Liberal activists have targeted Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) in an effort to pressure her to vote against President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, but she said their "threats" and attempts to "bully" will not influence her decision on whether to support the nominee.
Collins said she will instead vote based on "[Kavanaugh's] qualifications, his character and integrity, judicial temperament, his record, and his respect for the rule of law and fidelity to the Constitution."
A group of liberal activists associated with Maine People's Alliance, Mainers for Accountable Leadership, and activist Ady Barkan, created a crowdfunding campaign that has raised more than $1 million in the form of pledges. Should Collins support Kavanaugh, those pledges will be given to whoever challenges Collins in 2020, and if Collins votes against the nominee's confirmation, the money will never be withdrawn.
"Senator Collins votes NO on Kavanaugh and you will not be charged, and no money will go to fund her future opponent," the crowdfunding platform read. "Senator Collins votes YES on Kavanaugh and your pledge will go to her opponent's campaign, once that opponent has been identified."
At least one ethics expert told the Washington Post that the crowdfunding strategy might violate federal bribery statutes. The statutes prohibit individuals or groups giving or offering anything of value to government officials in exchange for any acts or votes. Collins issued a statement through her spokesperson delivering a warning to those who think she will cave to their demands.
"And anybody who thinks these tactics would work on Senator Collins obviously doesn’t know her," spokeswoman Annie Clark said in a statement. "Senator Collins will make up her mind based on the merits of the nomination. Threats or other attempts to bully her will not play a factor in her decision making whatsoever."
NBC News reported on profanity-laced voicemails and letters Collins has received from activists who oppose Kavanaugh's confirmation.
One caller on Friday, September 7 at 6:11 p.m., left a message saying, in part: "If you care at all about women's choice, vote ‘no' on Kavanaugh. Don't be a dumb bitch. F*** you also."
In a second voice mail, the caller calls Collins "a feckless, feckless, feckless woman standing there letting Trump and his appointees steal the right to choose what women do with their bodies. And you stood by, ‘Oh, I don't know. I'm so naive.' F*** you. F*** you."
And in a letter sent to her Portland, Maine office, the writer on August 9 says that "EVERY waitress who serves you is going to spit in your food, and that's if you're lucky, you f***ing c***! Think of that every meal."
A 25-year-old female staffer at one of Collins' Maine offices also received a call from someone wishing she be raped and impregnated.
Despite the threats and attempts of "bribery," Marie Follayttar Smith, a director of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, defended her group's efforts to pressure Collins, the New York Times reported.
"We expect her to represent us, and we are screaming in the streets practically," she said in an interview. "What else does Maine need to do? What else do Mainers need to say before they are listened to and represented?"
Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director at Judicial Crisis Network, slammed some of the red state Democrats for not speaking out against the tactics Kavanaugh's opponents have waged against Collins.
"Instead of condemning the outrageous tactics of Judge Kavanaugh's opponents, and announcing their support for an objectively extraordinary nominee, Senators Manchin, Heitkamp, Donnelly, McCaskill, and Nelson are standing on the sidelines while Judge Kavanaugh's opponents resort to bribes, smears, and physical threats," Severino said.
Brian Fallon, the executive director and founder of Demand Justice, a liberal advocacy group, said his strategy is to increase pressure on Democrats to announce opposition to Kavanaugh in order to push Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) toward joining them.
"The intensity on Collins and Murkowski is rising," he said, "but I think we have an even better shot of making them feel the heat if more Democrats would come out and express opposition, and create a dynamic like there was on health care, where it was clear that Collins and Murkowski would be the deciders."
Collins has been considered a potential vote against Kavanaugh on the abortion issue since she supports abortion rights and hinted last week to a Maine newspaper that if Kavanaugh "was not truthful [during his confirmation hearing], then obviously that would be a major problem for me." Kavanaugh said during a hearing last week that he saw Roe v. Wade as "settled" law.