Friday September 07, 2012 | 12:41 PM

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."

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Open Season is your guide to the 2014 campaign. Our team of political writers has its sights set on Maine’s major elections, from the Blaine House to the U.S. Capitol.

Steve Mistler is covering the 2014 governor's race. He 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
On Twitter: @stevemistler

Eric Russell is covering Independent Eliot Cutler during the 2014 governor's race. He is a general assignment reporter for the Portland Press Herald.
Eric can be reached at 791-6344 or
On Twitter: @pphericrussell

Matt Byrne is covering Republican Paul LePage during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Falmouth, Cumberland, North Yarmouth, Yarmouth and Freeport for the Portland Press Herald.
Matt can be reached at 791-6303 or
On Twitter: @mattbyrnePPH

Randy Billings is covering Democrat Mike Michaud during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Portland City Hall for the Portland Press Herald.
Randy can be reached at 791-6346 or
On Twitter: @randybillings

Kevin Miller is covering Maine's U.S. Senate race and 1st Congressional District race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or
On Twitter: @kevinmillerdc

Michael Shepherd is covering Maine's 2nd Congressional District race. He is a news and State House reporter for the Kennebec Journal.
Michael can be reached at 621-5632 or
On Twitter: @mikeshepherdME

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