Sunday, December 8, 2013
WASHINGTON – Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill is getting more help from a Washington, DC-based political action committee with Republican ties, although the real object of the group’s ads may be independent Angus King.
Earlier this week, Maine Freedom spent an additional $111,500 for television ads that support Dill and oppose King, a former governor regarded as the race front-runner to succeed Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe.
The money was used to purchase additional airtime for ads that have been running in Maine for several weeks. To date, Maine Freedom has spent $249,000 on the Senate race, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
The ads are an example of the challenges that campaigns face when it comes to so-called super PACs making "independent expenditures," however.
Although the ad presents a positive message about Dill, calling her "a Democrat you can feel good about," the piece is cynically viewed by some as a Republican-backed attempt to siphon support from King among liberals and progressives.
The race for Snowe's seat could help decide which party controls the Senate next year. By lessening King's vote total, the theory goes, the ad could help Republican candidate Charlie Summers close the gap with King -- much like conservative Gov. Paul LePage won in 2010 due to Democratic base deeply divided between nominee Libby Mitchell and independent Eliot Cutler.
Both the Summers and Dill campaigns have said they did not have anything to do with Maine Freedom. And election law prohibits any collaboration between campaigns and "independent" PACs.
Federal disclosure laws also make it difficult to figure out who or which organizations are behind virtually all super PACs, not just Maine Freedom.
The treasurer of Maine Freedom is Michael Adams, a partner of the firm Dinsmore & Shohl LLP who focuses on government relations, politics and constitutional law. One of Adams' clients is the Republican Governors Association, for which he works as general counsel. Adams was also the RGA's in-house general counsel before joining his current firm.
But Adams said Friday that the RGA is just one of his numerous clients at Dinsmore and was not involved in the Maine ads. He added that he represents clients of various political affiliations.
Maine Freedom's assistant treasurer also has ties to the RGA and other Republican groups. And the advertising firm that Maine Freedom used, California-based Target Enterprises, is headed by a former political advisor to GOP candidates and past Republican National Conventions, according to the company's website.
Asked who is behind Maine Freedom, Adams supplied a statement describing the organization as "a bipartisan coalition of people who live in Maine or love Maine or both, and who are focused on getting the facts out about the candidates for U.S. Senate."
Open Season targets all of Maine's political wildlife, from Portland city government to the donkeys, elephants and independents stalking the Statehouse and U.S. Capitol.
John Richardson joined the Press Herald in 1990 after working as a reporter in New Jersey. He has covered a variety of beats, including marine issues, the environment and health care. He is now covering politics and focusing on Maine's U.S. Senate race.
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On Twitter: @jrichmaine
Colin Woodard has covered politics and elections for more than two decades, from Bosnia and Bucharest to Washington, D.C., Augusta, and Portland City Hall. He has written for a wide range of national and international publications and is the author of four books, including "American Nations," a history of North America's regional cultures. He joined the Portland Press Herald at the end of April and covers political finance and lobbying, among other things.
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Susan Cover has covered Maine politics for 10 years and worked in Kansas, Ohio and Rhode Island as a reporter. This year, she is focusing on covering the same-sex marriage debate for MaineToday Media.
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Michael Shepherd joined MaineToday Media in May 2012 after graduating from the University of Maine in Orono, where he edited The Maine Campus, the student newspaper there. Until November he'll be writing the Truth Test, a recurring feature analyzing political statements and advertising.
Michael can be reached at 621-5632 or email@example.com