Liberal groups won't support Democrats backing Kavanaugh


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two well-financed liberal groups that help elect Democratic candidates will not aid the campaigns of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin or Senate candidate Phil Bredesen because the two support Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.

Super PACs MoveOn and Priorities USA, which raises money to support Democrats, on Friday said they would no longer support the two men, even as the party tries to leverage a potential wave of liberal voter anger to pick up the two additional Senate seats it would need to take a majority in that chamber.

The withdrawal of support is a sign of how charged the debate around Republican President Donald Trump's second nominee for a lifetime seat on the nation's top court has become.

Democrats have organized to oppose Kavanaugh, with opposition intensifying after Christine Blasey Ford last month accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were teenagers.

RELATED: Brett Kavanaugh testifies regarding sexual assault allegations

Bredesen, who polls indicate is locked in a dead heat for the Tennessee seat being vacated by a Republican, said in a statement Friday that he would have voted for Kavanaugh had he been in the Senate. Manchin, who is leading in his re-election bid to represent conservative-leaning West Virginia, said Friday that he will back Kavanaugh in the final Senate confirmation vote expected on Saturday.

MoveOn said on Twitter it has canceled campaigning for Manchin and would also cancel more than $100,000 worth of online advertising it had planned to buy in support of Bredesen.

Priorities USA has not yet spent any money to support either candidate and will not do so following their support of Kavanaugh, spokesman Josh Schwerin said in a phone interview.

Manchin is expected to be the only Democrat to join Republicans in approving Kavanaugh.

Priorities USA and MoveOn are among the largest liberal "super political action committees" or Super PACs.

At the end of August, Priorities USA had spent $16 million for this election cycle and had $7 million on hand, according to Federal Election Commission filings. By the end of June, the most recent data available, MoveOn has spent $13 million so far this election cycle and had $7 million in cash.

Senate Majority PAC, a separate super PAC run by allies of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, will continue to spend in support of Manchin and Bredesen, said the group's spokesman, Chris Hayden.

Under U.S. law Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited sums of money but are barred from donating directly to candidates or coordinating with their campaigns.

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Scott Malone)