Democrat Paul Wellstone, the only vulnerable incumbent senator to vote against blank-check authorization to use force against Iraq, is locked in one of the year’s closest Senate contests. While Wellstone’s decision to follow his conscience made national news, less broadly noted were votes against the resolution by four House Democrats who face significant challenges: Connecticut’s Jim Maloney, who is running against Republican Representative Nancy Johnson in a member-versus-member race forced by redistricting; New Jersey’s Rush Holt, who was re-elected in 2000 by a margin of just 651 votes; Washington’s Rick Larsen, a first-term representative whose district is home to two military bases; and Washington’s Jay Inslee, whose seat switched from one party to the other four times in the 1990s.
Two Republicans in tough races–Maryland’s Connie Morella and Iowa’s Jim Leach–also voted against the resolution, but they are not being attacked by the White House or Republican campaign operatives in the same way that Democratic dissenters are. So the Internet-based political group MoveOnPAC, founded by some of the same folks who launched the 1998 “censure and move on” campaign against the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton, launched a campaign to raise funds to help them. “[President Bush’s] political allies will do everything they can to take revenge on dissenters. If he can demonstrate that Representatives and Senators who ask the hard questions don’t get reelected, Congress will be even more equivocal when faced with hard choices in the future. But the electoral sword cuts both ways,” wrote MoveOnPac’s organizers Wes Boyd and Eli Pariser in an open letter asking war foes to help the campaigns of the Democrats.
In one week, $600,000 in contributions were directed via the moveonpac.org website to Wellstone, $170,000 to Holt and more than $150,000 each to Inslee and Larsen. Maloney, whose name was added to the list later, received $23,000 in one day. The contributions were small, but the volume was enormous–for instance, 5,393 people gave Larsen $155,097, for an average donation of $28.76. “These aren’t wealthy people,” said Larsen. “They’re your average mom and dad saying, ‘Thank you for representing our priorities.'”