Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill tried to one-up the opposition last week by issuing her own challenge to limit the money spent in the campaign.

But Dill’s idea had even less chance than the one proposed the week before by independent candidate and former Gov. Angus King.

King started the skirmish by sending letters to his rivals asking them to promise to discourage “super PAC” spending on their behalf. He argued that the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision opening the door to unlimited anonymous corporate contributions through the political action committees “is destroying our politics.”

King is the only one in the race who so far has the support of a super PAC — a group called IcPurple spent $23,600 in May to produce an online video endorsing him. King said he would ask to have the ad taken down if everyone agreed to his proposal.

King also is way ahead of the other candidates in traditional fundraising and is the only top-tier candidate wealthy enough to self-finance his campaign if he needs to.

King’s proposal went nowhere. Dill said she’d consider it, depending on the details. Republican candidate Charlie Summers simply dismissed the letter as a distraction from the real economic issues in the race.

Dill, a state senator from Cape Elizabeth, sent a letter back to King last week with her own counter-proposal: Let’s not accept any donations greater than $500 and promise not to use personal money on our campaigns.

The federal donation limit is $2,500. And, while Dill has already accepted numerous donations larger than $500, she has received far fewer big donations than King and Summers have.

“These specific terms — limiting contributions to $500, for instance, and not personally financing our efforts — are easier to implement than a super PAC agreement, because they are things we actually control,” Dill wrote to King.

Dill said she shares King’s concern about super PACs, and favors legislative reforms to contain the practice.

King’s campaign responded that his proposal was focused on super PACs because, unlike other contributions, those donations are anonymous and voters don’t know who is influencing the elections.

Meanwhile, one of the lesser-known independent candidates in the race took the money challenge to a whole new level.

Danny Dalton, a businessman in Bath, responded to King’s proposal by saying he is not going to accept money, period. Even accepting small donations can compromise a candidate, he said.

“I want the constituents of Maine to be assured I will be representing everyone equally,” Dalton said.

Dalton wasn’t likely to have millions of dollars thrown at his campaign anyway. Still, taking money off the table completely is an interesting idea. Just don’t bet on it.

WHO ARE THOSE GUYS?

Dalton is one of three lesser-known independent candidates in the Senate race. The others are Andrew Ian Dodge of Harpswell and Steve Woods of Yarmouth.

You won’t read or hear as much about the longshot candidates as you will about the independent frontrunner, King. But that’s not because they aren’t interesting people.

Dalton, 56, is a complete newcomer to Maine politics. He lives in Brunswick and recently opened a clothing store in Bath after a career fighting drug smugglers and terrorists.

He is a U.S. Air Force and Army veteran who has worked in Pakistan, Iraq and El Salvador for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the State and Defense departments, among other agencies.

Dodge, 44, is a well-known tea party leader in Maine and a freelance writer. He filed to run as a Republican candidate when Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, was still seeking re-election.

However, he bailed out of the party and became an independent candidate to protest the mishandling of the GOP presidential primary poll earlier this year, when conservative and libertarian supporters of Ron Paul complained that they were disenfranchised by a botched vote count. Paul lost to Mitt Romney after a recount anyway.

Woods, 52, is chairman of the Yarmouth Town Council and president and CEO of a national marketing firm called TideSmart Global. He is a former agent for professional baseball and basketball players and is part-owner of the Maine Red Claws, Portland’s NBA D-League team.

Woods made news recently when he was endorsed by the Amazing Kreskin. It turns out Woods started a career in the entertainment business as the world-famous mentalist’s road manager in the 1970s.

Look for these guys to spice up, if not shake up, the race.

SUPREME COURT WATCH IN AUGUSTA

The U.S. Supreme Court could rule as soon as today whether to uphold or kill the Affordable Care Act, and the written decision will be a must-read in the state capital.

“We anticipate a lot of reading once this decision comes down,” said Adrienne Bennett, press secretary for Gov. Paul LePage.

The LePage administration and Maine’s Legislature are sure to take up additional health reforms after the November elections. What those reforms are will depend on the fate of the Affordable Care Act, as well as which party ends up with the majorities in the state House and Senate.

“Regardless of what happens, you’re going to see a huge level of state involvement in deciding what happens next,” said Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell. “If it’s repealed, it’s going to be right back in our laps. … If the mandate’s upheld, then we’re still going to have the responsibility” of passing laws to comply with it.

One big issue sure to resurface if the law survives is whether Maine should create a state-run insurance exchange or accept the federal government’s version.

Maine was moving forward with its own marketplace system, something favored by the business community, the state’s health insurers and Democrats. But Republicans put the effort on hold this year, saying they didn’t want to be seen as endorsing the Obama administration’s health reform law when Maine is one of the states asking the high court to overturn it.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

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