Beltway Congress Race Breaks Records for Campaign Donations

A matchup between businessman David Trone, former news anchor Kathleen Matthews, and progressive MD Senator Jaimie Raskin reveal the interests fighting for the future of the Democratic party

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Story Transcript

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN: Election primary season is in full swing in Maryland. It’s known as a true democratic blue state, since the last Republican to be voted in to the U.S. Senate was back in 1980. So congressional races are usually waged in the primaries. One race in particular is getting quite a bit of attention: Maryland’s eighth district. It’s the seat that Congressman Chris Van Hollen will be vacating, since he’s making a run for the U.S. Senate.

There are nine Democrats running, but much of the hype of the race is between three candidates.

Former TV anchor and Marriott corporate executive Kathleen Matthews, who’s also the wife of MSNBC host Chris Matthews.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Welcome back, I’m Chris Matthews.

KATHLEEN MATTEWS: And I’m Kathleen Matthews, co-anchoring with my husband Chris today, in for Andrea Mitchell.

DESVARIEUX: The other contender is American University law professor and Maryland state senator, Jamie Rasksin. Also national wine and beer retailer/business owner David Trone is running. He’s the owner of Total Wine and Beer, and is reported to be self-funding his campaign with more than $10 million. All of this money is making this contest one of the most expensive congressional races in history. With ads like this one, which shows President Obama at a Democratic fundraiser hosted by Trone.

BARACK OBAMA: I was hearing about David and how when he was still in school, he started a beer store, and just kept on putting money back into the business. And a few decades later, it’s now one of the largest, if not the largest, wine retailer in the country. An example of American success, and then I was listening to him backstage and I thought, you know, we could run him for something.

DESVARIEUX: Trone was asked a recent debate about bankrolling his own campaign.

DAVID TRONE: We shouldn’t have to apologize for success. The fact that someone has dollars is clearly going to give them an edge, but it also gives them independence of point of view, and that’s the key.

JAMIE RASKIN: Mr. Trone, I think I dissent a little bit from the way you use the word success. You used it the way Republicans do; you say you shouldn’t have to apologize for your success. There a lot of successful schoolteachers, and bus drivers, and journalists, and artists who live in our district, and they are just as successful as any millionaire or billionaire who decides to run for office.

Secondly, public office is something you earn and it’s not something you’ve bought. An election is not an auction. It is a discussion among the people. What people hate about the age of Citizen’s United is that big money has become a substitute for everything else. For political values in action, for legislative experience, and in some cases in this field, even from voting in our party primary elections.

DESVARIEUX: American University professor of government David Lublin says it’s hard to tell who is really connecting with voters. There have been no independent polls to track voters’ preferences, but according to an internal Matthews campaign poll, Raskin is in the lead and Matthews is three percentage points behind him in second place.

DAVID LUBLIN: So you’ve kind of got Matthews who’s kind of the business/establishment candidate, and she’s also gotten some endorsements from the comptroller of the state, as well as some state legislators. And Raskin whose got kind of the progressive/activist support. And Trone who’s much more of a self-starter but, boy, when you can give yourself $12 million, that’s quite a self-start.

DESVARIEUX: On most social issues, the two leading candidates are on the same page. They are both pro-choice and support same-sex marriage. But where there is some light between them is when it comes to economic issues, and the interests behind them.

For one, Matthews supports the controversial trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while Raskin opposes it. Number two: Raskin supports a $15 minimum wage, while Matthews, on her site, does not specify an exact dollar amount but calls for a fair wage. With these policies, Raskin has received the endorsement of most major unions, from the teachers’ union to the local United Food and Commercial Workers’ union.

But Matthews has been able to garner the support of female members of congress, like California senator Barbara Boxer. She’s also been favored by groups like Emily’s List, which supports pro-choice women running for congress. And media giants like the Washington Post editorial board have all endorsed Matthews. The endorsement said, “Our preference for Ms. Matthews boils down to our belief that in congress, she’d be more pragmatic and less doctrinaire than the left-leaning Mr. Raskin, whose passionate liberalism is unsurpassed in Annapolis.”

But who are these donors behind her campaign? The New York Post reported that $80,000 of her campaign funds came from guests who appeared on her husband Chris Matthews’s MSNBC show, Hardball. At the latest debate, to combat the ballooning campaign donations, the third ranking candidate in terms of campaign cash, Jamie Raskin, proposed an agreement to reign in the influence of donors.

SPEAKER 1: [inaud.] individual go over that just because it’s their money. I think that’s wrong.

RASKIN: Can I suggest along those lines, would everybody on this panel agree to be bound by a $2,700 limit? Because I will say it right now. Does everybody agree not to […]

[crosstalk]

RASKIN: Show of hands.

SPEAKER 2: Yes, absolutely.

SPEAKER 3: Yes, I welcome it.

SPEAKER 4: I’ll put two hands up!

SPEAKER 5: Well, Dan, you can only do it once, brother.

RASKIN: Well let’s have a show of hands.

DESVARIEUX: But despite this talk about limiting campaign cash, Towson [University] professor Richard Vatz says there has been limited discussion of foreign policy. In Maryland, there are more than 8,500 jobs in the defense sector, like at defense contractors Raytheon and Northop Grumman. It’s also the home of the National Security Agency at Fort Meade.

RICHARD VATZ: If you look at the discussion of issues in this race, where’s the discussion of foreign policy? This is one of the major issues of a national race, and they don’t discuss it at all. If you look at Raskin’s campaign page, his internet page, when does he get to, I think it’s the third from the last issue that he talks about, and all he talks about is Iran, you know, the Iranian deal.

DESVARIEUX: And he supports that as well as Matthews. They both support it.

VATZ: They both support that. But the fact is that foreign policy is a major, major issue. Terrorism is a major, major issue.

DESVARIEUX: The candidates have been running ads to get the vote out, and on Tuesday night, the voters will ultimately decide who will be making their way to Capitol Hill. For The Real News Network, Jessica Desvarieux, Washington.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.