Cash from around the country, much of it from enormous political action committees, is raining down on the campaigns of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and the leading Democratic challenger, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon.

Sen. Susan Collins, left, has raised more than $6 million for her 2020 re-election campaign – including $2 million in the last three months – while Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon raised over $1 million in the first 10 days of her campaign. Most of the money came from outside Maine.

The incumbent Republican has hauled in more than $6 million for her campaign – including $2 million in the last three months – while  Gideon, of Freeport, collected over $1 million in the first 10 days of her campaign, according to records at the Federal Election Commission.

Both candidates saw the bulk of their donations come from outside Maine. That’s not unusual in a U.S. Senate race, and this contest has attracted intense national interest in the wake of Collins’ high-profile and controversial votes in 2018 and 2019 on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and President Trump’s tax cuts.

It was the largest quarterly fundraising haul ever for Collins, whose campaign made it clear she will need that money.

“We fully expect to be outspent by far-left special interest groups this campaign,” Amy Abbott, the finance director for Collins’ campaign, said in a prepared statement. “Nevertheless, we believe we will have the resources we need to highlight Senator Collins’ long record of accomplishments for the people of Maine, including her efforts as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.”

The Maine Democratic Party pointed out that only about 5 percent of Collins’ recent haul comes from Maine donors and 95 percent came from out of state. However, Gideon also raised significant money out of state, about 75 percent of her total contributions, with the remaining 25 percent coming from Maine donors.

At Monday’s midnight filing deadline, Collins had raised $6.45 million and had $5.4 million cash on hand. Gideon had collected $1,059,350 and spent $140,214, leaving her with $919,135 cash on hand.

Collins’ report shows a number of donations from corporate PACs, but her largest support came from individual donors and other PACs. Gideon has vowed to not take any corporate PAC donations.

Gideon’s campaign did accept a $5,000 donation from Emily’s List, a progressive political action committee that focuses on helping Democratic women win elected office.

Emily’s List also came out early, along with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and NARAL Pro-choice America in offering an endorsement to Gideon – angering some of Gideon’s Democratic rivals and some Democratic voters, who complained that D.C.-based political operatives were trying to clear the field for Gideon.

None of the candidates has made a concerted effort yet at in-state fund raising, and with the 24th-lowest median income in the nation Maine will not serve as a gold mine for their campaigns, nor is it a haven for well-heeled donors.

Collins’ largest single campaign expense this year was $91,000 paid to a Virginia-based online fundraising service, followed by $44,000 for a poll in late February. Her campaign also spent money catering events at the Petroleum Club in Houston and at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. On a smaller scale, the campaign plunked down $812 for Maine maple syrup from a Dixfield farm for a luncheon meeting in January, $2,000 for a Maine chartered air service in March and $450 for hair and make-up at the Virginia salon of celebrity make-up artist Gustavo Mottola, also in January.

Gideon’s top campaign expense of $100,000 was paid to a Virginia-based consultancy, Aisle 518, that specializes in progressive candidates and campaigns and lists among its clients the presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, who lost the Democratic nomination for president to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Aisle 518 specializes in helping candidates raise large amounts of money from many small donors.

The additional $40,000 spent by Gideon’s campaign this year went to the progressive online fundraising service ActBlue. Her campaign Tuesday was using Collins’ new numbers to again ask for small dollar donations. An email sent to supporters by Gideon’s campaign asked for $3 donations online, noting that Collins was starting the race with a “considerable financial advantage.”

“And the truth is, we can’t afford to fall too much further behind. It’s critical we close this gap,” the campaign wrote.

High-profile donors to Gideon include actress and activist Susan Sarandon, who gave $1,000, and Facebook co-founder Andrew McCollum, who gave the maximum of $5,600. Many of Gideon’s Democratic colleagues in the Maine Legislature and some members of her partisan staff in the speaker’s office also made donations.

Donors to Collins’ campaign include New York City philanthropist David Rockefeller, who gave $5,000, as well as Jackie and Mike Bezos, the parents of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post. Bezos’ parents each gave the maximum contribution of $5,600.

Other Democrats in the Senate primary raised much smaller amounts. Betsy Sweet, a Hallowell Democrat who finished third in a 2018 statewide primary for governor, reported $80,745 in contributions and spent $23,061, leaving her with $57,683.

Bre Kidman of Saco, Jon Treacy of Oxford and Michael Bunker of Bangor have also registered with the FEC, but only Kidman reported any financial figures, with donations of $11,383 and $5,344 cash on hand.

Fairfield Republican Derek Levasseur is challenging Collins in the Republican primary, but his campaign was in the red with debt of $2,426.

Campaign finance reports for Maine’s U.S. House races in 2020 were also due Monday at midnight. FEC filings show that Democratic incumbents Chellie Pingree in the 1st District and Jared Golden in the 2nd District are still unopposed.

Pingree’s campaign raised $82,292 during the second quarter while spending $60,695 and had $246,598 on hand.

Golden’s campaign raised $590,368 and spent $188,120, with $495,056 cash on hand.

 

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