AUGUSTA – Campaign finance reports for the three major candidates for governor became public Thursday. Democratic U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud has raised the most money, followed by unenrolled Eliot Cutler, with incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage in third place.
Incumbent Republican Gov. Paul R. LePage reports having raised $373,557 from July 1 to the end of December, leaving his campaign with cash balance of roughly $573,000. The campaign spent just over $90,000 in the last six months. Most of that spending has gone to campaign staff and consultants. The report does not include expenditures on digital advertising.
Cutler has raised a little more than $945,000 for the entire campaign and $243,792 from July 1 to the end of December. His campaign currently has $205,951 cash on hand and a $200,000 outstanding loan he gave to the campaign. His spending includes your typical campaign expenditures – rent, payroll, consulting fees, and printing expenses. But it’s also heavy on the digital ad expenditures. According to the finance report, Cutler has been spending several thousand dollars per month on Facebook ads and Google Ad words, which helps explain why Maine political news junkies are seeing his ads all over the Web.
Michaud has raised more than $1 million for his campaign and had just over $600,000 cash on hand as of Dec. 31. Unsurprisingly, Michaud has received strong financial support from labor unions, the teachers’ union, the state workers’ union and other typical Democratic donors.
Some interesting items from the donation side of Michaud’s report: horror author Stephen King has donated the max, $1,500 for the general election and $1,500 for the primary; controversial national park advocate Roxanne Quimby and her son Lucas St. Clair combined to donate $2,000; Matthew Kearns, Peter Keel and Paul Gaynor – all of Boston-based First Wind – have donated a combined $2,500; the Maine People’s Alliance PAC (MPA Campaign Vote) gave $1,500; U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree gave $1,500; and Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap gave $500.
On the expenditure side of the ledger, Michaud has spent $14,250 with the Nashville, Tenn.-based Grindstone Research. As previously reported by The Maine Wire, Grindstone VP Carol Andrews – known in Maine Democratic circles as “Hurricane Carol” – has developed a reputation for mudslinging and her less than gentle way of handling reporters. Her record in Maine, where negative campaigning usually doesn’t go over very well, is less than stellar. Her first shot at defeating LePage as an advisor to Democrat Libby Mitchell failed and her contribution to former U.S. Rep. Tom Allen’s senate campaign is credited by some with tanking the Democrat’s chances of seriously challenging U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.
Like Cutler, Michaud’s campaign is heavy on online fundraising. But rather than administer it themselves, the campaign has hired Washington, D.C.-based GMMB Inc. to conduct a $2,250 Facebook campaign and a $5,000 Google Ad Word campaign. The campaign has also paid MaineToday Media – owner of the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, and Waterville Morning Sentinel – nearly $5,000 via GMMB. It is unclear from the finance report whether this contract paid for ad space or for articles written by Steve Mistler and Colin Woodard.
The campaign reports spending nearly $20,000 for online video production with Ralston Lapp Media of Washington, D.C., which probably produced the campaign’s controversial kick-off ad. The ad was later quietly revised after The Maine Wire reported on Michaud’s use of bogus job statistics.
The Michaud campaign also reports some interesting purchases, including almost $420 in New Balance sneakers and $110 spent at the New Hampshire State Liquor Store. (It’s unclear whether Michaud has paid his Use Tax.)
The fundraising disclosed in these reports is but a portion of the political spending expected to occur in Maine’s gubernatorial election.
Cutler has previously pledged not to accept money from political action committees, but outside groups could still make independent expenditures supporting his candidacy.
On the GOP side, the Republican Governor’s Association has registered a PAC for Maine but has not been active.
The Democratic Governors Association has already been very active with online ads supporting Michaud. Their advocacy is probably an indicator of much more pro-Michaud outside spending to come. According to a recent article in the New York Times, Democratic hedge fund mogul S. Donald Sussman is financing a many-headed dark money operation aimed at preventing LePage from winning re-election.
Sussman is a donor to the Maine Democratic Party, the Michaud-aligned Maine People’s Alliance, and is majority owner of the MaineToday Media newspapers. He is married to Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree.
“In Maine,” the Times writes, “a consortium of progressive groups financed by the hedge fund billionaire S. Donald Sussman, [a Democracy Alliance] member, is looking to unseat Gov. Paul R. LePage this year and put both the governor’s office and the Legislature under Democratic control.”