October 11, 2012

National Democratic group to spend on Maine legislative races

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A Washington-based organization backing Democrats will spend significant money in Maine to influence key legislative races that could tip the balance of power in the Legislature. 

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee on Thursday identified five battleground districts critcal to Democrats retaking the State House. Given its union-heavy donor list, the group's investment here may signal its interest in bolstering labor laws that could be targeted if Republicans maintain full control of the Legislature.

Republicans currently control the executive branch and the House and Senate. The party has used its majority to advance tax cuts, pension reform and reducing regulations. Republicans have also made changes to unemployment insurance laws that were opposed by unions. Labor groups are also wary of right-to-work legislation that could erode the viability of unions.

Dan Roth, a spokesman for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said Thursday that Mainers had seen the negative impacts of one-party control. 

"Generic polling has shown that this Republican majority, especially with this Republican governor, has implemented policies that are far to the right of Mainers' values and those of working families," Roth said.

The group has already given $500,000 to Maine-based political action committees, Roth said. The committees will use the funds to either support Democratic candidates or oppose Republicans. 

The group on Thursday identified important races, including two House races, District 128 in Scarborough and District 139 in Lyman and Waterboro. It is also hoping to influence Senate races in District 17, which includes 10 towns in Androsoggin County; District 25, which includes six towns in Kennebec County and two in Somerset County; and District 32, which includes Bangor and Hermon. 

The investment by the Democratic group has been countered by the Republican State Leadership Committee. The Virginia-based group, recently contributed over $300,000 to help Republicans maintain their majority and advance Gov. Paul LePage's policy agenda. LePage has also been openly critical of organized labor and has repeatedly tangled with the state employees union and the teachers union. 

Records with the Federal Elections Commission show that the Democratic group is primarily financed by national labor organizations. It has already spent $5.5 million during the current election cycle. It spent over $11 million in 2010. 

The Republican group is funded primarily by insurance and big tobacco companies, an attorney organization and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and the Republican State Leadership Committee, are 527 organizations. The tax-exempt groups are designed specifically for the advocacy and defeat of elected officials.

The Maine races are identified by the Democratic group as "essential races." Races in 22 other states also were named. 

This story was clarified to note that the DLCC has not earmarked spending for specific legislative races. 

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