Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud is maintaining his lead in the gubernatorial money race and his campaign has spent close to half of its total $1.62 million since it was launched nearly a year ago.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage has topped the $1 million mark in contributions and has nearly as much cash on hand as his Democratic challenger.
Meanwhile, independent candidate Eliot Cutler has matched his two rivals in earnings but has spent nearly 97 percent of it, leaving his campaign far behind with available cash.
Those are the leading takeaways from the latest campaign finance filings, which all three major candidates posted Friday evening. The reporting period covered the 35-day period ending Tuesday. The shorter fundraising window means a smaller peek into the campaign activity, but the reports provide some benchmarks in a contest that is expected to be decided by the slimmest of margins.
Michaud’s $152,104 haul over the short period was second to LePage, who took in more than $180,000. The governor also benefited from a high-profile fundraiser with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the end of the legislative session, which lifted the prohibition on gifts from companies and groups that lobby the Legislature.
LePage also is spending a lot less than either of his challengers. The governor has spent just over $261,000 throughout his entire campaign, leaving him with more than $758,000 in available cash.
Michaud has spent more than $756,000, a rate that may reflect his campaign’s robust and costly fundraising effort.
Cutler pulled in $33,395 over the last reporting period, bringing his total fundraising effort to nearly $1.3 million since his campaign committee was established in January 2013.
Cutler has loaned his campaign $400,000 in cash contributions to date, but none during the last reporting period. The campaign continues to burn through cash, mostly on consultants.
The campaign reported a cash balance of about $40,000 in its most recent report. It has spent more than $1.25 million over the entire campaign.
The Cutler campaign has repeatedly said that the candidate will self-finance much of his race. In addition to lacking the party apparatus and support from third-party groups, Cutler can’t collect the same maximum contribution of $3,000 from individual donors as his party-affiliated rivals can.
Maine election law allows party candidates to draw $1,500 contributions for the June primary and the general election even if the candidates don’t face a primary challenger. Neither LePage nor Michaud has a primary challenger, which allows them to draw $3,000 for two elections, while Cutler’s campaign maxes out at $1,500 per donor.
Lee Schultheis, a Freeport resident running as an independent, reported $10,000 during the last reporting period, all of it his own money. Schultheis, whose campaign slogan is “I’m running for governor … but not really,” spent nearly $6,000 during the period, nearly all of it paying signature gatherers to get him on the ballot for the general election. He has raised $20,000 since launching his campaign.
Friday also marked a reporting deadline for political action committees and party committees, both of which are expected to play significant roles trying to influence the election.
The Democratic Governors Association is a national organization that has raised nearly $40 million this year in its quest to unseat Republican governors and bolster Democratic candidates and incumbents. Its counterpart, the Republican Governors Association, has raised more than $50 million this year, according to its filings with the Internal Revenue Service.
Both organizations have PACs operating in Maine.
The DGA Maine committee pulled in just $15,000 during the last 35-day reporting period and transferred nearly all of it to the Maine Democratic State Committee.
The RGA Maine PAC pulled in $250,000 during the last period, all from the national organization’s general treasury. Its major expenditures included $55,000 to Deep Root Analytics in Alexandria, Virginia, a company that specializes in political ad targeting and polling. The RGA also spent nearly $20,000 on airplane charter services for the Maine Republican Party. It’s unclear what the trips were for, but the expenditures closely coincided with visits by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., the keynote speaker at the Maine Republican Party convention, and two fundraising trips by Christie, the New Jersey governor and chairman of the RGA.
Also, it’s not uncommon for national political organizations to help pay for the training of local operatives.
David Sorensen, a spokesman for the Maine Republican Party, declined to comment on the contribution because he said it involved campaign strategy.
The RGA Maine committee also spent $2,156 to employ a tracker to monitor and research Cutler and Michaud.
The Maine Democratic Party has been tracking LePage for more than a year.
The Campaign for Maine, a PAC supporting Cutler, drew $138,600 over the last reporting period. The committee spent $125,000 in May on a television ad buy that ran in every Maine market. The buy gobbled up most of the PAC’s available cash, which now stands at just over $33,000.
Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at: