The owners of Maine’s two largest power companies have spent more than $29 million to defeat a proposed public takeover of the electric utilities, including more than $18 million this year alone.

A separate ballot measure aimed at forcing automakers to give private repair shops access to vehicle diagnostic data also is attracting millions of dollars in campaign donations, according to newly filed campaign finance reports.

Supporters of the so-called right-to-repair law have spent more than $3 million. And despite ads casting the campaign as an attempt to protect smaller, local repair shops, the campaign funding is coming from large out-of-state corporations, including AutoZone, O’Reilly Auto Parts, and Advanced Auto Parts.

Political observers had predicted that the battle over control of Maine’s electrical grid would be one of the most expensive referendum elections in state history. But with a month to go before Election Day, it appears spending will fall far short of the $90 million that was spent in the 2021 fight over Central Maine Power Co.’s proposed New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line corridor.

“It’s somewhat less than I expected,” said Mark Brewer, the chair of political science at the University of Maine, Orono. “I suspect that’s because their opponents are spending virtually nothing.”

Campaign finance reports filed Thursday and covering activity from July 1 through Sept. 30 highlight two very different campaign approaches over Question 3, which would create a quasi-governmental utility company to purchase the electricity distribution infrastructure, like power lines, trucks, and other assets, from Maine’s two largest electricity providers, Central Maine Power and Versant. The forces behind the proposed Pine Tree Power Co. have raised and spent only a fraction of what the opposing side has raised and spent.


As expected, both utility companies are investing heavily to defeat the measure, airing their opposition on television screens, and through direct mail and online advertising.

In the last few months alone, Maine Affordable Energy, the ballot question committee controlled by CMP’s parent company, Avangrid, which is owned by Iberdrola S.A., a Spanish energy conglomerate, spent at least $4.5 million in television ads, excluding production costs, accounting for about 78% of the campaign’s $5.8 million in spending since July. The committee also is spending heavily on direct mail and online ads.

Maine Energy Progress, the committee controlled by Versant’s parent company, Enmax, which is owned by Calgary, Canada, has spent more than $2.7 million on TV ads, excluding production costs. The committee also spent more than $66,000 on polling last month.

Avangrid has donated a total of $21.8 million, including nearly $10.9 million this year, while Enmax has contributed $13.4 million, including $12.5 million this year.

Maine Affordable Energy also is the sole funder of No Blank Checks, a ballot committee backing Question 1, which would require voter approval before a quasi-governmental or consumer-owned utility could borrow more than $1 billion dollars. That measure, which would create another avenue for the utility companies to fight a public takeover if Question 3 passes, has received $216,580 from the ballot committee, including $158,610 in the recent reporting period.

The leading backer of Question 3 and the public utility takeover, Our Power, has a significant fundraising disadvantage, limiting its ability to counter the messaging from opponents.


The group has raised just under $1 million since it was formed in December 2020, including $450,000 this year. While the campaign has drawn many small-dollar donors from Maine, it is getting some significant support from out-of-state interests. The San Francisco-based 128 Collective, which focuses on climate change policy, is the campaign’s largest donor, giving $150,000, including $50,000 since Aug. 25.

Our Power, which is getting staff assistance from the Maine Sierra Club and a national anti-fossil fuels group,, does not appear to have purchased any TV time and is focusing on online ads, bumper stickers, lawn signs, traditional campaign literature, and a text messaging campaign.

The utility companies are positioned to continue their big spending in the closing weeks with a combined total of nearly $6 million on hand, compared to $56,900 for Our Power.


Proponents of Question 4, which would give car owners and independent mechanics access to the advanced technology and information needed to fix modern vehicles, have a significant spending advantage with only a month to go before Election Day.

The Automotive Right to Repair committee has raised nearly $4.1 million since it was founded last October. The group initially received $1.3 million in funding from the Coalition for Automotive Repair Equality, which is pushing so-called “right to repair” laws throughout the country.


This year, the committee has received large donations from national corporations that repair vehicles and sell auto parts. AutoZone was the largest donor this year, giving $675,000, while O’Reilly Auto Parts, Advanced Auto Parts, and Genuine Parts Co. each gave $500,000.

About half of the nearly $1.6 million spent since July has been on TV ads, which have featured owners and mechanics from smaller, independent auto shops.

The primary group opposing Question 4, the Automakers and Repairers for Vehicle Repair Choice, has only raised $110,000 this year. All of that funding came from the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents auto manufacturers. Nearly all of the group’s spending – $90,000 – has been directed to online ads.

The lack of spending by opponents could reflect the belief that the law will be challenged in court if it is approved. That is currently the case in Massachusetts, where voters overwhelmingly passed a similar law in 2020.

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