Shenna Bellows, a Democrat who is trying to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, has been fundraising for only a few months, but on Monday her campaign committee announced more than $332,000 in donations.

The total, for the fourth quarter of 2013, is not yet posted with the Federal Election Commission. Collins’ fourth-quarter filings haven’t been published, either, but her most recent reports – and her previous defeats of well-financed opponents – show that Bellows has some catching up to do.

Collins’ campaign committee took in more than $3.3 million from 2009 to the third quarter of 2013.

However, Bellows’ team is touting its opening performance, particularly the number of small-dollar donations and the fact that her campaign didn’t officially launch until Oct. 23.

According to the campaign, 81.7 percent of the 1,771 contributions were $100 or less, while more than 80 percent of the donations came from Mainers.

“Our fundraising represents our values,” Bellows said in a prepared statement. “One of the biggest threats to our democracy is big money in politics, so it is refreshing to see that grassroots giving can triumph over special interests from out-of-state.”

She said, “That is what a US Senate campaign should look like: local, grassroots-funded and representative of the entire state.”

The statement is a jab at Collins, whose war chest is relatively split between individual donations (47 percent) and giving by political action committees (46 percent). Among the $1.5 million from individuals, $77,000 came from small-dollar donors, who are defined as people who give no more than $200 during an election cycle.

Campaigns champion small-dollar donations because they are sometimes viewed as an indicator of enthusiasm for candidates. And sustained small-dollar donations can attract contributions or third-party spending by political action committees and wealthy individuals.

Bellows’ fourth-quarter fundraising was $41,000 less than Collins’ first-quarter donations in 2013; the incumbent has since stepped up her fundraising, taking in more than $1 million in the second quarter and $805,000 in the third quarter.

Steve Abbott, Collins’ chief of staff, said Monday that he expects the campaign will have about $3 million on hand when it files its report with the Federal Election Commission. That represents a tall challenge for Bellows, who is best known as the former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. She would have to draw $900,000 for the remaining quarters, and not spend any of it, to approach Collins’ campaign donations.

 

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:smistler@pressherald.comTwitter: @stevemistler