The 1820 PAC is a conservative political action committee that has launched a massive TV advertising campaign backing Senator Susan Collins for re-election. Named after the year Maine became the 23rd state, the PAC’s website lauds Collins for “bipartisanship” and “independence.” Those who are funding the group, however, are anything but — in fact they include some of President Donald Trump’s closest allies and biggest financiers. 

According to the group’s latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, which was highlighted by the Portland Press Herald last month, it is backed by just seven donors who contributed a total of $776,000 between January 1 and June 30, 2019. At that point, the group had already spent $276,780 on “media placement” in support of Collins. 

Their first ad uses B-roll footage uploaded by the Collins campaign, likely intended to facilitate this kind of outside advertising. 

Payback from Trump and McConnell

The PAC’s largest donor, New York billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of international investment firm The Blackstone Group, gave a total of $500,000. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Schwarzman and his wife Christine are the fourth biggest individual contributors to Republicans and conservative outside groups, having handed out $12.9 million during the 2018 election cycle. 

On Dec. 2, 2017, the same day that Collins cast the deciding vote for the passage of Trump’s tax bill in the Senate, Schwarzman hosted a $100,000-a-plate fundraiser for the president. The couple was also highlighted in a February 2019 report by the Center for Public Integrity and Mother Jones entitled “Did Billionaires pay off Republicans for passing the Trump tax bill?” for being among the GOP megadonors who showed “a marked change in their giving behavior” after the 2017 tax vote, contributing $416,000 to conservatives in the last two months of that year. 

Collins claimed at the time that the tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy would spur higher wages and economic growth for American workers. However, a May report from the Congressional Research Service assessing the economic impacts under the first year of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act found that while many companies did use their tax savings to make record-breaking stock buybacks, ordinary workers saw very little growth in their wages. 

The Blackstone Group is also currently listed as Collins’ top campaign contributor, with the company’s employees and owners contributing over $60,000 since the start of the year directly to Collins’ re-election. 

Notably, The Blackstone Group was also recently outed as being one of the companies behind the dark money organization Doctor Patient Unity, which is bankrolling an ad campaign pressuring lawmakers, including Collins, to vote against legislation that would clamp down on patients receiving massive surprise medical bills for out-of-network treatment. 

Another major backer of The 1820 PAC is Howard Leach, a businessman who served as Ambassador to France under former President George W. Bush. Leach, who so far has contributed $100,000 to the PAC, was a member of Trump’s “Victory Committee” during the 2016 election, which was responsible for raising funds and recruiting volunteers to shore up support for the nominee. 

Daily Kos columnist Joan McCarter quipped in a recent post that the group represents “the Republican big money cavalry riding in to Susan Collins’ rescue,” pointing to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s October 2018 statement on Fox News that “Collins will be funded, I can assure you.” 

‘A reliable vote for their agenda’ 
 

Collins’ critics say the formation of The 1820 PAC is an example of how those representing the Party of Trump are lining up behind Collins, despite her having previously declared him “unfit” to serve as president. 

“Despite her rhetoric, Susan Collins votes with Trump 94 percent of the time — more than any other president throughout her 22-year career,” said Alex Stack, senior communications advisor for the Maine Democratic Party. “Trump and his allies know this, and they know that losing Senator Collins equals losing a reliable vote for their agenda.” 

“We’ve seen it time and time again,” Stack continued, “like when she voted to pass the tax bill that was an overwhelming giveaway for corporations and when she killed a measure that would’ve prevented Trump from raiding military funding to pay for his border wall. They’re doubling down on her, and she’ll continue to go along to get along if it means they prop up her flailing reelection campaign.” 

Another donor who contributed $100,000 to The 1820 PAC is Robert Burt, former chairman of pesticide manufacturer FMC Corporation. Burt, who is now retired and resides in both Chicago and Bluffton, South Carolina, is another major GOP political donor, giving $50,000 to the Senate Leadership Fund for the 2016 election cycle. 

Among other backers are the Dallas-based real estate investment firm Crow Holdings Pool, which contributed $25,000. The family firm, run by Harlan Crow, is another major Republican donor. Individuals associated with Crow Holdings have already contributed more than $800,000 to Republican candidates and political action groups for the 2020 election. Also at the $25,000 level is the global insurance company Starr Companies, chaired by Maurice Greenberg, who previously served as CEO of Starr subsidiary American International Group (AIG), which played a central role in the 2017 housing crash. Santa Monica-based Artisan Home Entertainment also contributed $25,000. 

Other post-tax cut support has been even more direct. Collins was recently celebrated at a Washington, D.C. fundraiser hosted by two former aides of McConnell. “One of the lobbyists, Brendan Dunn, was a top McConnell tax adviser and, like Collins, was crucial to the Republican tax law passing the Senate in 2017,” reported the Wall Street Journal, which also noted that McConnell himself would be the special guest of an Oct. 21 fundraiser for Collins. 

The preceding originally appeared on mainebeacon.com, a website and podcast created by progressive group the Maine People’s Alliance. 

 

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