Tuesday, March 11, 2014
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The group's founder and CEO reconstituted the group this summer to help independent-minded candidates in state races.
Cutler is now a state chair of King's Senate campaign. He said he has not had any involvement with the national group since June, although he was named as a director on the group's website Friday.
The Maine Republican Party said Friday that it is seeking a federal investigation into whether the ad campaign violates election law, in part because Cutler is listed as a director of the group at the same time he is working in the King campaign. Outside groups cannot coordinate with the candidates they support.
Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster said in a written statement that "sinking poll numbers are no excuse for violating the law, which is what Mr. King and his out-of-state supporters appear to have done here."
Cutler denied any involvement with the ad. Wachtel called the complaint baseless.
"Eliot Cutler is not on the board. He resigned June 26 before any expenditure was made or before any funds were raised, and that is in strict compliance with the law," Wachtel said. She said the website was being updated.
Anthony Corrado, a political science professor at Colby College in Waterville and a nationally known expert on campaign finance, said it would be hard to prove illegal coordination even if Cutler was still active with Americans Elect.
"You really have to have a material involvement in the decision (and) communication with the candidate about the specific decision," he said.
Corrado said Americans Elect does not appear to be spending money in other states, and Maine's race is unique.
"Angus King is certainly the most prominent candidate in the country right now that meets their criteria," Corrado said.
Bowdoin College political science professor Michael Franz said the support may help King counter the attack ads, but it also will create some political headaches.
"I think it's just going to create another line of attack against Angus King by the Republicans in the coming weeks," Franz said.
Americans Elect may have protected King from some of that criticism by voluntarily disclosing its donors. Groups that paid for the anti-King attack ads, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have not.
Cutler said Friday that Americans Elect is different from the other outside groups because it is promoting a candidate rather than attacking anyone.
"I know (King) didn't want outside money in Maine's race," Cutler said, but "at least it's saying something positive on behalf of a candidate."
Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: