AUGUSTA – Democrats are raising questions about a recent House Republican caucus fundraising invitation where the state’s three constitutional officers were listed as invited guests.

State law prohibits the attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state from soliciting funds while in office. Caucus organizer Assistant House Majority Leader Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, said he was careful to make sure they followed the letter of the law.

“They did not raise any money,” he said. “They were invited as guests. They were not in any way involved in making solicitations for the event.”

Yet Democrats argue that listing their names on a fundraising invitation gives the appearance that those who pay the money will get access to people who hold those offices.

“It would be one thing if they were legislators, but these are constitutional officers who are responsible for fairly allocating state money, interpreting our laws, and overseeing our elections and yet here they are, front and center on a high-dollar GOP fundraiser invite,” Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said in a prepared statement. “This sends a terrible signal to the people of Maine who rely on their offices.”

The fundraiser was held last month in Portland and included an overnight stay. A full weekend with hotel accommodations cost $3,000, while those on a more limited budget could spend $500 to attend a policy briefing with a meal. In addition to the policy briefings, there was an evening cruise on Portland Harbor, golf or shopping, an afternoon skeet shooting event and an evening lobster bake.

The shooting event was held at a gravel pit owned by Attorney General William Schneider, who served as the range master for the event, Cushing said. The invitation indicates that it cost $1,000 to be a shooting event sponsor.

Cushing said he does not yet have totals for how much was raised at the event, but is comfortable that Republicans will be ready to compete in 2012.

Both parties will continue with fundraisers over the coming months as they build war chests for next year’s election. All 186 legislative seats will be on the ballot. Republicans currently control both the House and Senate. The legislative session that begins in January is expected to feature many partisan battles as both parties try to best position themselves in advance of the election.

COLLINS TO DROP BILL

Sen. Ron Collins, R-Wells, who upset labor unions in recent weeks by submitting a bill that would have outlawed automatic union dues deduction from paychecks, said Friday he’s dropping the bill.

Collins said he put the bill in after some constituents who were unhappy with their union approached him over the summer. He said they thought they would have better leverage with the union if they had the power to write a dues check each month. That way, they could withhold payment if things weren’t going well.

But once the AFL-CIO heard about the bill, they encouraged all their southern Maine members to contact Collins. Apparently some did.

“I’ve gotten quite a few emails and phone calls not in favor of it,” he said. “I’m not going to pursue it.”

No doubt legislative leaders will formally kill the bill today when they meet to say yea or nay to the nearly 300 bill requests before them.

MADORE TO HEAD PAUL CAMPAIGN

Paul Madore, a pro-family conservative who’s led efforts to oppose gay rights in Maine for years, was recently named state chairman of the Ron Paul for president campaign.

In an email to Constitution Coalition supporters, Madore said he underwent a “short but vigorous vetting” while applying for the job.

“I am deeply humbled and very grateful for this tremendous opportunity to be part of this most liberating and revolutionary effort to help restore liberty and freedom to our nation,” he wrote.

A few weeks ago, MaineToday Media reported that former Christian Civic League of Maine Executive Director Michael Heath was heading up the Paul campaign in Iowa.

LEPAGE ON HOME RULE

Gov. Paul LePage, who cut his political teeth as mayor of Waterville, wants to find a way to get cities and towns to work together to save taxpayer money. He’s apparently not a big fan of the time-honored tradition of home rule or local regulations.

The idea has come up twice in recent weeks — once at a business forum in Bangor and earlier during a speech to the Cumberland Club in Portland.

In Bangor last week, the governor told the Bangor Daily News that he plans to submit legislation to allow the state to hold back revenues from cities and towns if they have regulations that are more strict than those at the state level. In particular, he was talking about business regulations.

Earlier in the month in Portland, an audience member at the Cumberland Club asked the governor if there was a way to reduce the number of cities and towns, according to a recording of the event found on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network website.

LePage expressed frustration that as mayor of Waterville, he wasn’t able to get neighboring Winslow to work with him more often. Although the cities share a fire chief, they bought separate fire equipment and couldn’t come to an agreement on sharing a road grader, he said.

“This is the problem,” he said. “Home rule is something we have in the state of Maine. It’s very, very costly. Until the people of Maine decide we’d rather save tax dollars over home rule, it’s going to be difficult.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan M. Cover wrote this column.