The fact that members of Congress feel the need to raise enormous amounts of money isn’t new. Sometimes, the question that matters is how lawmakers solicit contributions.
Fundraising in the wake of a terrorist attack, for example, can raise awkward questions about basic propriety. NPR reported yesterday on one vulnerable Senate incumbent who’s arguably approaching an ugly line:
Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey’s campaign manager sent out a fundraising email, based on his opposition to letting Syrian refugees into Pennsylvania.“Senator Toomey believes nothing is more important than the security of the American people. To that end, he is pushing to suspend the admission of Syrian refugees into the United States until we are able to determine, with full confidence, that there are no security risks among them. … If you agree with Senator Toomey, that nothing trumps the security of the American people, join the cause here.”The link brings supporters to a “contribute” page.
To be sure, there’s fundraising and then there’s fundraising. If a statewide office-holder or presidential candidate includes a perfunctory donate “button” on all of his or her websites and mailings that’s not quite the same thing as telling prospective donors, “Terrorists killed people, you’re afraid of the refugees fleeing the terrorists, so you should send me money.”
But that’s close to what some politicians are doing this week. The letter from Team Toomey in Pennsylvania was in questionable taste, and so too is the letter Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) sent to supporters yesterday.
After telling donors that “a proper vetting system” for refugees “doesn’t exist” – a claim that appears to be a rather brazen lie – the Missouri Republican added:
“Join me and demand that President Obama put the safety of American families first. Add your name to the ‘Enforce the Law Coalition’ and insist that this president reevaluate his strategy.“What will it take for this administration to recognize their recklessness? Help me tell them enough is enough; we want action to protect this nation from ISIS.”
The message concludes with a big “CONTRIBUTE” link.
In North Carolina, meanwhile, WRAL reported yesterday on Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who’s up for re-election next year, getting in on the same game.
[T]he governor is raising campaign funds on the [refugee] issue. A page on the McCrory campaign website features a dark graphic that says “NO SYRIAN REFUGEES IN NC.”“In this difficult time, we must think first of our own security and do what’s right to protect North Carolina families,” reads the page text under a large red “CONTRIBUTE” button. “Add your name if you stand with Governor McCrory!”
This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list of politicians mixing terror and campaign fundraising, and I’m sure there are other politicians issuing similar donor appeals. I haven’t seen any Democrats doing this, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t occurred.
The broader point, however, is that exploiting fear and violence for campaign money is a problematic tactic. The political world’s reaction to Paris was disheartening enough; this really isn’t helping matters.