The TSA-like security screening checkpoint at the State House generated controversy after the Legislature appropriated $546,000 to install it last year.

It has been up and running only since mid-January, but so far the costs associated with staffing the station are under budget.

According to Capitol Security Chief Russell Gauvin, the Department of Public Safety has spent $104,547 of the $244,974 appropriated for the fiscal year that ends June 30. The state has paid $2,740 in overtime for the four security officers at the station.

Gauvin was pleased that the costs were under budget, given concerns that the screening would cost more than expected. However, it may take more than a few months to make a full assessment.

The station was installed several months later than originally anticipated, and Gauvin said it took time to hire the four new officers. The screening station also was installed during an abbreviated legislative session. Costs could increase next year when the State House is open longer while lawmakers draft a new two-year budget.

Security officers must staff the station while the State House is open and any time lawmakers are doing public business. Some worry that the detail will rack up overtime because the Legislature’s budget-writing committee works well after typical business hours and sometimes on weekends.

The checkpoint was installed after U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in Arizona and Maine state Rep. Frederick Wintle, R-Garland, was arrested in Waterville and charged with pointing a gun at a stranger. Opponents said that the checkpoint was a waste of money and that it would do little to improve safety. Lawmakers like Wintle, they argued, aren’t subject to the full screening.

There has been grumbling among some State House regulars that the detail creates a log jam. All visitors — lobbyists, protesters and students touring the State House — must submit to the screening. The procedure is similar to the one at airports: shoes and belts sometimes have to be removed, items are scanned, bags are checked.

Gauvin said security has confiscated several knives since the screening system was installed. Most were pocket knives, but a handful were illegal. Gauvin said no one has been charged by officers running the detail.

TEXT DONATIONS TO CANDIDATES?

It could happen, at least for congressional and presidential candidates.

The Federal Election Commission is close to ratifying a proposal to allow campaign donations by anonymous text messages.

According to the commission’s 23-page advisory opinion, an aggregating company would process and log the donations. Federal election law prohibits anonymous donors from giving more than $50 a month, so the aggregator would be responsible for ensuring that the limit isn’t exceeded by a single phone number.

The FEC report discusses in great detail the ways that aggregators would prevent a single phone number from exceeding the $50-per-month limit. What isn’t clear is how the proposed system would prevent one individual from using multiple phone numbers to make donations.

It’s relatively easy to sign up for multiple — and free — phone numbers via Internet calling providers such as Skype and Google Voice. Both offer texting features.

SPEAKING OF MONEY IN POLITICS

OneMaine, a nonprofit promoting bipartisanship in politics, will host a free public forum Wednesday about money in politics.

The panel discussion will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Hallowell City Hall.

Panel members will include Alison Smith of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections; Maine ethics commission director Jonathan Wayne; Colby College professor Anthony Corrado: Bowdoin College professor Michael Franz; Maine Heritage Policy Center Director Lance Dutson; and Portland Press Herald political writer and author Colin Woodard.

More information can be found at www.onemaine.com.

BE YOUR OWN WATCHDOG

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has developed a handy one-stop Web shop for reporters and citizens to research campaign finance disclosures, voter registration, political action committee activity and other fun stuff.

Check it out at the MCPR website, pinetreewatchdog.org.

Staff writers Steve Mistler and John Richardson contributed to this report.