The battles about the fate of same-sex marriage and control of the Maine Legislature will reach another key benchmark this week when the latest round of campaign fundraising reports are released.

Up to now, the money race has been dominated by the coalition hoping Mainers will legalize gay marriage at the ballot box in November. The coalition, composed of eight political action committees, already has raised close to $1 million in combined cash and in-kind donations, outpacing the six active gay-marriage opponent PACs, 36-to-1.

That margin could narrow when the groups file campaign finance reports by midnight Thursday.

David Farmer, the spokesman for Mainers United for Marriage, the flagship group for gay-marriage advocates, was touting another strong fundraising cycle. Farmer estimated that the coalition will raise close to another $1 million, a mark that puts the groups on track to raise $5 million during the election cycle.

The most recent reports show that the group supporting same-sex marriage has been bolstered by a variety of people, including a $100,000 donation from Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook and current owner of The New Republic magazine.

In addition, the group received a $1,000 donation from Ethan McCusker, director of Target retail stores. The donation reflects Target’s reversal of its opinion on marriage equality. The corporation previously had donated $150,000 to a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota who had proposed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in that state. The donation prompted gay-rights advocates to call for a boycott against Target.

Protect Marriage Maine, the lead opposition group, raised slightly more that $11,000. Gay-marriage opponents have said they don’t expect to be able keep pace with the opposition.

However, the deep-pocketed Nation Organization for Marriage, the anti-gay marriage group that spent $1.9 million to overturn Maine’s marriage-equality law in 2009, has yet to show its hand. NOM has established a PAC in Maine, but it’s remained largely inactive.

That’s likely to change. Frank Schubert, the messaging mastermind who helped overturn marriage equality laws in Maine and California, is managing four anti-gay marriage campaigns, and he’s again calling the shots here. Schubert’s activities are bankrolled by NOM, which finances controversial — some say misleading — television ads about the purported consequences of gay marriage.

Thursday’s campaign finance reports also could offer a glimpse of how the battle for the Legislature is shaping up. Semi-annual reports are due from the state party committees that will direct some, but not all, of the spending on legislative races.

The Maine Democratic State Committee showed $203,070 in contributions collected just before the primary.

The Maine Republican Party has raised $90,747 over the same period.

The Green Independent Party has raised $4,182 so far. It raised $3,625 in 2008.

All other PACs that will spend on legislative issues are also due on Thursday.

 

This story has been updated to reflect fundraising numbers for the Maine Democratic State Committtee and the Maine Republican Party.

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