Saturday October 27, 2012 | 09:55 AM

The Republican State Leadership Committee, the D.C-based group backed by big tobacco, insurance companies and other corporate groups, has dumped another $365,000 into Maine political action committees spending big on legislative races. 

The RSLC has now given $795,000 to Maine PACs this election cycle, dearly double the $400,000 it spent in 2010. The group's Democratic counterpart, the union-backed Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has given a total of $405,000.

The RSLC money bomb comes as spending by outside groups on legislative races hit $2.5 million, shattering the $1.5 million record set in 2010. Nearly $700,000 was spent over the last week, according to an analysis by the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections.  

Why the interest by D.C.-based groups? As the Press Herald reported a few weeks ago, there are a bunch of reasons why national groups are spending more to impact state races. But one point that story didn't raise is the fact that the Maine Legislature is slated to undergo legislative redistricting next year, a process that will likely be as contentious as the congressional redistricting process was in 2011. 

The national groups are also looking for a policy payoff. With corporations spending big via the RSLC, the resulting policy legislation could reflect a wide range of interests.

For the union-backed DLCC, it's likely interest is a strengthening of worker protection laws and to beat back right-to-work legislation that drains union resources.

Which group advances their interests hinges on who controls the Legislature, Republicans or Democrats.

Below is an updated Senate battleground map showing where and how the money is being spent. District 32, the race between Republican incumbent Sen. Nichi Farnham and Democrat Geoffrey Gratwick tops the target list with over $300,000 spent so far. 

But check out some of the other districts. There are some surprises. Most notably, perhaps, is the spending in the Republican dominated District 27, which includes Somerset, Penobscot and Piscataquis counties (Piscataquis was the only county in New England to vote for Republican John McCain during the 2008 presidential race). 

The money directed to SD 27 (and SD 28) isn't much compared to the other big-dollar races, but it's notable that any money is going there at all. Republican Sen. Doug Thomas has always been popular in SD 27, but the money to either support him or his Democratic challenger Herbert Clark suggests the race is competitive. 

Thomas, remember, found himself in a bit of a pickle this summer over his support for the East-West highway project. Constituents grew concerned that the suddenly fast-tracked project would lead to property seizures, prompting Thomas to lobby the LePage administration to slow the development process.

Finally, it's worth noting that the next PAC filings won't be released until after the election. With more than a week left before Election Day, expect more money to come to arrive during that time.  

PAC Donations to State Senate Candidates

  None      Under $5,000      $5,000 - $20,000      $20,000 - $50,000   
  $50,000 - $100,000      $100,000 - $200,000      $200,000 - $300,000   
  Over $300,000   

Source: Maine Ethics Commission

Explore the data in a larger Map



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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

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