- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tim Kaine pulled in more than $2 million during the first three months of his U.S. Senate campaign, marking a lucrative transition for the Virginia Democrat from raising money for his party to raising it for his campaign.

It remains unclear how Mr. Kaine’s fundraising totals, released Tuesday by his campaign, will compare to that of his likely GOP opponent, George Allen, who has yet to release his own figures. Quarterly reports are due July 15.

But the former Democratic National Committee chairman raised more money in the first few months of his candidacy than Mr. Allen raised during the first quarter of his own campaign, financial records show. Mr. Allen collected $1.5 million from the time he entered the race in late January until the end of March, while Mr. Kaine raised $2.25 million from his April 5 announcement through the end of June.

Tim Kaine has laid out an optimistic vision of bringing Virginia answers to Washington to help address serious national problems,” Kaine spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said. “We are pleased with how many people are responding to this campaign in its first weeks.” Ms. Hoffine said the Kaine campaign collected donations from more than 4,600 supporters.

Nearly a quarter of the total Mr. Kaine raised was given by ActBlue, a political action committee (PAC) organized to raise money for Democratic candidates. ActBlue contributed more than half a million dollars to Mr. Kaine’s campaign in the second quarter, according to the group’s website.

The Allen campaign last week said the contributions proved a connection between labor unions and Mr. Kaine, accusing him of taking money from a group that has also contributed to Wisconsin Democrats who recently opposed a controversial plan to sharply curb union rights for public employees.

“They know that chairman Kaine would be a reliable vote in the Senate for President Obama and the Washington Democrats’ pro-spending, pro-union, pro-big government policies that he championed as chairman of the Democratic National Committee,” Allen spokesman Bill Riggs said.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee joined in the criticism.

“It’s clear that Tim Kaine’s candidacy is a priority for big labor union bosses, Hollywood, and liberal activists around the country, so it’s no surprise that he would have a strong fundraising quarter,” spokesman Chris Bond said.

As the largest source of Democratic funding over the last decade, ActBlue has given money to most Democratic candidates for national office at one time or another. The group has distributed $52.4 million since 2004, according to data obtained through the Center for Responsive Politics.

Mr. Allen’s opponent for Senate in 2006 also collected funds from ActBlue. The group was the largest contributor to Sen. Jim Webb, who defeated Mr. Allen.

Voters aren’t likely to fret about a PAC like ActBlue that reveals its donors, said Stephen Farnsworth, a communications professor at George Mason University. Instead, he thinks new types of groups called “super PACs” that operate in relative secrecy are of greater concern.

Made possible by a Supreme Court ruling last year that allows independent groups to accept unlimited donations from corporations and unions, super PACs can take unlimited amounts of money from 501(c)(4) organizations that in turn dont have to disclose their donors.

Democrats criticized Republicans last year for taking money from super PACs like Crossroads GPS. But they’re following suit this year, forming groups like Priorities USA to filter money to candidates and perform opposition research.

“I worry a lot more about the money that isn’t being disclosed by third-party activists,” Mr. Farnsworth said. “I think democracy is more threatened by the money that isn’t being disclosed than the money that is.”

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