WASHINGTON (AP) — It never hurts presidential candidates to have senators owe them a favor or two. That's why Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential Republican presidential contender, is offering to have lunch with a donor to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party's fundraising arm for Senate campaigns.
"One winner will travel to Wisconsin for a special lunch and conversation with me and an overnight stay in the Badger State," Walker says in a fundraising email the NRSC is sending Thursday.
To be sure, Walker will have his own massive fundraising needs if he runs for president. But with nominating caucuses and primaries scheduled in many states next year, it's handy to have local congressmen, senators, governors and others feeling a bit indebted.
"Our conservative reforms transformed Wisconsin's economy, creating thousands of new jobs and empowering hardworking taxpayers," Walker claims in the email. It asks for donations of $5 or more, and the NRSC says the winner will be chosen randomly.
The NRSC plans to have other presidential hopefuls raise money through the "grab a bite" campaign.
Some Democratic senators already are sending back campaign donations from their New Jersey colleague Robert Menendez, who was indicted Wednesday on corruption charges. Will they also remove his image from their Senate and campaign sites?
A good test will be the official website of Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who's in line to become the next Democratic Senate leader. As of midday Thursday, an image on Schumer's home page showed him smiling at a podium with a few senators standing behind him. Menendez is shown beaming over Schumer's right shoulder. Less in-focus are Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and, blurrier still, Schumer's fellow New York senator, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand.
It might be fun to "watch this space" and see if Menendez is eventually cropped or airbrushed away, like an old Soviet official falling from favor in the Kremlin.
Menendez's troubles are a boon, at least temporarily, to Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. She will become her party's senior member on the Small Business Committee.
Menendez started a leadership ripple this week when he agreed to step aside as the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. Reid announced Thursday that Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland will assume that spot.
And Shaheen will move up to replace Cardin as the ranking Democrat on the small business panel.
Menendez's legal woes didn't stop him from commenting Thursday on the international agreement that outlines limits on Iran's nuclear program. Menendez, who has expressed strong reservations about the talks, said in a statement: "If diplomats can negotiate for two years on this issue, then certainly Congress is entitled to a review period of an agreement that will fundamentally alter our relationship with Iran and the sanctions imposed by Congress."