Monday June 24, 2013 | 04:08 PM

(This post has been updated to note the role of Robert C.S. Monks in MaineToday Media - S.M.)

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, inched a little closer toward what increasingly appears to be an imminent run for governor Monday when he registered his campaign committee with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics & Election Practices. 

No fanfare accompanied the latest move by Michaud, who launched an exploratory committee June 20 and has been soliciting donations ever since. Still, there was at least one important nugget in the Ethics Commission filing: Bonnie Porta. 

Porta will be Michaud's campaign treasurer. This matters.

Two reasons:

First, Porta and her husband, Robert C.S. Monks, are prolific donors to the Maine Democratic Party. Second, both gave money to independent candidate Eliot Cutler in 2010

Cutler, of course, is likely to run in 2014. But it looks like he'll do so without some significant financial backing.

Robert C.S. Monks was Cutler's campaign treasurer up until mid-July in 2010. He withdrew his post just before the Ethics Commission was alerted to an illegal donation by Monks' political action committee to Cutler's campaign (Monks had already maxed out his campaign contributions to Cutler; he said the PAC donation was a "stupid mistake" and the Cutler campaign returned the donation.).  

Michaud's financial backing by Porta and Monks could be another sign that moneyed Democratic donors are coalescing behind him. That's a big difference from 2010 when Cutler drew significant contributions from Maine's so-called "gold coast," otherwise known as Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth and other coastal communities in southern Maine; Porta gave $100 to Democratic candidate Libby Mitchell in 2009, but she and Monks gave the maximum to Cutler in 2010 as Mitchell failed to generate enthusiasm and eventually faded to third place.

Porta and Monks were also active during the 2012 U.S. Senate race. Monks supported independent Angus King, while Porta gave $1,000 to Democrat Cynthia Dill (updated).

Contribution limits mean Porta can only give Michaud $3,000, $1,500 for the primary and $1,500 for the general election. But she also has some wealthy friends whose support could go Michaud's way.

In 2012 Porta and Karen Harris were co-chairwomen of President Obama's volunteer state fundraising effort. They were the only Mainers on Obama's list of 444, the so-called "bundlers" who helped steer hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the president's reelection bid. (Update: A tweet from @michaud2014 Monday afternoon noted that Harris would be his deputy treasurer).

Other bundlers included actress Eva Longoria and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, as well as executives at national corporations. 

Michaud isn't expected to garner Longoria's cash, but as the old saying in politics goes, money begets money. With Porta, and presumably Monks, behind Michaud, there's a solid chance that other moneyed Democrats will follow.  

Ted O'Meara, an advisor on Cutler's campaign, responded to a request for comment late Monday night. 

His response:

"The Cutler campaign is neither surprised nor concerned by the appointment of Mike Michaud's finance chair and deputy treasurer. They are prominent Democrats for whom electing a Democrat is most important. As for our fundraising efforts, we couldn't be more pleased with the tremendous support Eliot is receiving from Democrats, Republicans and Independents from all over Maine."

"Jean Gulliver of Falmouth and Marion Freeman of South Freeport are returning as Cutler for Maine Finance Chairs. Jean is a lifelong Democrat who worked on the 2012 Obama Finance Committee and was Finance Chair for Tom Allen's Congressional and Senate campaigns. Marion also is a Democrat and successful businesswoman who has been a strong fundraiser on many non-profit boards."

Monks was a former investor in MaineToday Media, which owns the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal and the Waterville Sentinel. Monks is no longer an investor in the company, but sits on the company's advisory board that meets about twice a year.  

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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.

Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or smistler@pressherald.com.
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