PORTLAND — Part of a national political spending network co-founded by a top Republican strategist has entered Maine’s U.S. Senate race with a reported $309,000 ad buy against independent Angus King, which started Tuesday and will run a week.

Crossroads GPS, a nonprofit arm of super PAC American Crossroads, said in a statement that the group will spend $309,000 in Maine broadcast and cable markets on ads that began running early Tuesday morning. Television station records show the buy will run through Oct. 22.

The ad hits King on his record as Maine’s governor from 1995 to 2003, saying he increased taxes, slashed school funding and increased state spending.

In an interview, American Crossroads spokesman Nate Hodson called King “a liberal senator who would caucus with the Democrats” if elected to the seat currently held by Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican, who didn’t run for reelection.

“More than anything, you look at Angus King’s record and how detrimental that would be to the state of Maine in the U.S. Senate,” Hodson said. “American Crossroads is focused on winning a majority and we think it’s important to keep a Republican in this seat.”

Getting a jump on the ad’s release, King’s campaign sent an email to supporters on Monday evening using the ad as a plea for campaign donations.

The email’s subject line was “Karl Rove,” who is a Republican political operative who co-founded American Crossroads. He worked in former President George W. Bush’s administration and spearheaded his two successful presidential campaigns.

“Karl Rove is a notorious partisan and part of the huge divide in Washington,” said King spokeswoman Crystal Canney in a Tuesday statement. “Angus King is a threat because no one owns him or his vote.”

In the email, King campaign manager Kay Rand predicted the ad against King would be “deceitful” and implored supporters to help King “fight back against this onslaught.” She said the campaign thought the ad buy would be $350,000, larger than Crossroads’ stated total.

King spokeswoman Crystal Canney said the fundraising pitch worked: The campaign has raised “several thousands” of dollars since the email went out, she said.

Records at Portland CBS affiliate WGME show more than $168,000 of the group’s airtime against King was bought in the Portland market – 35 percent at NBC affiliate WCSH, 29 percent at ABC affiliate WMTW, 26 percent at WGME and 10 percent at Fox affiliate WPFO. According to the documents, the ads are scheduled to run beginning Tuesday.

Last week, the Sunlight Foundation, a campaign finance website, said the Crossroads network has spent $174 million nationally on the 2012 election, which should ensure that they will be “the most influential outside group in this election cycle.” Nearly $123 million of that came from Crossroads GPS; just over $51 million came from American Crossroads, the super PAC.

Many of those expenses have been disclosed by the Crossroads network in press releases, though much of it falls outside of federal reporting requirements, the foundation has said.

Open Secrets, an online political finance data clearinghouse run by the Center for Responsive Politics using federal data, shows as of Oct. 1, the two Crossroads groups together have spent more than $85 million for or against candidates in 2012 races nationally.

Just $1.3 million of it has been spent on pro-Republican ads, the site says. The Sunlight Foundation has said more than 99 percent of the group’s spending has been on negative ads.

Drew Brandewie, a spokesman for King’s top opponent, Republican Charlie Summers, said in a statement that “the more Mainers learn about King’s financial mismanagement” and record, “the more his support shrinks.”

“The entry of Crossroads GPS into this race with this large … television ad buy should tell people a couple of things,” said Canney, King’s spokeswoman, in the statement. “First, there are powerful partisans in this country who like the gridlock they have created. Secondly, this should tell the people of Maine who Charlie Summers will listen to if he gets to Washington.”

 

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