Politics

October 25, 2012

Candidates outspent by outsiders in Maine Senate race

The Maine race's per-voter cost is sixth highest in the nation because of PAC and nonprofit spending unleashed by court rulings.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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U.S. Senate candidates: Democrat Cynthia Dill, independent Angus King and Republican Charlie Summers.

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OUTSIDE MONEY SPENT IN U.S. SENATE RACES (PER VOTER)

1. Montana — $36.46

2. North Dakota — $29.92

3. Nevada — $19.28

4. Wisconsin — $9.63

5. Virginia — $8.94

6. Maine — $7.45

7. Indiana — $6.87

8. Nebraska — $6.47

While the ad onslaught is eliciting grumbles and some talk of campaign finance reform, Parker suggested the efforts are likely working in one key respect. "If anything, it is going to drive more people to the polls," he said.

Mainers have seen their share of political ads, and will see many more before Election Day.

The campaigns and outside groups bought airtime for nearly 10,000 television ads on major broadcasting networks from June 1 to Oct. 21. More than 5,900 of those ads aired in October, according to an ad tracking survey by the Wesleyan Media Project, run by Wesleyan University and other partners.

Outside groups were responsible for more than 6,000 of the ads aired since June 1, with the candidates' campaigns airing another 3,600 through Oct. 21, the Wesleyan Media Project reported Wednesday.

"What is surprising is the amount of (financial) support this late in the game," said Michael Franz, an associate professor at Bowdoin College in Brunswick who is co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project. "That indicates that something has people nervous or someone sees an opportunity."

Many ads have targeted King, an independent who appears to have the implicit -- if not openly disclosed -- support of national Democrats. King aired 1,035 ads during the first three weeks of October, while organizations supporting King or opposing Summers paid for another 2,058 ads during that period.

Dill, the Democrat in the Senate race, has not aired any ads and has not been specifically endorsed by any outside groups' advertising in recent weeks.

Crystal Canney, spokeswoman for King's campaign, noted that King asked his two major-party opponents to disavow outside spending right after they both won their primaries in June, but Summers did not endorse the proposal.

The anti-King ads -- many of them focused on his ties to the wind energy business and his record as governor -- have changed the discussion in the race.

But with the exception of one wind power-related response ad, Canney insisted that outside spending has not changed King's campaign.

King has benefited from supportive ads by the nonprofit Americans Elect, and from ads targeting Summers by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has not endorsed Dill and is believed to support King.

"There certainly has been a television ad war," Canney said. "We had a plan in place, we have executed that plan in the past few weeks and we are not changing course. Things look pretty good."

Drew Brandewie, spokesman for Summers, insisted that the outside ads have not changed his candidate's campaign.

Nationwide, outside groups have already spent more than $700 million on the 2012 elections, including the race for the White House. That is up from roughly $260 million in 2008, according to opensecrets.org, the website operated by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The center's Biersack said all that spending adds uncertainty to the election, takes away campaigns' ability to control their messages and forces candidates to spend more time fundraising than listening to voters or debating the issues.

Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @KevinMillerDC

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