Politics

July 18, 2013

Maine governor's race already drawing big bucks

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler post significant totals in finance reports.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — The next gubernatorial election is still more than a year away, but new campaign finance reports show that the race is already drawing significant dollars from Maine and away.

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Fundraising for Gov. Paul LePage, left, during the last reporting period was hindered by restrictions that prohibit him from receiving donations from corporations that deploy lobbyists during the legislative session. Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, center, and independent Eliot Cutler, right, who are competing for some of the same donors, posted significant totals in semi-annual reports filed Monday.

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Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler, who are competing for some of the same donors, posted significant totals in semi-annual reports filed Monday. Cutler had more than $430,000 in contributions, about 40 percent more than Michaud's $313,000.

Michaud, a six-term congressman representing Maine's 2nd District, raised his money in 17 days. Cutler entered the race six months ago.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage posted his finance report shortly before the 11:59 p.m. deadline Monday. The governor's reelection committee showed over $123,000 for the most recent reporting period, bringing his fundraising total to nearly $340,000. 

LePage's re-election committee has been active since early 2012. It posted $215,605 through the January and collected $135,000 through the July 2012 semi-annual reporting period. He took in $12,000 less through the same July reporting period this year. The governor in July participated in a high-profile fundraiser that didn't count toward the recent reporting deadline that should boost his sum.

Additionally, LePage's fundraising during the last reporting period was hindered by restrictions that prohibit him from receiving donations from corporations that deploy lobbyists during the legislative session. 

Brent Littlefield, a consultant to the re-election campaign, told reporters Monday that LePage's team expects "a very competitive campaign focused on the dropping unemployment rate and the governor's success in fixing a broken budget."

"All indications are there will be no moving trucks visiting the Blaine House in January 2015," he said.

Monday's reports were significant for Cutler and Michaud, whose campaigns talked up their numbers.

Michaud is trying to capture Democratic donors -- and momentum -- as quickly as possible. His aim is to prevent dollars from migrating to Cutler, who benefited from Democrats' contributions in 2010, when the party's nominee, Elizabeth Mitchell, saw her campaign collapse in the final months.

Cutler, who received $2.4 million in contributions in 2010, finished a close second to LePage. Mitchell received $1.9 million and finished third. LePage raised $1.4 million and was the top fundraiser in the general election.

Michaud has made early inroads with Democratic donors and outside groups.

Bonnie Porta of Cape Elizabeth became his campaign treasurer. Porta and her husband, Robert C.S. Monks, are prolific donors to the Maine Democratic Party. Both donated to Cutler in 2010.

Porta donated $3,000 to Michaud for next year's election, the maximum allowed. Monks also gave $3,000 to Michaud.

Monks is a former investor in MaineToday Media, which owns the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal and the Waterville Sentinel. Monks is no longer an investor in the company, but sits on the company's advisory board that meets about twice a year.

Robert A. Monks donated $1,000 to Michaud, while Millicent Monks gave $1,000.

S. Donald Sussman contributed $1,500 to Michaud, while U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree gave $1,500.

Sussman is the majority owner of MaineToday Media. He and Pingree are married.

Michaud's campaign reported more than 1,200 contributors, about 90 percent of them Maine residents. His campaign said 61 percent were from the 1st District and 39 percent were from the 2nd District. He also received eight donations from political action committees.

Michaud's congressional campaign contributed the maximum $3,000 to his gubernatorial campaign.

The congressional campaign has amassed more than $70,000 in contributions, but state law allows only $3,000 to be donated directly to a single state campaign, $1,500 for a primary and $1,500 for the general election.

Federal law allows Michaud's congressional committee to donate to other state and federal campaigns, including the Maine Democratic Party, which can use the funds to support the Democrat's gubernatorial bid.

Also, Michaud's "Mill to the Hill" congressional leadership political action committee has directed $3,000 to his gubernatorial campaign.

Michaud said in a prepared statement that he's drawing support from Democrats, Republicans and independents.

IN AND OUT OF STATE

Cutler's campaign said 47 percent of his money came after Michaud announced that he was exploring a run for governor and began fundraising. About 433 of Cutler's donations came from Maine residents, while about 210 came from out of state, including more than 50 from residents with Washington, D.C., addresses.

Cutler, a Bangor native, worked for the late Democratic Sen. Edmund Muskie before serving under President Jimmy Carter. He ran the Beijing office of the Washington, D.C., law firm Akin Gump, a prolific lobbying organization that spent more than $820,000 during the last federal election.

Cutler went to Washington in May for a fundraiser hosted by about 20 former Carter administration officials, lobbyists and Democratic Party officials. Several of the hosts named in a leaked invitation were from Akin Gump.

Cutler's campaign finance report showed 10 donations from Akin Gump partners or associates totaling $8,350.

His campaign finance report shows $3,000 from Tony and Heather Podesta from the influential D.C. lobbying firm The Podesta Group.

Terry Straub, a former lobbyist for U.S. Steel, also donated to Cutler. Straub served under Carter as an assistant in education affairs.

Cutler drew some notable Maine donors, as well, including a former chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, Harold Pachios ($1,500), and Pachios' wife, Claudia ($1,500).

Daniel Zilkha, president of Sabre Yachts, donated $1,500, as did Jack Parker, president of Reed & Reed Inc. of Woolwich, a contracting company that's involved in energy projects and wind development throughout New England.

SOURCES AND SIZES PLAYED UP

The Cutler and Michaud campaigns played up the sources and sizes of their donations. Michaud's camp noted that its average contribution was $233, and that 709 of the contributions were for $50 or less, while Cutler said support was coming from inside and outside of Maine.

All told, Cutler raised more than $241,000 from Maine donors and $190,000 from out-of state donors. Michaud raised $262,000 from Maine donors and $51,100 from out-of-state donors.

Cutler noted that his Republican and Democratic opponents can raise more money than he can.

Maine election law allows candidates to accept as much as $1,500 per election. For party candidates, that means $1,500 for the primary and $1,500 for the general election. Because Cutler is running as an independent, he will not have a primary so he cannot solicit more than $1,500 per donor.

The contributions are for separate elections, but there is no mechanism requiring party candidates to return money not spent for the primary.

Ted O'Meara, Cutler's campaign spokesman, said Michaud would have about $70,000 less if he couldn't collect for the primary and the general election.

Former independent U.S. Senate candidate Steve Woods is running as a Democrat in the 2014 governor's race. Woods reported no contributions to his campaign, but a $50,000 contribution of his own, according to The Associated Press.

Independent Lee Schultheis of Freeport showed $5,000 through Monday, all of it from him and his family.

Green Independent David Slagger showed that he raised $400.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

smistler@pressherald.com

twitter.com/stevemistler

This story was modified July 17 to clarify Robert C.S. Monks' relationshipo with the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

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