By Paul Barton
WASHINGTON – The political director of MoveOn.org claims the initial fund-raising response to Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s bid for the Democratic senate nomination in Arkansas has been overwhelming.
As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, the group had already raised $750,000 from its more than five million members nationwide, Adam Ruben said in a telephone interview from the group’s Washington office.
Close to $500,000 of that came within 12 hours of Halter’s announcement that he would contest incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln, he said.
By the end of the week, MoveOn.org expects to have at least $1 million raised for Halter.
“I’m encouraged by what we’ve gotten over the past 24 hours,” Ruben said.
MoveOn.org’s announcement came as the AFL-CIO told the Arkansas Times it now expects to raise at least $4 million for Halter, instead of the $3 million mentioned previously.
“The AFL-CIO as an entity isn't mad at Lincoln; it's a decision that our members in Arkansas made that she isn't working and fighting for the issues that are important to them. And if elected officials aren't representing the working people in their states they won't get our support,” Eddie Vale, spokesman for the organization, said in e-mail.
Lincoln had more than $5 million in cash at the close of the last reporting period.
When MoveOn.org surveyed its 20,000 members in Arkansas recently about a Halter challenge to Lincoln, more than 90 percent wanted him to get in the race, said Ruben, the political director said.
“Enough is enough with Lincoln,” he added, saying the group views the Arkansas incumbent as “one of the worst corporate Democrats in Congress.”
Consistently, Ruben said, Lincoln follows the interests of her campaign donors rather than her constituents. In doing so, he said, she symbolizes “what is wrong with Washington.”
Some of the issues where Lincoln’s position has irritated MoveOn.org, he said, include her opposition to a public option for health care, her refusal to support mortgage relief through the bankruptcy process, her support of a bill that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from restricting carbon emissions and her continued support for additional estate tax relief to help the wealthy.
Lincoln’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Speaking of cutting estate taxes, Lincoln may be fortunate her companion on estate tax relief, Arizona Republican Sen. John Kyl, dropped plans this week to hold up an extension of unemployment benefits unless their estate tax proposals were included. Instead, Republican Sen. Jim Bunning is holding up the bill and drawing adverse publicity as a result.
Kyl and Lincoln want to raise the exemption on estates to more than $7 million per couple and cut the tax rate from 45 to 35 percent on amounts over that.
“They’re obsessed with it,” Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy for the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank, said of Lincoln and Kyl and their supporters.
The bill would benefit only one of every 500 estates nationally and would deliver relief only to a very few rich in Arkansas, he said.
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne ridiculed Kyl and Lincoln in a piece that ran Monday.
“The proposal helps estates worth more than $7 million in the case of couples. I guess struggling millionaires deserve the same empathy we feel for those without a job,” he wrote “And notice this: Especially in the Senate, what passes for ‘bipartisanship’ too often involves a Democrat such as Lincoln allying with a Republican on behalf of the wealthiest interests in the country. And we're supposed to cheer this?”