Roll Call has an informative piece today on Donald Sussman, the mystery banker behind the Emily’s List and Working for Us super PAC orgies of spending on behalf of Donna Edwards. If campaign reform advocates need a poster boy to match up with the plutocrats on the right like Sheldon Adelson, Sussman is the guy.
Sussman’s most notable — and controversial — contributions are in Maryland’s Democratic primary for Senate. The mega-donor has spent $2.1 million on behalf of Rep. Donna Edwards, a Washington-area congresswoman who is locked in a tight battle against Rep. Chris Van Hollen. In a state that traditionally turns a deep shade of blue in presidential elections, the winner of the primary will almost certainly replace the retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.
Sussman’s cash, most of which was funneled through an EMILY’s List super PAC, has been a lifeline for an Edwards campaign that has otherwise been badly outspent. And it has drawn criticism from Van Hollen’s supporters, who say they are confused why one donor would go to such lengths for a candidate with whom he has few apparent personal connections.
In his only public remarks about the campaign, Sussman told Roll Call in a statement that he was backing the African-American Edwards because of the experience and agenda she’d bring to the Senate.
“I care deeply about making sure out democracy reflects the makeup of our country and represents the values we share,” he said. “I believe Donna Edwards is one of those candidates and that was the reason for my support.
Sussman spokesman Hal Lux sent the statement to Roll Call and declined to comment further.
Sussman might not have been telling, but Emily’s List is more than willing to fill the silence.
“In all my interactions with him, he simply wants to see a country that has policies that provide opportunity for everybody, particularly those who need a little help,” said Stephanie Schriock, who has known Sussman since she became president of EMILY’s List in 2010. “He really believes that with a diversity of voices in our government, we will get policies that will represent the needs of the entire community.”
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Schriock said Sussman’s generous donations to Edwards can’t be explained by a personal relationship — the two know each other but not well, she said. Instead, the hedge-fund manager has been a fan of the congresswoman’s since before she became a lawmaker, back to her days as a liberal activist.
“He’s a huge fan of Donna Edwards from her work in the House and before she was in the House, particularly when she was fighting for the Violence Against Women’s Act,” Schriock said. “He really sees her, as we do, as a progressive champion and someone whose perspective is really needed in the U.S. Senate at this moment.”
The irony of relying on a single rich guy, a Wall Street hedge fund manager no less, to singlehandledly prop up the campaign of a candidate who was railing for months that her opponent is too cozy with Wall Street, is apparently lost on Stephanie Schriock.
This is no way to build a sustainable political movement.
(h/t Maryland expat Lori Sherwood for flagging this article for me)