AUGUSTA — The 2014 election is still more than a year away, but the most recent campaign finance reports show that the governor’s race is already drawing significant dollars, from Maine and away.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler, who are competing for some of the same donors, posted significant donation totals in semi-annual reporters filed Monday. Cutler boasted more than $430,000 in contributions, about 40 percent more than Michaud’s $313,000.

Michaud, a six-term congressman representing the 2nd Congressional District, raised his money in 17 days compared to Cutler, who entered the race six months ago.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who is seeking re-election, had until 11:59 p.m. Monday to file his finance report. LePage’s reelection committee has been active since early 2012. It’s posted $215,605 through its most recent filing in January.

The governor has since participated in a high-profile fundraiser that should boost that sum.

Monday’s financing benchmark was significant for Cutler and Michaud, whose campaigns talked up their numbers while downplaying what could be viewed as weaknesses in their bid for the Blaine House.

Michaud is attempting to capture as many Democratic donors — and momentum — as quickly. The effort is designed to prevent dollars from migrating to Cutler, who benefitted from Democratic contributions in 2010 when the party nominee, Elizabeth Mitchell, saw her campaign collapse during the final months.

Cutler, who received $2.4 million in contributions in 2010, eventually finished a close second to LePage. Mitchell received $1.9 million and finished their. LePage raised $1.4 million and was the top fundraiser in the general election, a performance that helped draw $1.2 million in spending by the Republican Governors Association.

Michaud has made early inroads with Democratic donors and outside groups.

Bonnie Porta, of Cape Elizabeth, became his campaign treasurer. Porta and her husband, Robert C.S. Monks, are prolific donors to the Maine Democratic Party. Both donated to Cutler in 2010.

Porta and Karen Harris were co-chairwomen of President Barak Obama’s volunteer state fundraising effort. They were the only Mainers on Obama’s list of 444, the so-called “bundlers” who helped steer hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the president’s reelection bid.

Porta has $3,000 to Michaud, the maximum allowed. Monks gave $3,000 to Michaud, while Harris dropped an additional $1,500.

Monks was a former investor in MaineToday Media, which owns the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal and the Waterville Sentinel. Monks is no longer involved with the company.

Robert A. Monks donated $1,000, while Millicent Monks gave $1,000.

S. Donald Sussman contributed $1,500 to Michaud, while U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree gave $1,500.

Sussman is the majority owner of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, as well as other MaineToday Media publications. Sussman and Pingree are married.

Cutler’s campaign said 47 percent of his haul came after Michaud announced he was exploring a bid for the Blaine House and began fundraising. Approximately 433 of Cutler’s donations came from Maine residents, while approximately 210 were from out of state, including over 50 from residents with Washington, D.C., addresses.

Cutler, a Bangor native, worked for the late Democratic Sen. Edmund Muskie before serving under President Jimmy Carter. He ran the Beijing office of the Washington, D.C., law firm Akin Gump, a prolific lobbying organization that also spent more than $820,000 during the last federal election.

Cutler went to D.C. in May to attend a fundraiser hosted by about 20 former Carter administration officials, lobbyists and Democratic Party officials. Several of the hosts named in a leaked invitation were from his former firm, Akin Gump.

Cutler’s campaign finance report showed 10 donations from Akin Gump partners or associates totaling $8,350.

His campaign finance report shows $3,000 from Tony and Heather Podesta from the influential D.C. lobbying firm The Podesta Group. Tony Podesta’s firm, The Podesta Group, is regarded as one of the most influential in Washington, D.C. and has reportedly close ties to the Obama administration.

Terry Straub, a former lobbyist for U.S. Steel, also donated to Cutler. Straub also served under President Carter as an assistant in education affairs.

Cutler drew some notable Maine donors, as well, including the former chairman of the Maine Democratic Party Harold Pachios ($1,500) and Pachios’ wife, Claudia ($1,500). Daniel Zilkha, president of Sabre Yachts, donated $1,500, as did Jack Parker, president of Reed & Reed, Inc., a contracting company involved in a host of energy projects and wind development throughout New England.

Cutler, who self-funded a significant portion of his 2010 campaign, has

“This campaign is all about whether Maine remains hopelessly stuck with the current administration, goes backwards to the Baldacci years, or moves forward with the strong, independent leadership I can provide,” Cutler said in a statement. “Once again, people from all over Maine, and people from outside of Maine who care about our state and political reform, are enthusiastically responding to my candidacy.”

Michaud’s campaign drew from more than 1,200 contributors, roughly 90 percent of them Maine residents. His campaign said that 61 percent of the donors are from the 1st Congressional District and 39 percent were from the 2nd Congressional District. He also received eight donations from political action committees.

Michaud’s congressional campaign contributed the maximum $3,000 to his gubernatorial campaign. The congressional campaign has amassed more than $70,000 in contributions, however, state law allows only $3,000 to be directly donated to a single state campaign, $1,500 for a primary and $1,500 for the general election. Federal law would allow Michaud’s congressional committee to donate to other state and federal campaigns, including the Maine Democratic Party, which could then use the funds to support the Democrat’s gubernatorial bid.

Additionally, Michaud’s Mill to the Hill congressional leadership political action committee has directed $3,000 to the Democrat’s gubernatorial bid.

Michaud said in a statement that he’s drawing support from Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

“There’s a lot of energy in Maine to change the leadership in Augusta,” he said.

Campaigns for Cutler and Michaud played up the origin and size of their donations. Michaud’s camp noted that its average contribution was $233 and 709 of the contributions were for $50 or less, while Cutler said support was coming from inside and outside of Maine.

All told, Cutler raised more than $241,000 from Maine donors and $190,000 from out-of state donors. Michaud raised $262,000 from Maine donors and $51,100 from out-of-state donors.

Cutler also noted that his Republican and Democratic opponents can raise more money than he can.

Maine election law allows candidates to accept up to $1,500 per election. For party candidates, that means $1,500 for the primary and $1,500 for the general election. Because Cutler is running as an independent he will not face a primary and therefore cannot solicit more than the $1,500 maximum.

The contributions are raised for separate elections, but there is no mechanism that requiring the candidate to return money not spent during the primary. Paul Lavin, assistant director of the Ethics Commission, said the money can be spent in either race.

Ted O’Meara, Cutler’s campaign spokesman, said that Michaud would have about $70,000 less in donations if he couldn’t collect for the primary and the general election.

Former independent U.S. Senate candidate Steve Woods is running as a Democrat in the 2014 governor’s race. Woods reported that he had no contributions to his campaign, but had contributed $50,000 of his own, according to the Associated Press. Independent Lee Schultheis of Freeport showed $5,000 through the July 15 deadline, all of it from him and his family.

Green Independent David Slagger showed that he raised $400.

LePage’s report had not posted as of Monday evening. Brent Littlefield, a consultant to the reelection campaign, said in a statement to reporters that campaign expected “a very competitive campaign focused on the dropping unemployment rate and the Governor’s success in fixing a broken budget.”

He added, “All indications are there will be no moving trucks visiting the Blaine House in January 2015.”

Steve Mistler — 620-7016
[email protected]
twitter.com/stevemistler

 

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