Rock salt blizzard slams Snowe after health vote

Posted Oct. 20, 2009, at 9:39 p.m.

WASHINGTON — One week after lending her vote of support to the Senate Finance Committee’s health care reform bill, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, has gained countless column inches of newspaper exposure and at least 115 pounds of rock salt.

Though the analysis and recaps were inevitable, the influx of rock salt came as a surprise to the senator’s staff, who said they received a bundled UPS shipment of 23 5-pound bags of salt to Snowe’s Portland office.

Popular conservative blog RedState sparked the makeshift protest with a post a week ago. In a play on Snowe’s name, Erick Erickson, managing editor of the site and author of the post, wrote, “What melts snow? Rock salt,” and urged readers to send just that as a sign of disapproval.

Erickson did not respond to a request for comment, though he did post a RedState entry titled “RedState Readers Stimulate the Economy” Monday night, citing a Wall Street Journal blog post saying that 240 bags of rock salt had been shipped to Snowe’s Maine office by a company called Ron’s Home and Hardware.

Snowe’s press representative, however, said Tuesday only 23 bags had arrived, and that they had been shipped by AG Lock and Hardware, an ACE Hardware outlet in Brooklyn, N.Y. All rock salt that the office receives will be donated to Preble Street Resource Center, a homeless shelter and soup kitchen in Portland, the spokeswoman said.

Chris Martin, the manager of the Brooklyn store, said he had not heard about the protest and could not comment on shipments the store had made.

Denny and Kathy’s Superstore, the vendor listed on the Amazon.com page Erickson linked to, did not respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Snowe, for her part, was unfazed by the white crystalline substance that found its way to her Maine office.

“Everyone has their own prerogative,” she said. “I have a job to do, and I choose to focus on doing that job.”

Snowe said that she had not seen any rock salt in any of her offices.

Though the shipments have failed to make any impact on the senator, ripples are being felt in the liberal blogosphere, where authors say that the makeshift protest is absurd.

James Dustin Baker, in his blog, Georgia Liberal, called the mailings “what has to be the dumbest protest against a member of their own party.”

“Republicans, especially moderate Republicans, should be happy that a senator on their side … is willing to reach across the aisle,” Baker wrote in an e-mail message. “If the Republican Party does not open up to diverse ideas, they may see more senators, such as Sen. Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania, leaving the party.”

Jim Newell, an editor at Wonkette, a satirical political blog, said that the shipments could actually have a positive impact on Snowe.

“Sending bags of rock salt to Maine before the terrible winter — or has it already started? — is about as nice a gesture RedState could have offered to Olympia Snowe,” Newell said. “So, no, it is not an effective form of protest, just more harmless Internet comedy awkwardly manifesting itself in the real world.”

A review on the product page for Rebel Rock Salt, which Erickson linked to in his original RedState post as an easy way to ship the salt, well summarizes the liberal response to the protest.

The anonymous reviewer rated the salt three stars out of five, and wrote: “This product is very effective for melting ice (though potassium chloride is more effective still) on driveways and sidewalks. It is, however, singularly ineffective as a vehicle for expressing political disapproval.”

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