October 5, 2012

National group spends $1.7 million on pro-Angus King ads

Two new TV ads could help Angus King counter Republican attack ads, but may pose political risks.

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A national group that includes New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pumping more than $1 million into Maine to help elect Angus King to the U.S. Senate, a spokeswoman for Americans Elect said Friday.

Americans Elect, which tried unsuccessfully to mount a nonpartisan presidential campaign this year, aired the first of two television ads Friday promoting King as a solution to the gridlock in Congress.

"We need jobs, not partisan gridlock," an unnamed man says in one of the 30-second ads. "Angus can change that."

The arrival of a powerful new player escalates an already intense advertising war, and pushes outside spending on Maine's Senate race to nearly $4 million with a month to go before Election Day.

Bloomberg, an independent, was one of three wealthy donors who pitched in a total of $1.75 million so Americans Elect could support King, who is considered the country's most prominent independent candidate.

Bloomberg contributed $500,000, Americans Elect's founder Peter Ackerman put in $500,000 and Passport Capital's founder John Burbank contributed $750,000, according to Ileana Wachtel, national press secretary for Americans Elect.

"We are solely focusing on this race," Wachtel said. "It's really a moment in our country's history when it is critical that we elect independent-minded leaders to higher office."

King has been the focus of more than $2 million worth of attack ads by groups that hope to put a Republican majority in the Senate, and his lead over Republican Charlie Summers has narrowed in recent polls.

The new television ad is the first from an outside group to explicitly support King. However, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has spent about $400,000 so far on anti-Summers ads -- and is extending its ad buy -- in an apparent effort to protect King's lead in the polls and prevent a Republican victory.

While Americans Elect clearly hopes to shore up King's lead, the ad campaign opens him up to political criticism.

The former governor has steadily criticized the flow of outside money that's aimed at influencing Maine's Senate race.

"We did not know about this ad nor did we ask for it," King's spokeswoman, Crystal Canney, said in a written statement. "All of these ads ... are exactly what Angus warned about in June. We called for all candidates to disavow the ads and Charlie Summers refused."

Canney said the King campaign "will not unilaterally disarm. The time has passed when this money could have been kept out of Maine. ... You can thank the (National Republican Senatorial Committee) and Charlie Summers for turning this into an ad war."

Drew Brandewie, spokesman for Summers, said the real Angus King is revealing himself, now that his lead has dropped in the polls.

Brandewie issued a written statement saying King criticized out-of-state money and negative ads, then went to Washington, D.C., to raise money from lobbyists and started criticizing Summers in an ad and in news releases.

Now, King is getting help from an outside group like those he has been criticizing, Brandewie said.

"The term 'flip-flop' is far too gracious a way to describe the cynical duplicity of Angus King's broken promises," Brandewie said.

Americans Elect tried to hold an online primary and nominate a presidential candidate to challenge the two-party system this year. Its entire board of directors resigned in June when that effort failed, according to Wachtel and Eliot Cutler, who ran for governor in Maine in 2010 and was on the Americans Elect board.

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