PORTLAND — Retiring U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe announced Friday that her re-election campaign committee has transferred $1.2 million of its remaining funds to an effort to encourage young women to participate in public service.

Snowe, who cited partisan polarization in her decision earlier this year not to seek re-election, said the money will go to the Maine Community Foundation to support the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute. Snowe, a Republican, will establish that institute after she completes her third term in the Senate.

Of the remaining balance, about $800,000 is being used for outstanding campaign obligations and to establish a multi-candidate committee whose goals are to diminish what Snowe sees as polarization in today’s political environment. It will support like-minded candidates who are committed to reaching across the political aisle to produce results on important issues, Snowe said.

“I look forward to continuing to contribute to the development of young women in Maine through this new institute, and, hopefully, inspiring them to participate in public service,” Snowe said in a prepared statement. “I am also determined to continue to work, through my multi-candidate committee, to bridge the partisan divide that has become an enormous impediment to finding solutions to the problems we face as a nation.”

Snowe’s re-election campaign had amassed about $2.6 million. Her surprise announcement Feb. 28 that she wouldn’t seek re-election raised questions about what she would do with her campaign cash.

Her latest Federal Election Commission financing report shows that the roughly $600,000 remaining has been refunded to donors, donated to some Republican candidates and spent on campaign commitments, said Lucas Caron, treasurer of the Snowe campaign.

Snowe succeeded George Mitchell, who declined to seek re-election to the Senate in 1994. With his unspent campaign funds, he established a scholarship fund, which he considers his greatest legacy.

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