Babs spent some time in Alabama at a fundraiser… for her.
Few communities are fighting harder to keep the money flowing than Huntsville, where Wernher von Braun conceived the giant Saturn V rocket that launched Americans to the first moon landing in 1969. And Mikulski’s campaign fundraising shows that the ties between Huntsville and the Maryland senator are stronger than might be expected.
Last September, a report by a panel of space experts, appointed by Obama, rattled northern Alabama. It described the U.S. human space program as “unsustainable” and raised serious questions about the moon project, known as Constellation. On Oct. 22, the panel recommended canceling the big launcher under development in Huntsville that would be used to return Americans to the lunar surface, half a century later.
Killing the rocket program could cost the area hundreds of jobs. NASA pegged the value of Alabama-based contracts related to development of the Ares I launcher at more than $74.5 million in 2008. If Congress goes along with Obama’s plan to shift the emphasis of the space program toward commercial ventures, local officials fear a brain drain to other parts of the country.
Only days after the blue-ribbon panel gave Congress its report, Alabama business and industry leaders were able to convey their concerns directly to Mikulski. She was the guest of honor at a fundraising breakfast for her 2010 re-election campaign, held at the Embassy Suites Huntsville Hotel & Spa, which adjoins the Von Braun convention center.
People with knowledge of the fundraiser say that one of Alabama’s most powerful politicians, Republican Sen. Richard C. Shelby, worked behind the scenes to make sure the event was a success, which would be an extremely unusual example of fundraising cooperation across party lines.
“Shelby didn’t put his fingerprints on it, but he wanted it to happen,” said one donor who was granted anonymity to discuss the powerful senator.
Tom Young, who served as Shelby’s top Senate aide for a dozen years, was one of the leaders in arranging the event, according to several of those involved, including former Rep. Robert E. “Bud” Cramer, one of the hosts, who introduced Mikulski to the audience. Cramer and two others who attended said they believe that Young was at the breakfast, but his name does not appear on the list of donors Mikulski’s campaign filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Business as usual. Still waiting for that Change ™. I certainly doubt we’ll change our Senator in November.