Thursday January 16, 2014 | 01:01 PM

(UPDATE: I missed another piece of the cross-pollination of Americans Elect people with the Campaign for Maine and Cutler. Peter Ackerman, founder of the investment firm Rockport Capital, gave $1,500 to Cutler during the last reporting period. Ackerman is the same guy who jump-started AE's ballot initiative in 2011-12 with an $8 million donation.). 

A couple of weeks ago, members of the Maine media received a press release from a political consultant based in Pacific Palisades, Calif. announcing a press conference in Portland and held by two Maine state senators, one out of office.

That alone would make someone curious. But the consultant setting up the event was Ilena Wachtel, the the former spokeswoman for Americans Elect, a national non-profit originally formed to introduce a bipartisan presidential ticket for the 2012 election. Americans Elect's online convention experiment failed, but the group's stocked coffers were eventually put into action when AE spent over $1 million during the 2012 Maine U.S. Senate race to help elect U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.

The Portland press conference was set up to blast EqualityMaine's recent endorsement of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud. Independent candidate Eliot Cutler, who has donated a lot of money to the group, was extremely unhappy with the endorsement snub.

Cutler was on the board of directors of Americans Elect, resigning his post to join King's state committee.

Cutler's campaign said it didn't arrange the Portland presser and didn't know about it until one of the participants gave the campaign a courtesy call. Contacted on Jan. 6, Wachtel wouldn't say who asked her to set up the event, but said the individual was from Maine. 

The recent campaign finance disclosures reveal a potential clue as to who requested her services. The Campaign for Maine is the political action committee supporting Cutler and run by Betsy Smith. Smith is the former head of EqualityMaine and recently endorsed Cutler. The political action committee's most recent campaign finance report is posted below. Page 3 shows that Wachtel was paid $2,500 in December for communications consulting work.

To be clear, that expenditure may not be for setting up the Portland presser, which was held several weeks after Watchel was paid. It's also possible that Wachtel received an advance payment for an ongoing consulting role.

In either case, it leaves open the question of whether Americans Elect -- at least two former members of which are on the Cutler campaign, including the candidate himself -- will get involved in the Maine gubernatorial race and whether it will do so through the Campaign for Maine.

Campaign 4 Maine

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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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