The Maine Democratic Party is winning the money race that could determine who controls the state Legislature. However, the party’s fundraising efforts are off the pace it set in 2008, the last presidential election year.

The Maine Republican Party, meanwhile, is slightly behind its 2008 fundraising efforts.

With 99 days until the Nov. 6 election, both party committees are working hard to attract in-state and out-of-state donors to bolster their candidates. The most recent party committee filings with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices show the Maine Democratic State Committee leading the Maine Republican Party in fundraising, $253,134 to $194,000 during the period between May 30 and July, 17.

Democrats have brought in a total of $453,595 this year compared to the $370,963 for the GOP. The advantage would seem to bode well for Democrats, which hope to take control of the Legislature and recover from its trouncing by the GOP in 2010.

The state reports reveal only one segment of the parties’ ability to bolster their candidates. Additionally, the GOP appears to have the edge in the number of small donors — a metric often equated to grassroots support and party enthusiasm.

The party committees also file campaign disclosure reports with the Federal Elections Commission. In those filings the Maine Democratic Party has collected $577,979 compared to $276,991 reported by the Maine GOP.

The Democratic total is $328,167 less than the party drew through the same period in 2008. The federal reports show the GOP pulling in $83,410 less than it did through the same period in 2008.

The federal money is not automatically earmarked for congressional races, which means the party committees can direct the funds to legislative races.

Mary-Erin Casale, executive director for the Maine Democratic Party, acknowledged that the gap between 2008 and this year was significant. However, Casale partially attributed the strong 2008 fundraising cycle to strong interest by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the race between U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Democratic challenger Tom Allen.

National pundits predicted a competitive race. It didn’t turn out that way, but the early national interest is reflected in DSCC contributions to the Maine state committee.

The DSCC contributions and others from the Democratic National Committee don’t quite account for the fundraising gap between 2008 and 2012. However, the FEC reports show tepid interest from the national groups, a fact that may reflect the status of the 2012 congressional races.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill has yet to receive DSCC support, financially or otherwise. National and local pundits doubt that she ever will given polling that shows her a distant third behind independent frontrunner Angus King and the Republican candidate Charlie Summers.

Democrats expect a battle between U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, and Republican challenger Kevin Raye, which means national money may be forthcoming. The 1st Congressional District race between Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and Republican challenger Jonathan Courtney is projected to be less competitive.

Pingree is also less dependent on national money to finance her campaign. Pingree is married to financier S. Donald Sussman, a contributor to Democratic and charitable causes and the majority share owner of the MaineToday Media, which owns The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel and other media outlets in Maine.

Like the Democrats,The Maine GOP committee report shows little involvement from national Republican congressional committees. However, that could change if Summers can close the gap on King and Raye does the same against Michaud. The current dynamics of those races suggests that most of the national money would go toward bouying the GOP congressional candidates. However, the Republican Governors Association involvement in the 2010 gubenatorial race showed that money toward top-ticket contests can benefit down-ticket races.

Republicans have often attributed the RGA organizational and monied backing of Gov. Paul LePage for helping the GOP win control of the Legislature.

Sussman is bolstering Democrats’ bid to take control of the Legislature. According to state reports with the ethics commission, Sussman has given $200,000 to the Democratic Party Committee. He has made significant donations to national political action committees hoping to influence congressional races.

Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster recently said that Sussman’s involvement in legislative races could overwhelm GOP candidates in some instances. Webster also emphasized the GOP’s small donor as evidence that the party was more energized than the Democrats.

State reports show that the GOP party committee has a few big donors, too. Colorado billionaire and media mogul John Malone gave $80,000 to the GOP during the last reporting period, while Texas businessman Ed Bosarge, CEO of Capital Technologies, gave $70,000.

The Maine GOP has also received strong large-donor support through its federal fundraising. Maine businessman Robert Bahre and his wife have contributed $20,000. White Rock Distilleries CEO Paul Coulombe has given $10,000 and Bosarge and his wife Marie Bosarge have given a combined $20,000, according to FEC reports.

The Democratic committee also has prominent national donors, according to the FEC filings. Daniel R. Tishman, the New York construction mogul whose firm built the original World Trade Center and is designing 1 World Trade Center, has given $10,000, continuing his longtime support of Democratic candidates across the country. Nancy and Reinier Beeuwkes, owners of the Ischemix, Inc. pharmaceutical company and national Democratic donors, have given $10,000.

 

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