October 22, 2012

Top Maine political donors betting on Democrats

Mainers have contributed $8.5 million for federal elections, with 20 percent coming from 10 individuals.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Mainers have donated more than $8.5 million to federal candidates and political committees in this election cycle. While the individual donors number in the thousands, a select few are spending more than most.

An analysis of Federal Election Commissions filings shows that the top 10 Maine donors have spent $1.7 million during the 2011-12 election cycle, accounting for about 20 percent of the total spending. The figure contrasts with the average Mainer's donation of $907 and even more so with the median of $300 -- which means half have donated more and half have donated less.

The big-donor numbers track with national trends that show the wealthiest Americans account for nearly one-quarter of campaign spending. That analysis, done by the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, showed that 26,783 donors spent nearly $774 million, 24 percent of all spending, on the 2010 elections.

Nationally, the big donors have split party affiliation. In Maine, however, nine of the top 10 have supported Democratic candidates and political committees. 

President Obama has been the biggest beneficiary of Maine donors large and small. His campaign and the fundraising committee that supports him have received nearly $2.7 million. Mainers supporting Obama's Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, have given the former Massachusetts governor $208,379.

Overall, Maine donors have given over $2 million to Republican candidates and national and state party committees, while their Democratic counterparts have received $1.9 million. Those figures don't include contributions to political action committees.

The second-biggest beneficiary has been the House Majority Political Action Committee, the group that has already spent $15.3 million attempting to elect Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives.

The House Majority PAC has received $700,000 from S. Donald Sussman and $50,00 from Sarah McIntyre.

Sussman, majority owner of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and other MaineToday Media newspapers, gave the money from his Maine address.

Federal records show that Sussman's donations to the House Majority PAC, and to other federal political committees, are even more when donations from his business address in Connecticut are included.

The same may be true of other Maine donors with out-of-state businesses. Those donations are not included in the Press Herald analysis or its online database.

Counting all of his federal donations, Sussman has given $1.15 million to the House Majority PAC and $1.35 million in the current election cycle.

That makes Sussman tied for 27th in the country in disclosed political spending, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

By comparison, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent $3.1 million, to place No. 10 on the national list. Republican donor Sheldon Adelson sits firmly at No. 1, after spending $36.25 million so far.

Those figures don't include "dark money," contributions to politically active nonprofit groups that don't have to disclose the identities of their donors.

A recent investigation by Pro Publica showed that dark money groups had spent $71 million on political advertisements through Aug. 8.

Sussman, who has donated to candidates in other states, is by far the biggest federal donor from Maine.

In an emailed statement, he said he is "proud to invest in Democrats to protect the values we all share -- we will all benefit from their leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives."

State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin is No. 2 on the individual donor list in Maine. Poliquin has given $125,201 to federal campaigns.

All but $1,200 of his donations went to his campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. He finished second in the primary in June.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, has given $99,503 to an array of federal campaign committees to place third.

Pingree, who is married to Sussman, has given $35,800 to Obama's fundraising committee. Smaller donations have been piped to organizations that attempt to elect Democratic candidates to the Maine Legislature, and a handful of congressional candidates.

Lisa Gorman, who is married to L.L. Bean Chairman Leon Gorman, is No. 4. Gorman has given $57,800 to committees to re-elect Obama, $10,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and $6,000 to the Jewish activist group Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs. Gorman also donated $2,400 to Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, who ended her re-election bid in February.

Daniel Hildreth, who is involved with several conservation groups and a shareholder in Diversified Communications in Portland, is No. 5. Hildreth has donated $88,200 in this cycle, more than $55,000 to Obama.

Hildreth is followed by:

Margot Milliken ($87,300), wife of Roger Milliken, who owns and manages over 100,000 acres of forestland in eastern Maine.

Author Stephen King ($86,700)

Leon Gorman ($85,700)

Robert C.S. Monks ($79,100)

Cyrus Hagge ($77,000).

Obama and his fundraising committee have received most of their donations.

Monks is a minority owner of the Press Herald.

Democratic donors dominate the top 10 individual list.

Party affiliation is more split among the top 10 campaign committees receiving Maine dollars.

The Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC is No. 2 ($750,000), followed by Obama's campaign ($539,353); independent U.S. Senate candidate Angus King's campaign ($494,028); Snowe's campaign ($440,538); the Maine Democratic State Committee ($288,477); the Democratic-aligned group ActBlue ($281,299); Romney's presidential campaign ($23®1,586); the campaign for Republican congressional hopeful Kevin Raye ($208,379); and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine ($198,675).

The congressional campaign figures do not include the candidates' most recent quarterly filings.

Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

smistler@mainetoday.com

twitter/stevemistler

This story was updated to include total donations to Republican and Democratic party committees and candidates. It has also been clarified to note donations to Obama's fundraising committee.

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