WASHINGTON – With less than four months to go before Election Day, the political cash is starting to flow in Maine.

And by early next week, Mainers will have a better idea of who among the state’s congressional hopefuls is flush with cash and who’s not, where the money is coming from, how the candidates are spending that green and which — if any — political action committees, or PACs, are trying to influence the races in Maine.

The reports, which cover through June 30, are due by today. Information on the House candidates is filed electronically with the Federal Election Commission and is often posted online right away at www.fec.gov.

No such luck with Senate candidates, however.

Seemingly in keeping with the “more august body’s” adherence to all things arcane, Senate candidates submit paper copies to Senate staff, who must then scan them. The filings are then made available to anyone who wants them — as long as they don’t mind dropping by the Senate office in Washington, D.C. Of course, the office is closed on Sundays, so many filings likely won’t arrive until Monday.

Those Senate reports will eventually be sent to the FEC, which will post them online. But the process often takes several days.

A bill, titled the “Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act,” that would require electronic filing, was introduced in January 2011. A committee hearing was held on it in April 2012, but no action has been taken.

WHO HAD HOW MUCH

So here’s a recap on where the various congressional candidates stood financially following the last filing, just prior to the June 8 primary.

In the race for U.S. Senate, independent Angus King had $258,000 sitting in his campaign bank account waiting to be spent compared to $85,000 for Republican Charlie Summers and $9,000 for Democrat Cynthia Dill, according to the electronic reports posted by the FEC.

In the race for Maine’s 1st Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree had nearly 14 times as much money in the bank — $210,000 versus $16,600 — as the man who would be her opponent after the primary, Republican state Sen. Jonathan Courtney. But those numbers have likely changed considerably since then.

And in the 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat, was sitting on $543,000 compared to $122,000 for his would-be opponent, state Senate President Kevin Raye.

PINGREE GETS EXTENSION

Sitting members of Congress must also file financial disclosure reports that detail their other sources of income. The latest reports were due on May 15, but some observers have noted that Pingree has yet to file.

Pingree requested — and was granted — an extension by the House Ethics Committee. She now has until mid-August to file.

Members are not required to specify why they are requesting an extension, but it appears that Pingree’s marriage last year to billionaire S. Donald Sussman had something to do with it.

“Her form is a bit more complicated than it has been in the past since she is married now,” Pingree spokesman Willy Ritch said on Thursday, adding that the congresswoman wants to make sure it is accurate.

Members’ financial disclosure forms also contain some information on their spouses’ income and finances. And given her husband’s wealth and his history of donating to political causes and charities, Pingree’s filing will likely be closely read.

Disclosure: Sussman is the majority share owner of MaineToday Media, which owns The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and other media outlets in Maine.

FARM BILL’S FATE UNCERTAIN

Sometime in the wee morning hours Thursday, lawmakers on the House Agriculture Committee voted 35-11 to approve a $500 billion, five-year farm bill that covers everything from farmer subsidies to the federal food stamp program for low-income families.

Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-District 1, was among the latter 11, despite the fact that the final version contained numerous “local foods” initiatives the North Haven Democrat had pushed for.

Those initiatives include: providing electronic food stamp card readers to farmers markets while allowing food stamp recipients to buy more at farmers markets; changes to enhance the ability of small, diversified farmers to purchase crop insurance to cover losses due to drought, disease or other problems; and a “farm-to-school” program that allows schools to serve up locally sourced food in their cafeterias.

The last provision has been in place in Portland for a number of years under a special pilot program, and with considerable success.

But Pingree said she was unable to support the final committee bill because it contained $16.5 billion in cuts to food stamps as well as eligibility changes that could mean millions lose access to food stamps. A version of the bill that has already passed the Senate contains smaller food stamp cuts. And Pingree said she hopes changes made to any compromise bill will allow her to vote for it.

In the Senate, meanwhile, Sen. Olympia Snowe was co-sponsor of an approved amendment that, among other things, initiates a process for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create a new federal dairy pricing program. The current system is often unpopular with Maine’s small dairy farmers, who struggle to survive on the prices set by the federal government.

The fate of the farm bill is uncertain, however. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in media reports last week that he was unsure when the bill, which is also unpopular with some conservatives due to its pricetag, will be brought up on the House floor. 

Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

[email protected]