Donors affiliated with groups seeking to pack the federal judiciary with far-right nominees see Collins as “crucial” to confirming conservative justices 


New reporting in The Daily Beast has revealed how Senator Collins’ vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh despite widespread opposition from Maine people helped earn her the support of wealthy donors affiliated with groups seeking to move the federal judiciary to the far-right.


One source close to the Kavanaugh confirmation process told the Daily Beast that these donors view Collins as “crucial” to their efforts to confirm right-wing judges and it’s not hard to see why. In the first two years of the Trump administration, Collins voted to confirm EVERY SINGLE ONE of Trump’s judicial nominees, including those rated “Not Qualified” by the American Bar Association.


Following her vote to confirm Kavanaugh, Collins has raked in nearly $200,000 from high dollar donors to the Federalist Society. This new evidence backs up Mitch McConnell’s promise that Collins would be “well funded” after she towed the party line to confirm Kavanaugh and is further evidence that she is key to Trump’s strategy to pack the federal courts with extreme judges who will threaten Mainers’ rights for decades to come.


The Daily Beast: Susan Collins Cast the Crucial Vote for Brett Kavanaugh. His Biggest Backers Returned the Favor.


By Sam Brodey and Lachlan Markay

July 1, 2020


Key Points:


  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has been the object of liberal ire since her 2018 vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Now in a tight re-election fight, whatever hopes she might have had of putting that episode behind her were dashed this week, when now-Justice Kavanaugh cast a dissenting vote in the Supreme Court’s latest decision to uphold the legal framework that grants access to women seeking abortions.


  • But the legacy of Collins’ vote on Kavanaugh hasn’t been all bad for the longtime Maine senator. In fact, it’s appeared to earn her some powerful and deep-pocketed new allies.


  • Since 2019, Collins’ campaign and two associated political action committees have raked in nearly $200,000 from donors who are also high-dollar contributors to the Federalist Society. Many of those who gave to Collins had never cut a check for her before. 


  • The group of 39 donors includes Leonard Leo, the former executive vice president of the Federalist Society and a driving force behind President Trump and the Senate GOP’s historically successful efforts to stock the federal bench with conservative judges. 


  • Leo and his wife, Sally—neither of whom had previously donated to Collins—each gave the maximum $5,600 to Collins’ campaign committee last year. Half of Leo’s support came by way of a joint fundraising committee supporting three other Senate Republicans. Last summer, Leo hosted a fundraiser for Collins at his newly bought Maine vacation home, an event that appeared to open up more Federalist Society funds for the senator.


  • Leo was one of five Federalist Society-associated first-time donors to Collins, a group that also included Daniel Casey. Casey is the president of the Judicial Crisis Network, a group with ties to the Federalist Society that led the charge for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. GOP mega-donors linked to the group also got on board with Collins after her vote. Philip Anschutz, the billionaire whose foundation supports the Federalist Society, gave $5,600, the per-cycle maximum, to Collins’ campaign.


  • Others were not first-time Collins donors but dramatically stepped up their giving this year. In 2019, Bernard Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot, and his wife Billi Wilma gave a total of $20,800 to Collins’ campaign and to her leadership PAC. The couple’s foundation is part of the Federalist Society’s Madison Club, the honorific bestowed on its major donors. Marcus is in the Club’s Platinum Level, reserved for those who give $100,000 or more. Previously, the couple had donated a total of $3,000 to Collins across her 2014 and 2008 re-election campaigns.


  • Support for Collins from C. Boyden Gray, a former counsel to President George H.W. Bush and a Federalist Society board member, also illustrates the evolving relationship between the senator and the conservative legal group. In 2003, Gray’s conservative advocacy group ran controversial ads in Maine pressuring the senator to vote in favor of a conservative Bush nominee, William Pryor, Jr., to the bench. Ultimately, Collins was one of just two Republican senators to vote against Pryor. After giving $3,600 to her 2014 effort, Gray has given nearly $8,000 to Collins’ political outfit since her Kavanaugh vote.


  • Most of the donations from Federalist Society backers went directly to Collins’ campaign. Some also supported Collins’ leadership PAC, which she can use to dole out funds to allies and help build political capital. Others financed the Collins Victory Committee, a joint fundraising account supporting both her campaign and her leadership PAC.


  • The Federalist Society did not respond to a request for comment. But a source close to the Kavanaugh confirmation process described the donations as an organic show of support for a senator crucial to getting popular conservative judges confirmed.


Maine’s US Senate primary will be held on July 14th. You can read about all three Democratic candidates here.