September 9, 2012

DC NOTEBOOK: Cynthia Dill gets unlikely help from Republican PAC

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill is getting more help from a Washington, D.C.-based political action committee with Republican ties, although the real object of the group's ads may be independent Angus King.

Earlier this week, Maine Freedom spent an additional $111,500 for television ads that support Dill and oppose King, a former governor regarded as the front-runner to succeed Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe.

The money was used to purchase additional air time for ads that have been running in Maine for several weeks.

To date, Maine Freedom has spent $249,000 on the Senate race, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The ads are an example of the challenges that campaigns face when it comes to so-called super PACs making "independent expenditures," however.

Although the ad presents a positive message about Dill, calling her "a Democrat you can feel good about," the piece is cynically viewed by some as a Republican-backed attempt to siphon support from King among liberals and progressives.

The race for Snowe's seat could help decide which party controls the Senate next year. By lessening King's vote total, the theory goes, the ad could help Republican candidate Charlie Summers close the gap with King -- much like conservative Gov. Paul LePage won in 2010 after the Democratic base divided between nominee Libby Mitchell and independent Eliot Cutler.

Both the Summers and Dill campaigns have said they did not have anything to do with Maine Freedom.

And election law prohibits any collaboration between campaigns and "independent" PACs.

Federal disclosure laws also make it difficult to figure out who or which organizations are behind virtually all super PACs, not just Maine Freedom.

The treasurer of Maine Freedom is Michael Adams, a partner of the firm Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, who focuses on government relations, politics and constitutional law. One of Adams' clients is the Republican Governors Association, for which he works as general counsel.

Adams was also the RGA's in-house general counsel before joining his current firm. But Adams said Friday that the RGA is just one of his numerous clients at Dinsmore and was not involved in the Maine ads.

He added that he represents clients of various political affiliations.

Maine Freedom's assistant treasurer also has ties to the RGA and other Republican groups.

And the advertising firm that Maine Freedom used, California-based Target Enterprises, is headed by a former political adviser to GOP candidates and past Republican National Conventions, according to the company's website.

Asked who is behind Maine Freedom, Adams supplied a statement describing the organization as "a bipartisan coalition of people who live in Maine or love Maine or both, and who are focused on getting the facts out about the candidates for U.S. Senate."

Veteran gets new home

A group of Mainers were among dozens of delegates to the Republican and Democratic national conventions who set aside party politics and campaign rhetoric -- if only briefly -- to help give a veteran a new home.

During a unique community service project called House United, attendees at the Republican National Convention in Tampa built half of a modular home, and delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte constructed the other half this week.

Lizzy Reinholt, a spokeswoman for the Maine Democratic Party who was in Charlotte, said about 15 members of Maine's delegation participated in Monday's volunteer activity.

The idea behind the event, Reinholt said, was to show that despite the public partisanship, both sides can work together to help veterans.

The two halves of the new home will be brought together in the Belmont area of Charlotte and the keys will be given to a veteran in October.

The event was sponsored by the nonprofit Rebuilding Together and corporate sponsors.

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