July 30, 2012

Election 2012: King catches the money wave

The former governor, running for the U.S. Senate as an independent, attracts vastly more money than his opponents -- some from surprising sources.

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Former Gov. Angus King's U.S. Senate campaign has attracted the support of powerful national donors and political players, including some of the country's most prominent corporate lobbyists, the head of the nation's largest construction firm, and a corporate chieftain who once testified before Congress that smoking did not cause cancer.

Last week, the King campaign filed paperwork showing that prominent New York lobbyist Liz Robbins had raised $18,000 from other donors on the independent candidate's behalf, a practice known as "bundling."

On July 18, King attended a Washington fundraising reception hosted for him by Democratic superlobbyist Tony Podesta, his wife, and others, the proceeds of which will not be reported until October 15.

King -- who was leading his nearest opponent 55 percent to 27 percent in a recent poll -- had raised some $900,000 by June 30, more than twice that of his two major party challengers combined.

Political watchers say he's wise not to be complacent, as he may need a substantial war chest to ward off or respond to negative ad campaigns paid for by super PACs or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent $400,000 on ads against him that started airing this weekend.

"You definitely do not want to disarm in terms of raising money just because you are ahead in the polls," said Michael Franz, associate professor of government at Bowdoin College. "There is a lot of outside money out there and Maine's media is cheap compared to other markets, so it may be worth it for groups like the U.S. Chamber to invest here and see if (Republican nominee Charlie) Summers can catch fire."

"In any normal election King could probably just coast right now because he has that sense of inevitability behind him," University of Southern Maine political scientist Ron Schmidt said. "But there's too much riding on this election for the parties, so he needs to have money on hand" to respond to potential attack ads.

King's spokesperson, Crystal Canney, cited the chamber's ad campaign as one of the "really good reasons why we are aggressively fundraising.

"We believe this is just the beginning," Canney added. "We are potentially facing unlimited money -- if there is a large ad buy in the final weeks of the campaign -- we have to have the money in hand because it will be too late for us to raise it."

King has positioned himself as an independent alternative to Washington's dysfunctional political culture, but while building his war chest he has received contributions from some extremely powerful donors with extensive interest in what happens in the U.S. Senate.

Joshua Berkenstein, a Democratic donor and a partner at Mitt Romney's old firm, Bain Capital, gave $2,500 earlier this summer, as did his wife.

Riley Bechtel, CEO of Bechtel Corp. -- which built the Hoover Dam and Boston's Big Dig -- kicked in $500, as did Marshall Cohen, head of state and local lobbying for the nuclear power industry association.

Andrew Tisch, co-chair and son of the founder of Loews Corp., and his wife gave $6,000. (While chairman and chief executive of the family's Lorillard Tobacco Co. -- makers of Newport and Kent -- he famously testified to Congress that he did not believe cigarettes caused cancer.)

Gaston Caperton, president of The College Board, gave $1,000, as did Leonard Lauder, chair emeritus of Estee Lauder Companies Inc. Former Goldman Sachs general partner Robert N. Downey and California inventor and philanthropist Maurice Kanbar gave $2,500 each.

San Francisco philanthropists Bernard and Barbro Osher (for whom the University of Southern Maine's Osher Map Library is named) gave $5,000. (Bernard Osher, a Biddeford native, is a graduate of Bowdoin.)

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Angus King: Leading in polls, but not complacent

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Cynthia Dill: Has protested lack of support from the Democratic Party

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Charlie Summers: Has largely relied on individual Maine-based donors

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