Let’s peel back the many layers of scum surrounding the mysterious entity called the 16 Counties Coalition. Protective clothing and eyewear are recommended.

According to the coalition’s statement of purpose, it’s an educational organization dedicated to enlightening the public about all the horrendous stuff Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has done. But the coalition isn’t trying to convince you to vote against Collins in next year’s election, because if it did that, it would have to file campaign finance reports revealing whatever shady out-of-state financial sources are funding its operations.

“We are not about advocating that anyone gets elected or defeated,” Willy Ritch, the coalition executive director, told the Portland Press Herald, somehow maintaining a straight face. “Our sole focus will be about advocacy and accountability and public education.”

Ritch used to be the spokesman for Democratic 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree. His coalition co-workers include Christopher Glynn, former spokesman for Democratic Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, who, in a shocking coincidence, happens to be running for Collins’ seat.

The coalition was allegedly created by another nonprofit called Maine Momentum, whose executive director also happens to be Ritch and whose funding sources are equally murky. But Maine Public’s Steve Mistler did a fine job sorting out the connections between Maine Momentum and a national dark-money outfit called the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which, over the past couple of election cycles, has pumped millions of dollars into Democratic Party front groups in several states, including Maine.

Nevertheless, Ritch told Mistler, “The 16 Counties Coalition is a totally Maine-based effort.”

In much the same sense that Donald Trump’s history of the American Revolution is totally reality-based.

As of last week, Maine Momentum hadn’t filed incorporation papers with the state and didn’t have a website or Facebook page. The 16 Counties Coalition did show up on Facebook, where it claimed “the people of Maine can compete with corporate PACs, lobbyists and pharmaceutical companies.” The “people” will have an advantage in that competition, because PACs, lobbyists and corporations all have to reveal their campaign spending, while so-called educational groups do not.

Democrats, including Ritch’s and Glynn’s old bosses, have been outspoken in demanding transparency from political players and an end to dark-money schemes to influence elections. But it seems those sorts of reforms are only supposed to apply to Republicans, because the good guys shouldn’t be bound by such petty rules.

It’s clear those behind the coalition don’t have the guts (or the legitimate money) to engage in a clean fight. They lack the courage to come right out and say “Don’t vote for Susan Collins,” because to do so would expose their funding sources. So instead, they’ll spew out nasty attack ads that stop just short of that point, while barely masking their real purpose by pretending to be, in some incomprehensible way, educational.

It’s enough to make Collins look attractive.

Random notes from the news

“Restaurant owners say they’ve had no choice but to hire inexperienced or unreliable workers, sometimes with disastrous results.” — Maine Sunday Telegram, July 7, on how the tight labor market is affecting tourism.

“Former Gov. Paul LePage has a new job: bartender. The two-term former Republican governor is tending bar at McSeagulls Restaurant in Boothbay Harbor this summer, owner Jeff Stoddard said Friday.” — Bangor Daily News, June 17.

Recipes for a decent Manhattan may be emailed to [email protected], and I’ll pass them along to anyone who needs help mixing drinks.