AUGUSTA — An out-of-state political action committee on Monday announced a six-figure ad campaign against Sen. Angus King in the first major independent expenditure of Maine’s 2018 Senate campaign.

Maine Liberty PAC said the initial $100,000 campaign seeks to challenge King’s status as an independent and to boost the candidacy of Republican state Sen. Eric Brakey, one of two people running against the incumbent this November. The Virginia-based PAC launched a new digital and radio ad that points to King’s votes opposing last year’s controversial Republican-drafted tax cuts, supporting requiring states to collect sales taxes on internet sales and supporting a bipartisan surveillance bill.

As is often the case with political attack ads, however, the advertisement provides only the date and bill number on the votes but no context. For instance, the ad states King “supported wasteful Washington spending that expands our national debt.” But the bill in question, which passed the Republican-controlled Senate on a 65-32 vote, was an omnibus spending bill that was supported by the Trump administration and averted another government shutdown. Both of Maine’s Republican members of Congress, Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, also voted in support of the spending bill.

The senator’s campaign spokesman, Jack Faherty, said King’s votes actually show his independence.

“Maine people know Senator King’s record of fair-minded independence,” Faherty said in a statement to the Press Herald. “Every vote he casts is not for a party, but for the state of Maine, whether it be working to combat the opioid crisis, fighting for accessible, affordable health care, or helping Maine veterans get the support they need.”

Federal Election Commission reports show that Maine Liberty PAC only reported three donors as of June 30, none of whom reside in Maine. The primary donor – responsible for $250,000 of the PAC’s $280,000 in contributions, according to the most recent FEC filings – was Texas banking billionaire Andrew Beal.

In 2016, Beal spent more than $2 million to support the candidacy of President Trump. The Center for Responsive Politics, which is a campaign spending watchdog group, lists Beal among the nation’s top 40 individual political donors. And since the beginning of the year, the Beal Bank founder has contributed more than $3 million to Republican congressional candidates or political action committees.

King is a former two-term governor of Maine who is an independent in the Senate but caucuses with the Democrats. King faces two challenges in his bid for a second, six-year term in the Senate: Brakey, a state senator from Auburn who hails from the libertarian wing of the Republican party, and Democrat Zak Ringelstein.

King is considered the odds-on favorite in the race, although both Brakey and Ringelstein are campaigning aggressively to challenge his standing within their respective parties.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

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Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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