Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe will use more than half of her $2 million campaign war chest to set up a leadership foundation.
Maine’s retiring senator is also establishing a political action committee to support “like-minded” candidates, but she has made no guarantees that any of that money will be used to help Republicans in this year’s elections, including the one who hopes to succeed her in the Senate, Charlie Summers.
Snowe indicated in April that her unused campaign funds would go toward establishing a leadership institute for young women. She formalized that intention in a release Friday, saying that $1.2 million will be directed to the Maine Community Foundation, which will hold the money while Snowe establishes her planned nonprofit in Portland.
Another $800,000 will go to what Snowe’s campaign treasurer, Lucas Caron, described as a multi-candidate PAC.
Caron said the PAC will be used to bring together current members of Congress and candidates who are interested in building consensus on legislative issues.
Caron said the paperwork has been filed to set up the PAC, so it could support candidates this year. However, he said, Snowe may be more inclined to wait until she finishes her current term before supporting any candidates.
“I think she’s focused on finishing her term,” Caron said. “I don’t know that she’s going to be fully engaged in (supporting campaigns) until she leaves office.”
Snowe abandoned her re-election bid in February, raising speculation about how she would disburse the nearly $2.34 million she had amassed for the campaign. A candidate who withdraws may transfer all of their campaign funds to another candidate’s committee.
But Snowe, who had been a frequent target of scorn by the right flank of the Republican Party and quit the race complaining of hyper-partisanship in Congress, said this spring that she would devote a significant portion of her campaign funds to a new leadership institute.
She also indicated that she would support “like-minded candidates.”
Her money would undoubtedly help Summers, who served in Snowe’s state office for nine years. Summers, who is not independently wealthy, loaned his campaign $50,000 to sustain a television ad buy for the GOP primary in June.
But his unwillingness to back Snowe when she was running against a tea party challenger may have cost him the retiring senator’s financial backing.
John Richter, Snowe’s chief of staff, told The Portland Press Herald after the primary that Snowe would support Summers as “the duly chosen Republican nominee,” but wouldn’t make any firm financial commitments to him.
Richter also acknowledged that Summers failed to endorse Snowe when she asked for his support against Scott D’Amboise last year. Richter’s comment made a public a long-rumored rift between Snowe and Summers.
Lance Dutson, Summers’ campaign manager, said Friday that the campaign respects Snowe’s decision.
“Charlie worked for her for nine years and obviously regards her as one of Maine’s finest public servants that we’ve ever had,” Dutson said. “Her support in this election means a lot to him.
“Obviously, this is an important venture to her and we fully support what she’s doing,” he said.
Snowe has a long history of supporting Maine Republicans who run for Congress, including Summers, who got $5,300 from her political action committee in 2008 for his bid for the 1st Congressional District seat.
Snowe employed Summers as her state director for six years, and later helped him win the post as regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Association.
Caron, Snowe’s treasurer, said Friday that the point of the announcement was to confirm that Snowe is putting resources in place that will allow her to pursue endeavors that are important to her.
Meredith Jones, president of the Maine Community Foundation, said, “We are pleased to help Sen. Snowe fulfill her philanthropic vision.”
State House Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at: