Politics

December 9, 2012

Washington Notebook: It's always party time for politicians

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WASHINGTON - The 2012 elections may be history but campaign fundraising never stops for members of Congress. And two of Maine's representatives were among those courting donors this past week.

click image to enlarge

Mike Michaud speaks to supporters after winning another term as the representative from the 2nd Congressional District during a campaign party at Grass Roots Cafe and Catering on Main Street in East Millinocket on election night.

2012 file photo/Michael G. Seamans

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-District 2, just secured a sixth term in Congress last month. But on Wednesday, Michaud was raising money through his annual "Maine Christmas in Washington." This was the eighth such event.

Contributions started at $500 and went up to $5,000, payable to Michaud for Congress, according to a copy of the invitation posted on The Sunlight Foundation's Political Party Time website, which tracks and publicizes fundraisers.

Christmas wreaths made in the Piscataquis County town of Sangerville were given out to attendees and other Maine-based products were showcased.

On Tuesday, just days before her 60th birthday, Sen. Susan Collins was the beneficiary of a "Cupcake and Champagne Soiree" thrown at a wine bar and restaurant a few blocks from the Capitol. The cost of admission -- payable to the Collins for Senator campaign -- started at $500 and went up to $5,000 to be considered a "sponsor," according to Political Party Time.

Collins' 2008 re-election campaign against former Democratic U.S. Rep. Tom Allen will likely stand as the costliest Senate campaign in Maine history -- with a price tag of roughly $14 million -- despite the heavy spending in this year's race to succeed retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe.

While she hasn't officially declared her candidacy, Collins indicated recently that she intends to seek a fourth term, in 2014.

"I fully expect to but I really haven't focused at all on re-election," Collins said in an interview last month.

NBC: King worth watching

NBC News has listed Maine Senator-elect Angus King one of the "fresh faces to watch" in next year's Congress.

The former two-term governor and political independent attracted national media attention throughout the campaign due, in part, to his refusal to declare with which party he would caucus in Washington. His post-election announcement that he would align with the Democrats -- the majority party in the Senate -- didn't exactly surprise anyone, however.

"With his pledges to work across the aisle, King would join a long lineage of Maine legislators who fashioned themselves as compromise-minded moderates," NBC News wrote in a brief profile included in the "fresh faces to watch" piece. "His predecessor, Republican Olympia Snowe, was one of only three GOP senators to support the Obama stimulus package in 2009 and voted to confirm both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court."

"Snowe was joined on those and many other party-bucking votes by colleague Susan Collins, also from Maine," the article stated.

A 'spud snub'? Not really

As a native of Maine's potato-growing region, Collins is not shy when it comes to promoting or defending the humble spud.

When the U.S. Department of Agriculture attempted to limit potatoes from appearing on the lunch trays of tens of millions of public school children, Collins managed to keep them on the cafeteria menu. And recently, she was photographed at the White House presenting an Obama administration official with a special bag of Aroostook-grown potatoes. So her name was notably absent from a letter signed by Maine's other three members of Congress urging the owners of the growing burger chain Five Guys to use Maine potatoes for the fries they sell in the state.

Did Collins have something against Five Guys, a chain that started in the D.C. area and has exploded in popularity in part because of their fresh-cut, oversized fries? Or was she kept out of the loop by her Maine colleagues?

Turns out, the answer is "no" to both.

Collins was asked to sign onto the letter (which began in the office of Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-District 2). But a staffer mistakenly neglected to get Collins' John Hancock in time and, several days later, the letter went out without it. So while members of the state's delegation do occasionally compete to take credit for "bringing home the bacon" -- or potatoes -- from Washington, that doesn't appear to have been the case this time.

But Collins fully supports Five Guys buying Maine potatoes for their Portland and soon-to-be opened Bangor location. In fact, she penned her own letter to the franchisees saying so.

"As a native of Aroostook County Maine, I can attest that Maine potatoes are of the highest quality and the best tasting in the United States," Collins wrote. "As Five Guys expands in Maine, it has the opportunity to purchase this excellent, locally grown product."

A spokeswoman for Five Guys told the Portland Press Herald that the company plans to test some Maine potatoes later this year.

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

kmiller@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @KevinMillerDC

 

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