April 24, 2012

Snowe may not share war chest with GOP

A letter from the senator appears to promise support for re-establishing the vanishing 'sensible center.'

By STEVE MISTLER/State House Bureau

The Republican who gets nominated in June to succeed U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, may not receive money from the war chest the senator amassed before she decided not to seek re-election.

click image to enlarge

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, acknowledges applause at a news conference March 2 at which she announced that she had decided not to seek a fourth term. Last week, in a letter to donors to her now-dismantled campaign, Snowe said the money she raised may be used to support “like-minded” candidates, a center to give “a national voice” to the “sensible center,” and an institute to promote Maine’s female leaders.

2012 File Photo//The Associated Press

Last week, in a letter to donors to her now-dismantled campaign, Snowe said the money she raised may be used to support "like-minded" candidates, a center to give "a national voice" to the "sensible center," and an institute to promote Maine's female leaders.

The letter, parts of which were read to a reporter by Snowe's former campaign consultant Sharon Miller, offered a glimpse of Snowe's ambitions beyond her congressional career. It also appears to promise financial and institutional backing to re-establish what Snowe says is the reason she abandoned her re-election bid: the vanishing "sensible center."

According to her latest disclosure with the Federal Elections Commission, Snowe accumulated $3.5 million in donations. The campaign has $2.36 million in cash and no debt, although it could give refunds to donors who request them.

Such significant funding could give a needed boost to the eventual GOP nominee, who is expected to face a tough fight against independent former Gov. Angus King and the eventual Democratic nominee.

Snowe could not be reached for comment Monday. Miller, speaking on Snowe's behalf, said several Republicans on the June 12 primary ballot have "similar views" to the senator's.

Miller would not say whether Snowe would consider supporting King.

Three of the six GOP candidates have ties to Snowe.

Charlie Summers is a former staffer for Snowe. Rick Bennett was Snowe's campaign treasurer until she left the race on Feb. 28. William Schneider received access to Snowe's email list of supporters while he was gathering signatures to get on the primary ballot.

State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and Scott D'Amboise are largely backed by the tea party movement, which has been openly hostile to Snowe and is unlikely to receive her support. Republican state Sen. Debra Plowman, R-Hampden, has supported pro-life bills in the Legislature that may not align with Snowe's pro-choice beliefs.

Federal law gives Snowe several options for her campaign's leftover money, including forming a political action committee to support candidates, giving refunds to donors or giving money to the Maine Republican Party.

Bob Biersack, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C., said retiring congressional candidates choose a variety of options. Many give the money to their respective state parties to assist in legislative and congressional elections.

Miller didn't rule out that option. However, it appears that other initiatives outlined in the letter are priorities for Snowe.

"Included in this effort will be my support for other like-minded candidates," Snowe wrote. "Beyond that I intend to use the funds on leadership initiatives specific to Maine. We've made no final decisions, but I'm giving serious thought to creating both a center to encourage consensus building as well as an entity to help raise the aspirations of young Maine women."

Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster received the letter. He said he understands that Snowe may not want to give the money to the GOP.

"There are people that gave to her that would not necessarily give to the Republican Party," he said. "I don't have a problem with it."

The letter signals that Snowe may not align with other groups that are targeting the so-called center electorate. Groups such as Americans Elect, No Labels and One Maine, a group formed by former independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler, have all expressed support for Snowe.

State House Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: smistler@mainetoday.com


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