U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, the Democratic candidate for governor, will be a featured speaker Sunday at a rally in York County against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case.

While the ruling continues to be assailed by the political left, who decry the increased influence it give corporations in elections, Michaud’s appearance could create an opening for his gubernatorial opponents – Republican Gov. Paul LePage, independent Eliot Cutler and their surrogates – to heap more criticism on him.

The Citizens United ruling removed limits on how much money corporations could spend independently on ads and contribute to political action committees. The ruling did not affect how much money these groups can contribute directly to a candidate.

In addition to opening the corporate spigot, the ruling also affects the amount of money unions can spend and donate to PACs. (Of course, unions don’t have nearly as much money to spend as multinational corporations).

Michaud already has several PACs working on his behalf. For example, there’s Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s Together PAC, which is largely funded by labor unions; the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a national group advocating for “out” candidates that has already bundled up to $50,000 for Michaud; and the Maine Forward PAC, which is backed by the Maine Education Association, the Maine State Employees Association, the Maine People’s Alliance and the Democratic Governors Association.

The LePage campaign, the Maine Republican Party and Cutler have already been hitting Michaud for being too cozy with “special interest groups.”

Here’s a sample from recent news releases and statements:

Cutler, speaking with Chuck Todd on MSNBC on June 17: “(Michaud) has an … exceptional reliance on special interest PAC money. Throughout his 12 years in Congress, he has taken over $1,000 a day – Saturday, Sunday, holidays – from special interest PACs.”

Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, on June 25: “Last night, Nancy Pelosi headlined a big-money fundraiser in Washington, D.C., to benefit Michael Michaud’s campaign for governor. The special interest cash was bundled by the biggest Democratic fundraising firm on Capitol Hill and the event was held at a posh D.C. townhouse with a view of the Capitol dome. They even dined on lobster driven all the way from Maine.”

Brent Littlefield, LePage’s political adviser, on June 5: “While liberal Michael Michaud and his special interest group backers accuse Governor LePage of waging a war on the poor – Michael Michaud has no clue what it is to be poor. Absolutely no clue.”

Although Cutler says he is not accepting contributions from PACS, he is the only candidate so far who has benefited from an independent expenditure. The Campaign for Maine PAC spent $125,000 on TV ads that ran throughout Maine in May.

LePage will likely benefit from outside spending, too.

Sunday’s demonstration in Kittery will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. after a showing of the hourlong film “Koch Exposed,” a documentary about the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch. Demonstrators will be collecting signatures for petitions seeking a constitutional amendment to nullify the court ruling and to push for an increase in public funding for candidates.

– Randy Billings

LEPAGE CAMP WELCOMES THREE STAFFERS

The Paul LePage campaign machine is once again whirring to life.

On Tuesday, the campaign to re-elect the governor announced three additions to its staff roster, including a new man in charge: Scott Van Orman will serve as campaign manager for the governor, a promotion from his 2010 role as volunteer and political director. Van Orman leaves a post in the governor’s official office, where he served most recently as deputy director of boards and commissions.

Also pulled from the ranks of government is state Rep. Alex Willette, who will serve as communications and coalitions director. Among his legislative accomplishments while serving on the Transportation Committee was a successful effort to raise the speed limit between Old Town and Houlton to 75 miles per hour. He will serve as the governor’s campaign spokesman.

The hiring of Willette, 25, a recent law school graduate and Realtor, represents the governor’s desire to reach a younger generation of Maine voters, Willette said.

“I’m excited,” Willette said. “It’s certainly going to be a challenging campaign. I think the governor is very well positioned to be re-elected.”

Another addition will be another bookkeeper for the LePage camp. David Madore – who served the 125th Legislature as assistant Maine Senate secretary – is also a government pick, and will serve as deputy director of finance, answering to Michael Hersey, the finance director.

In a prepared statement announcing the hires, LePage thanked the new staffers for serving him and the state. The governor, in a moment of levity, also pointed out that his campaign office, at 198 Western Ave. in Augusta, is positioned curiously between “death and taxes.”

The headquarters is sandwiched between an H&R Block and a business called “funeral alternatives.”

– Matt Byrne

NO LABELS RECOGNIZES CUTLER’S SUPPORT

A day after giving the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, its Problem Solver Seal of Approval, the national centrist group No Labels gave the same award to independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler.

A surprise? Nope. Cutler has received money from No Labels co-founder Nancy Jacobsen and participated in events put on by the organization. And, oh yeah, he helped found No Labels, an organization that describes itself as a group dedicated to problem solving in politics.

The organization’s decision to give Michaud its seal of approval was interesting for all of the above. However, it wasn’t an endorsement of the Democrat’s candidacy. Technically, the award was for Michaud’s record in Congress.

In Cutler’s case, the award isn’t about his legislative record (he doesn’t have one) and more about his historic support for No Labels.

“Eliot has been involved with No Labels for years, and has been a huge advocate for the politics of problem solving in Maine,” said No Labels co-founder Mark McKinnon in a statement. “Like another Maine independent, Sen. Angus King, Eliot has been a real ally of No Labels and a big supporter of our signature initiatives like No Budget, No Pay. We’re excited to have him on board for our next big push on the National Strategic Agenda.”

Candidates who join the National Strategic Agenda commit to “a new governing process” that leads to four goals: growing 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years, protecting Medicare and Social Security, balancing the federal budget by 2030 and making America “energy secure” by 2035.

In other bipartisan, centrist news, Michaud applauded Tuesday’s report by the Bipartisan Policy Center Commission on Political Reform for starting “an important conversation about how we can move forward, put an end to the gridlock and change the hyper-partisan, divisive environment in government that is standing in the way of real progress in Maine and across the country. ”

Michaud highlights some recommendations in the report, which is backed by former Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe. However, he didn’t offer a full endorsement or drop any hints of supporting open primaries in state elections. Open primaries would allow unenrolled voters to vote in party primaries (some states allow this, but not Maine), the theory being that participation of moderate voters would lead to the election of more moderate candidates.

However, Michaud did use his news release to once again highlight his bipartisan credentials from the Maine Legislature, specifically his power-sharing arrangement with current Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett.

– Steve Mistler

Campaign Notebook is a compilation of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram political blogs, Open Season and Capitol Ticker. Press Herald/Telegram staff writers Steve Mistler, Randy Billings, Eric Russell, Kevin Miller and Matt Byrne and Kennebec Journal reporter Michael Shepherd contribute to the blogs.