WASHINGTON – It was a busy week in Washington for Maine’s two senators, both of whom played higher-profile roles in some of the bigger debates on Capitol Hill.

Seeking to address what she dubbed “a manufactured crisis,” Republican Sen. Susan Collins was a primary author of a budget fix that will allow the Federal Aviation Administration to end the furloughs of air traffic controllers.

The compromise, which Collins negotiated with several other lawmakers and the Senate leadership, emerged late Thursday after most other senators had left town. An identical measure passed the House Friday afternoon and was sent to President Barack Obama.

As occupants of two of the 15 seats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Collins and Sen. Angus King also popped up all over the national news, talking about the Boston bombings and allegations of the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons.

“We’ve already had the experience in Afghanistan of arming the opposition and then having those arms used against us five or 10 years later,” King, an independent, told Bloomberg Television when asked about arming the Syrian rebels. “What I’m hearing is that the opposition is armed and they’re getting arms from other people. They don’t necessarily have to get arms from us.”

Collins, meanwhile, was among the lawmakers questioning whether the law enforcement community’s lines of communication were fully open after receiving briefings on the Boston bombing suspects.

Collins and King also tried but failed to attach an amendment to a bill that will allow states to collect sales taxes from out-of-state online retailers. The bill moved forward without the amendment, but they intend to try again before the next vote.

Few Mainers donate

Mainers contributed nearly $150,000 to Obama’s inaugural celebrations, but the state ranked near the bottom nationally in the total number of donors.

The bulk of the $149,320 donated to Obama’s Presidential Inaugural Committee came from three donors, according to a spreadsheet of publicly available donor information compiled by The Sunlight Foundation, which tracks money in politics.

S. Donald Sussman of Portland, a hedge fund manager who is also a major donor to Democratic and progressive causes, led that small group with his $100,000 donation. Sussman is married to Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree — who contributed $305 — and he is the majority shareowner of MaineToday Media, which publishes the Kennebec Journal, the Morning Sentinel and the Portland Press Herald.

Roger Milliken, of Cumberland, who is president and CEO of the forestland management firm Baskahegan Co., contributed $37,500; while Terra Lynn Swift, of Kennebunkport, gave the inaugural campaign $10,000.

Five other individuals, including Pingree, contributed between $300 and $605. All told, Obama’s second inaugural committee raised more than $43 million in private and corporate donations.

While Obama won more than 55 percent of the vote in Maine in November 2012, the state’s residents were not overly generous when it came to helping pay for the president’s post-victory celebrations.

Maine and Wyoming were tied for the second-lowest number of donors with eight each. The only state with fewer donors was North Dakota with six, according to the data compiled by The Sunshine Foundation.

‘Taste of Maine’ a hit in DC

The menu was all-Maine during a reception on Capitol Hill last week that drew so many people that some vendors actually ran out of food.

A few hundred people were expected to show up for the inaugural “Taste of Maine” reception organized by the Maine State Chamber and co-hosted by King and Collins. Instead, up to 600 people — including several members of Senate leadership — packed into the room at the Senate’s Russell Office Building.

The fare included whoopie pies from Wicked Whoopies, smoked salmon from Sullivan Harbor Farm, chocolate-covered blueberries and cranberries from Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections and Baxter Brewing Co. beer, to name a few — and, of course, lots of lobster and wild blueberries.

“I think it exceeded everyone’s expectations,” said Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber. “It was a marvelous endorsement of the value of Maine products.”

“It was a great success,” King said. “I’m sure we are going to do it again.”

LePage in DC

Gov. Paul LePage will join fellow Republican Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania to talk about job creation and economic growth next week in Washington.

According to a news release from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the trio will highlight “successful policies and programs that encourage entrepreneurship and small business growth in their states, and what is needed to generate jobs and accelerate economic growth.”

The panel is part of the Chamber’s 9th Annual Small Business Summit and coincides with the release of the organization’s “Enterprising States” report.

Kevin Miller — (207) 317-6256
kmiller@mainetoday.com