July 18, 2013

Maine governor's race already drawing big bucks

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler post significant totals in finance reports.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — The next gubernatorial election is still more than a year away, but new campaign finance reports show that the race is already drawing significant dollars from Maine and away.

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Fundraising for Gov. Paul LePage, left, during the last reporting period was hindered by restrictions that prohibit him from receiving donations from corporations that deploy lobbyists during the legislative session. Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, center, and independent Eliot Cutler, right, who are competing for some of the same donors, posted significant totals in semi-annual reports filed Monday.

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

Michaud, a six-term congressman representing Maine's 2nd District, raised his money in 17 days. Cutler entered the race six months ago.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage posted his finance report shortly before the 11:59 p.m. deadline Monday. The governor's reelection committee showed over $123,000 for the most recent reporting period, bringing his fundraising total to nearly $340,000. 

LePage's re-election committee has been active since early 2012. It posted $215,605 through the January and collected $135,000 through the July 2012 semi-annual reporting period. He took in $12,000 less through the same July reporting period this year. The governor in July participated in a high-profile fundraiser that didn't count toward the recent reporting deadline that should boost his sum.

Additionally, LePage's fundraising during the last reporting period was hindered by restrictions that prohibit him from receiving donations from corporations that deploy lobbyists during the legislative session. 

Brent Littlefield, a consultant to the re-election campaign, told reporters Monday that LePage's team expects "a very competitive campaign focused on the dropping unemployment rate and the governor's success in fixing a broken budget."

"All indications are there will be no moving trucks visiting the Blaine House in January 2015," he said.

Monday's reports were significant for Cutler and Michaud, whose campaigns talked up their numbers.

Michaud is trying to capture Democratic donors -- and momentum -- as quickly as possible. His aim is to prevent dollars from migrating to Cutler, who benefited from Democrats' contributions in 2010, when the party's nominee, Elizabeth Mitchell, saw her campaign collapse in the final months.

Cutler, who received $2.4 million in contributions in 2010, finished a close second to LePage. Mitchell received $1.9 million and finished third. LePage raised $1.4 million and was the top fundraiser in the general election.

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 donated $3,000 to Michaud for next year's election, the maximum allowed. Monks also gave $3,000 to Michaud.

Monks is 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 an investor in the company, but sits on the company's advisory board that meets about twice a year.

Robert A. Monks donated $1,000 to Michaud, 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 MaineToday Media. He and Pingree are married.

Michaud's campaign reported more than 1,200 contributors, about 90 percent of them Maine residents. His campaign said 61 percent were from the 1st District and 39 percent were from the 2nd 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, but state law allows only $3,000 to be donated directly to a single state campaign, $1,500 for a primary and $1,500 for the general election.

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