McConnell didn't steal Christmas from all the little Whos in Whoville; instead he stole health insurance from 3 million "uninsured children who would benefit from the health care bill" he helped filibuster this fall. McConnell was also "anything but helpful to our soldiers in Iraq" by filibustering Democratic efforts to force a withdrawal timeline on President Bush.

"I've always told my daughters that it's Santa's job to figure out who's been naughty and who's been nice. But I thought that this year it would be fun for all of us who support the DSCC to help Santa out a little bit," Carville writes. "After all, he's got so much work to do figuring out what gifts to bring for the nice kids, wouldn't it be nice if we could make his job easier by identifying a few of the naughty ones? In fact, I've got one guy in mind who really should have a lump of coal coming his way."

The DSCC pitch ends with a link to an image of McConnell's body turned a Grinch-ish green, asking readers to sign a petition to send fake lumps of coal to McConnell. (Aides said the DSCC sent more than 10,000 e-lumps of coal to McConnell.)

Not to be outdone, McConnell sent his supporters a just-before-Christmas e-mail practically begging for campaign cash so he can take on the outta-staters who've put a political bull's-eye on his back. (Hmm, that sounds like you, James Carville, the Ragin' Cajun.)

"This year, zealots from across the country have targeted me for defeat. They resent my leadership position in the Senate and all that I've done for Kentucky," McConnell writes.

McConnell acknowledged the awkward timing of his appeal but wrote the missive with an image of him atop the all-caps note "DONATE NOW."

"I know many of you are getting ready to celebrate the holidays and a New Year. The end of the month is important in another way, as well. That's because once again, candidates for every Federal office will be reporting their end of quarter financial summaries to the Federal Election Commission," the senator wrote.

Democrats do not have a top-tier challenger to McConnell, who is up for reelection next fall and has started running campaign ads. Let's hope Carville and McConnell send each other Valentine's Day cards.

Now, That's the Holiday Spirit

Nobody will mistake Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) for the Grinch this holiday season. When the senator found out last week that some National Guard trainees from his state had to pay their own way if they wanted to go home for Christmas, his office contacted the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry to begin a fundraising drive.

Within 48 hours, the chamber's members covered the $24,000 cost, and then some, bringing home 48 members of the 110th Medical Battalion of the Nebraska Army National Guard. These troops are training at Fort Lewis, Wash., for their upcoming deployment to Iraq. Nelson said he was astonished to learn that the base would be closing for several days over the holidays, requiring Guard trainees to not only leave the base but also foot the bill if they wanted to fly home to be with their loved ones. "This unique circumstance at Fort Lewis called for special action from special people, and I am so pleased Nebraskans have responded to favorably," Nelson tells us.

Scandal Watch: Filner Case Closed

Rep. Bob Filn er (D-Calif.) got a parting gift from the ethics committee on the last day of the House session: The panel closed its investigation into his alleged assault of an airline employee without dishing out any punishment.

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