Outside groups dumped more than $3 million into political advertising and other efforts to influence Maine elections in the past week, a marked escalation three weeks before Election Day.

The groups, which operate independently from the candidates, have now spent nearly $14 million on Maine’s gubernatorial and legislative elections since Labor Day, surpassing the $12.1 million spent through the end of October before the 2018 election. And spending on ads, direct mail and get-out-the-vote efforts is certain to rise further in the final weeks.

With increased spending, comes increased scrutiny. On Monday, Maine Democrats called on the Maine Ethics Commission to investigate an out-of-state group for spending over $1 million in ads attacking Gov. Janet Mills without fully disclosing the identity of its financial backers.

Not surprisingly, the race between Mills, the Democratic incumbent, and former two-term Republican Gov. Paul LePage is attracting the most money. The gubernatorial election has seen $10.7 million in outside spending from September through Oct. 15, with $3.6 million coming in the last two weeks.

Nearly all of that money is going into negative ads, primarily on television, with $6.3 million spent attacking LePage, including $2.8 million in the last two weeks.

Legislative races also are seeing significant interest from outside groups, especially the District 1 Senate race in Aroostook County, where a national group just spent $100,000 in ads attacking the incumbent, Sen. President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash.


So far, a political action group controlled by the Democratic Governors Association has dominated outside spending in the gubernatorial election. Better Maine has spent $5.3 million this cycle helping Mills, including $1.2 million in the last week alone. The group is focusing on television ads, where it has spent $4.2 million on ads, mostly attacking LePage.

The DGA has raised nearly $60 million for the 2022 midterm elections nationwide and spent about $41.9 million as of Sept. 16, according to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics.

The Maine Republican Party is leading the outside groups helping LePage, spending $2.6 million since September, mostly on TV ads. Its spending, however, has eased recently, with only $607,500 spent in the last two weeks.

The Republican Governors Association, despite having a 2-to-1 fundraising advantage nationwide, has supported LePage through $4 million in donations to the Maine Republican Party. Through Sept. 16, the RGA had raised $123.5 million and spent $102.5 million in races nationwide, according to OpenSecrets.

The Maine Democratic Party, meanwhile, is focusing its spending mostly on state Senate races. It has spent $1.7 million since Labor Day, with only $235,500 going into the governor’s race.

LePage also is getting a boost from a political action committee controlled by the Virginia-based American Principles Project, a national conservative group that conducted a survey of Maine voters over the summer using an assumed name. The text message survey told recipients that it was being conducted by Maine Today, leading some recipients to believe it was conducted by MaineToday Media, which owns the Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and other newspapers and was not involved.


Maine Families First, a group controlled by APP President Terry Schilling, has spent about $1 million airing a television ad that falsely claims Mills and Democrats support a bill that would raise home heating and gasoline prices, even though Mills was skeptical and Democrats helped kill that bill three years ago.

On Monday, Maine Democrats asked the Ethics Commission, which oversees campaign finance reporting for the state, to investigate the PAC for failing to disclose its donors. Maine Families First did not respond to an email Monday seeking a response to the complaint and information about its donors.

State records show only one donation to Maine Families First – $100,000 from conservative megadonor Thomas Klingenstein of New York City on Sept 7. Klingenstein believes the United States is currently in “a cold civil war” over the American way of life between “those who think America is good and those who think America is bad,” according to his website.

Spending is also accelerating in the legislative races. Last week, outside groups spent $1.2 million on legislative races, more than half of the $2.1 million that had been spent up to that point since Labor Day.


Outside groups continue to target swing districts throughout the state, especially the District 1 race between Jackson and state Rep. Sue Bernard, R-Caribou. District 1 is in Aroostook County, where Republicans have an advantage over Democrats in terms of voter registration.


The Republican State Leadership Committee spent just over $100,000 in that race last week, devoting over $81,000 to attacking Jackson on TV, radio and digital advertising. The group has tried to tie Jackson to defund-the-police advocates, and the Maine Republican Party put up fake campaign signs seeking to do the same, even though Jackson has opposed cuts to police funding.

Up until last week, Jackson had been benefiting from over $210,000 in outside spending – far more than the $41,000 in outside spending helping Bernard.

A new political action group, Maine Strong, jumped into the race, spending $26,000 last week, with $17,000 being spent opposing Bernard, a former TV news anchor and former spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

However, the group, which filed its first independent expenditure on Oct. 14, has not yet filed any information with the state about who is donating to its PAC.

The principal officer for Maine Strong is Lily Herrmann, the executive director of the Maine Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and a former legislative aid for the Senate Majority Office.

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