Friday, December 13, 2013
Angus King, the independent candidate running for the U.S. Senate, appears to be getting some help from the group Americans Elect, the well-funded national organization that previously attempted to draft a bipartisan presidential ticket.
The presidential endeavor fell short, but it appears that Americans Elect is now funneling its resources to help congressional candidates, or at least one -- King. The above 30-second ad touts King's bipartisanship. It's not yet clear when the ad will begin running in Maine or how much the group spent on the buy.
The ad, however, marks the first time that an outside group has put forth an ad advocating for King. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has been running an ad attacking Republican candidate Charlie Summers, but it does not mention King or Democratic candidate Cynthia Dill.
Earlier this year King asked his rivals to agree to swear off spending by outside groups. That never happened, although Dill claims that she made overtures to achieve the same result.
Republican groups have spent over $2 million hammering King. The DSCC buy attacking Summers is just over $400,000.
One thing is clear: Americans Elect is probably sitting on a pile of money. It hauled in $20 million just to gain ballot access in 27 states, including Maine, before abandoning that effort earlier this year.
Americans Elect is the offspring of Unity08 , the group backed by Democrat Hamilton Jordan, who was President Jimmy Carter's former chief of staff; Republican Doug Bailey, who worked for President Gerald Ford. King was also involved in Unity08.
The new group has benefited from some significant financial backing. However, the group's 501 (c)(4) nonprofit status protects the identity of its funding sources, which has riled transparency groups like Democracy 21. Such groups argue that 501 (c)(4) organizations represent a greater threat to transparency than so-called Super PACs.
Karl Rover's American Crossroads, for example, is 501 (c)(4) organization that is spending millions attempting to influence congressional and presidential races.
Tax documents Americans Elect filed prior to obtaining nonprofit status showed that Peter Ackerman is one of the groups big financiers. Ackerman was a private investment executive who reportedly made millions of dollars selling junk bonds in the 1980s.
Eliott Ackerman, Peter Ackerman's son, was Americans Elect's chief financial officer.
Efforts to reach the group were not immediately successful.
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.