The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Al Franken's camp are exploring avenues to bolster the Democratic challenger's funds during Norm Coleman's long legal challenge to the Minnesota election.
In an advisory opinion request to the Federal Election Commission filed this past week, Franken's chief counsel Marc Elias asks for "confirmation that the DSCC, like state parties and federal candidates, may establish a recount fund that will be used to pay recount, election contest and other post-election litigation costs resulting from the Federal election."
In essence, a DSCC aide explains, Elias is asking the FEC to consider the current phase of the Minnesota election separate from the campaign itself -- allowing big-time contributors constrained by legal limits to donate once again.
The purpose of the move is twofold: to figure out legal avenues by which tapped-out donors to the DSCC can help Franken rebuff former Sen. Coleman's legal challenges, and to ensure that the comedian-turned-candidate is able to keep up in what is turning into an arms race.
Late last week it was reported that the Republican National Committee had made a $250,000 donation to Coleman's legal fund as the former Senator seeks to overturn the 225 vote deficit he currently faces in the election. Democrats contend that national Republicans are hoping to delay the seating of Franken, for both political and legislative benefits.
Officials with both the Democratic National Committee and DSCC confirmed that they had not yet donated to Franken's legal fund. Neither committee would talk about strategy going forward.
One way through which national Democrats can help pad Franken's pockets is Elias' legal appeal. Should the FEC rule in the Franken campaign's favor, it would allow the DSCC to "establish a recount fund, and use that fund to pay expenses related to the statewide recount." That money, moreover, would be able to come from those donors who had already reached the contribution limit to the congressional committee.
"For example," Elias writes, "an individual who has already contributed $30,400 to the DSCC in 2009 will be permitted to donate an additional $30,400 to the DSCC's recount fund, even if such individual had already contributed the maximum amount permitted under the aggregate biennial contribution limits."
All of which is not to suggest that Franken is in a perilous financial state. His campaign coffers, officials say, are doing fine. He and the state's Democratic party can still raise money. But the national Republicans and Coleman himself have indicated that they are more than willing to let the legal process drag out as long as possible.
As one senior Democrat, when asked to respond to the news that the RNC had sent $250K Coleman's way, put it: "This is even more evidence that National Republicans are using the Minnesota vacancy as a tool to obstruct the Senate from moving forward on President Obama's agenda."