Specter??¢â???¬â???¢s Mercenaries

It is a multi-million dollar operation, hated by many conservatives, claiming to do good, and paying its “volunteers.”

I’m not referring to AmeriCorps, but to liberal Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R.-Pa.) re-election campaign.

With more than $9 million cash on hand for his April 27 Republican primary race against conservative Rep. Pat Toomey (Pa.), Specter has the luxury of buying volunteers.

Then again, anecdotal evidence suggests he may have to buy them.

In the final stretch of his toughest primary challenge ever, Specter’s campaign is offering cash to College Republican (CR) organizations in Pennsylvania if they can send a few volunteers door-to-door with his literature this weekend

Specter offered the Duquesne University CRs $500 if they can send ten volunteers this weekend, according to a Thursday e-mail to the group’s members from CR President Joe Murzyn.

In the e-mail, Murzyn quotes the Duquesne CR member who is charged with organizing Specter volunteers for the weekend:

“I along with the overwhelming majority of the group support Pat Toomey in the primary election; however, it is necessary for the financial stability of our organization and its success that we seize this opportunity and raise $500.00 for our future. Thank you and see you on Saturday!”

In the same e-mail, Murzyn himself refers to the Specter door-to-door as a “fundraising opportunity,” illustrating the hilarious dilemma some of these organizations must face.

Murzyn confirmed the cash offer, and told me today, “We’ve spent many, many man-hours on the Toomey campaign so far, but there comes a point where you have to support your group–you have to do what’s right for your group, for its survival.”

Murzyn explained that CR groups are not permitted officially to back any one candidate in Republican primaries.

Steve Sawka, the contact in the same email for this weekend’s (unpaid) Toomey volunteers, said that members of the CR chapter were not pleased with the idea of taking Specter’s money.

“Some of the group’s leadership made a pitch, and it received a very cool response from the group,” he said. “There was talk of taking the money and just taking the literature to a dumpster.”

Of Specter’s people who offered the money, Sawka said, “I’m sure that they don’t know we’re all Toomey supporters.”

Specter is also offering college students in Montgomery County, near Philadelphia, $75 per day to work election day and the Saturday before, according to two separate e-mails from Specter’s Deputy Political Director Charles Fitzpatrick. (When I called, Fitzpatrick at first denied knowledge of the e-mails. Asked whether someone had falsely put his name on them, he put me on hold and then referred me to Campaign Manager Christopher Nicholas, who did not return calls.)

At West Chester University in Chester County, witnesses say that the Specter campaign has hired members of the Young Democrats at the same daily rate, indicating a pattern of paying “volunteers.”

Regardless, money cannot buy passionate supporters. If the race actually becomes close enough that the ground game matters, Specter is toast.

Toomey told me this week that none of his volunteers are being paid, and a campaign staffer claimed he has 10,000 of them signed up statewide. He has a mere $2 million on hand, but he is probably better off not hiring mercenaries anyway. At least his literature won’t end up at the bottom of a dumpster.