May 24, 2012

2012 Election: King gift to Obama draws fire from rivals

The independent donated to Democrats before he became a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Independent U.S. Senate candidate Angus King is being criticized by Republican candidates for contributing to President Obama's re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

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Angus King, Independent candidate for the U.S. Senate, right, speaks to former Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler at an event in April. King has come under fire for purchasing tickets to an Obama fundraiser before Olympia Snowe withdrew from the race.

AP Photo / Pat Wellenbach

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King, who has declined to say which party he will caucus with if he wins the seat in November, bought two $5,000 tickets to Obama's fundraising dinner in Portland on Feb. 21, a week before Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe made her surprise announcement that she would not seek re-election.

King's spokeswoman, Crystal Canney, told The Portland Press Herald on Wednesday that his purchase was a single transaction payable to the Obama Victory Fund, which later divided it into two payments: $4,000 to Obama's campaign and $6,000 to the Democratic National Committee. Canney provided a credit card statement consistent with that account.

The portion of the purchase that went to the Democratic National Committee appeared with a transaction date of Feb. 29, the day after Snowe's announcement.

The transactions were reported to the Federal Election Commission.

On Monday, the campaign website of one of King's rivals, Republican Rick Bennett, posted a screen shot of the transactions with the statement: "'Independent' Angus King gave $6,000 to the Democratic National Committee the day after Senator Snowe announced her retirement. Why?"

"Is it really a secret who Angus plans to caucus with in Washington?" it concluded.

Bennett's query was posted later in the day by the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center's Maine Wire news service.

On Tuesday, another Republican candidate, Charlie Summers, said King "contributed more than $20,000 in the past year to the Democratic National Committee and President Barack Obama's campaign, while coyly claiming to be an independent."

King, a former independent governor who has been on record as an Obama supporter, has actually made only $11,000 in federal political contributions during the current election cycle, according to FEC filings.

In addition to the $10,000 for two tickets to Obama's fundraising dinner, King gave $1,000 to Obama's campaign on Sept. 29.

In 2008, he made two donations to Obama totaling $1,750.

"Angus has been public in his support of Obama since the first time he was asked by a Bangor television station who he supported for president," Canney said. "Purchasing the tickets for the Obama dinner is in keeping with his support."

Canney said the tickets were used by King's son, Angus King III, and daughter-in-law.

Ron Schmidt, a political scientist at the University of Southern Maine, said he doubts the issue will prove problematic for King.

"A leading citizen and former governor or his children attending an appearance by the president of the United States in Maine doesn't strike me as inherently partisan at all," he said. "This does reflect the peculiar channels through which campaign finance money travels, but that's another issue."

Staff Writer Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

cwoodard@mainetoday.com

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