Political Action Committees are big players in just about every election. They contribute cash, fund advertising, and can influence campaigns in a big way. Looking at a PACs balance sheet is an excellent way to see how certain interests are attempting steer the direction of the state.
Question 1 (Pro Casino) supporters have outspent their competition by a truckload. Even that is a bit of an understatement. Maine Taxpayers Taking Charge raised $2,160,000 this reporting quarter (7/15/2010 – 9/30/2010) and spent $2,101,753. The MTTC PAC has a few large donors. Stephen Barber, former president of Barber Foods, and his spouse Mary contributed $302,400 this quarter. Suzanne and Rupert Grover, owners of a metal fabrication company in Norway, gave $680,400. Father and son team Bob and Gary Bahre – former owners of Oxford Plains Speedway and New Hampshire International Speedway – donated $1,544,400. Other major contributors included Robert Lally Jr., a co-owner of Mount Abram ski resort and Jim Boldebook, the owner of Creative Broadcast Concepts ad agency in Biddeford. Stephen Barber, the Grovers, Bob Bahre, Boldebook, and Lally comprise the Black Bear Entertainment LLC.
MTTC has clearly been spending almost every penny they take in. $1,131,019 of that money has gone to television advertising, $1,247,022 on print, mailers, and web promotion, and $276,643 on radio ads.
There are five PACs opposing Question 1. Of those five, only two – Casinos No! and Citizens Against the Oxford Casino – have any considerable cash. Combined, the two PACs have raised $160,000 this quarter. All of Casino No’s $150,000 comes from Penn National Gaming and CAOC received $10,000 from Cyrus Hagge. Casinos No also received $10,680 in-kind from Penn National. The PACs spent $409,624. Only $4,472 went to advertising. The rest went most to consulting, polling, and other professional services.
The Democratic Governors Association and the Republican Governors Association are nearly tied in funds raised. The RGA Maine 2010 PAC received $525,000 while the DGA brought $492,807 into the state. The RGA has spent slightly less than their competitors at the DGA, $401,609 to $492,807. As you might expect, each PAC spent considerable dollars against the opposition. The DGA spent $467,807 TV ads and $25,000 on web ads against Paul LePage. Libby Mitchell received no money in support of her campaign from the DGA. So far, it has all gone into fighting LePage.
The RGA split their spending. Of the total $401,609, the RGA used $168,541 in support of LePage – mostly TV ads, $49,950 went to hitting Mitchell, and $233,068 went directly to the Maine Republican Party. There is an interesting difference in spending strategy here. The DGA is dumping all their money into attacks against LePage. The RGA is spending some in support of their candidate, a small amount attacking Mitchell, and most of it is going straight into the state GOP coffers.
The state level party PACs have been active as well. The Democratic House Campaign PAC has far outraised and outspent its GOP counterpart. The House Dems snagged $174,075 in contributions. Some large donors included Rep. Seth Berry’s Berry for Maine ($20,000), Equality Maine ($10,000), Donald Sussman ($50,000), Demoractic Attorney’s General Association ($25,000), and Cain for Maine ($12,500). The House GOP didn’t even raise a quarter of that; they topped out at $24,350. The Maine Trucking PAC ($3,000), IGPS, maker of the “world’s most advanced pallet” ($2,500), the Distilled Spirits Council ($2,000), and Bangor Historic Track INC. ($3,750) were some of the biggest donors.
The House Dems fed $147,590 directly to the Maine Democratic State Committee. Of the House Dems’ $42,259 other expenditures, they spent $23,149 on phone banks and $10,000 on polling. The House GOP’s spending was much lighter. Two GOP House candidates each received $350. The Lincoln County GOP and Cumberland County GOP received $750 and $250 respectively.
The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee outraised the combined efforts Maine Senate Republican Majority PAC and Maine Senate PAC, but the gap is not as large as that between the House PACs. The Senate Dems raised $139,633 this quarter. The Senate GOP PACs grabbed $117,126. Who gave to these PACS? The Diamond PAC donated $10,000 to the Senate Dems. They weren’t the largest donor. The Democrat Legislative Campaign Committee ($26,000), Equality Maine ($15,000), Sen. Phil Bartlett’s High Hopes PAC ($25,000), Sen. Seth Goodall’s Strengthen Maine ($15,000), and Sen. Justin Alfond’s ABCD PAC ($15,000) all gave large donations. The Maine Senate Republican Majority only received a few donations $10K and over: Walmart ($10,000), Sen. Kevin Raye’s R.A.Y.E. for Maine ($25,000), Sen. Jon Courtney’s PAC Common Sense Solutions for Maine’s Future ($10,000). The Maine Senate PAC only received one donation over $1,000, the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association gave $2,500.
The Senate Dems spent $118,920. $40,000 went to the Victory 2010 fund. Polling took up $71,816. The Senate GOP shelled out $176,025. They gave of that $77,500 to the state and various county GOP committees. Print ads and mailers cost the Senate GOP $3,974. They spent $39,326 on consulting and various professional services and $33,000 on polling.
Other Heavy Hitters
Equality Maine is one of the biggest PACs outside of the Party outfits. They took in $156,457 this quarter, $150,000 from Donald Sussman. The Maine People’s Alliance also gave $580 in-kind for “data and targeting assistance”. Equality Maine expended $134,597. Mailings for specific candidates cost $44,435. Polling expenditures added up to $28,908, while $31,250 went out to consulting services and for voter files from America Votes.
The Maine Education Association is another power player in Maine politics. They are involved with three PACs: Maine Education Association PAC, Citizens Who Support Maine’s Public Schools, and Jobs, Justice, and The Environment. Of the three Citizens received the most this quarter ($239,281). $189,281 came from Donald Sussman and the rest came from the MEA itself. Jobs held $50,005, $40,000 from SEUI Committee on Political Education and $10,000 from Barbara Lee. The MEA PAC came up with $3,344. Jobs and Citizens also received in-kind contributions, $8,303 to Jobs and $5,364 to Citizens.
Citizens spent the most cash ($262,310). Jobs followed with $27,666 and the MEA trailed with $3,138. Where is that money going? Each PAC focused on a particular area. The MEA gave $1,750 between state legislative candidates, plus $275 to the State Dem Committee and $913 to the National Education Association. Small potatoes compared to the other two PACs. Jobs had three large expenditures. Jobs, Justice, and The Environment spent $5,866 on literature in support of Mitchell, $13,800 on polling in opposition of LePage, and $8,000 on legal consulting. Citizens has rolled out a TV ad attacking LePage on education. That ad cost them $177,435. $57,570 went to two radio advertisements, again opposing LePage. Citizens paid $23,800 for polling as well.
In total, MEA PACs took in $292,630 and used $293,114. Only the national Governors Association PACs outspent the MEA’s group. Please note, Jobs, Justice, and The Environment also contains members of Equality Maine, Maine State Employees Association, and Bernstein Shur law firm.
Eighteen days are left until the election. For candidates, those days will zoom by so fast they’ll be a blur. Expect ridiculous amounts of coffee and Tums to be passed around campaign offices in the closing weeks. Voters will be treated to a deluge of advertising. Prepare to be bombarded on the candidates and the issues. Pitches will come from all sides – TV, radio, newspapers, mailers, friends and relatives. Politicians will attempt to tug you one way or the other until November 3rd seems like it wont come soon enough.
It’s our job as voters to sift through all that PR babble and reach our own informed conclusions. Knowing who is behind which cause or candidate can be extremely helpful. It is another piece to a puzzle with a dizzy number of parts. Good luck.