Governor’s race fund raising reports show fast Michaud, slow LePage and rich Cutler

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, the presumed Democratic candidate for governor, leads Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent candidate Eliot Cutler in the overall money race, according to new campaign finance reports the candidates filed Wednesday with the Maine Ethics Commission.

As of the December 31 filing deadline two weeks ago, Michaud had raised $1,003,239 compared to $945,386 for Cutler and $718,978 for LePage. The reports show that Michaud raised money quickly in the first half-year of his campaign, Cutler has contributed more than $250,000 of his own money and LePage raised his third-place tally even though his donations for the 2014 race are spread over the longest time period by far.

There are details and lots of numbers below, but first let’s take a look at how the campaigns interpreted the finance reports and what they think the totals say about their opponents.

Cutler, whose total was buffered by considerable loans and donations he made to his campaign as well as in-kind contributions, took aim at LePage and Michaud.

“The people who are contributing are concerned about the economic future of Maine and understand that neither a career politician with heavy ties to special interests nor a failed and embarrassing tea party governor is the answer,” said Cutler in a prepared statement.

Michaud campaign manager Matt McTighe said Michaud’s totals show support from all sorts of people from all over Maine. McTighe didn’t reference LePage or Cutler, but statements in a press release from the Maine Democratic Party did.

“Mike Michaud raised more money in the first 18 days of his campaign than Eliot Cutler raised this entire quarter. If not for [Cutler’s] vast personal fortune, his campaign would be broke,” said party Chairman Ben Grant. “This just confirms what we’ve seen in the polls, that Maine people are rejecting Cutler’s message and embracing Michaud’s experience and vision for the future.”

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who is also chairman of the Democratic Governor’s Association, took aim at both Cutler and LePage in the same press release.

“Eliot Cutler has minimal support inside of Maine and Paul LePage’s toxic attitude and extreme, right-wing ideology have marginalized him with all but a small group of supporters,” said Shumlin.

Brent Littlefield, LePage’s senior political adviser, also didn’t hold back, portraying both Michaud and Cutler as liberal big spenders. Littlefield was hardest on Michaud, who is polling very close to LePage.

“Michael Michaud’s campaign is indicative of his governing style where he has voted for budget after budget which ballooned the federal deficit, raised taxes and placed the financial future of our children in jeopardy,” reads a press release from Littlefield.

Littlefield has said for months that he expects the LePage administration to lose the money battle in both contributions and spending.

“Gov. LePage was outspent by millions of dollars in both his primary and general election campaigns in 2010,” said Littlefield. “He overcame the candidate spending, defeated the liberal special interests aligned against him and won on Election Day.”

LePage raised $373,557 since July 1 and $718,978 since the beginning of his fund raising, which dates all the way back to Aug. 16, 2012. LePage’s 2014 campaign has spent about $146,000 to date and had about $573,000 cash on hand as of December 31. LePage has not given any of his personal money to his campaign.

Michaud announced earlier this month that he had surpassed the $1 million mark since he began raising money on June 19, 2013. His campaign finance report to the Maine Ethics Commission lists donations since the beginning of his campaign of $1,003,239, including nearly $690,000 raised since July 1. None of Michaud’s total was from loans and less than $2,000 were in-kind donations. As of December 31, the campaign had $612,000 cash on hand, including $428,000 for the primary election.

Michaud appears to have wanted to guarantee that his campaign would top $1 million by the December 31 filing deadline. He personally contributed two donations of $1,500 on December 30 and December 31.

Cutler, who started collecting donations for the 2014 race on April 22, 2013, reported total contributions of $945,386, including $238,782 between July 1 and December 31 of last year. More than $52,000 was given in-kind and $200,000 of the total was a loan from Cutler to his campaign on December 13, 2013. The timing of Cutler’s loan, just a few weeks before the filing deadline, might mean that the campaign had run low on money. The campaign finance report shows that Cutler had $205,951 on hand a little more than two weeks later, on December 31. 

Cutler also donated thousands to his own cause in the form of several dozen cash contributions that total nearly $66,000.

Cutler’s campaign has argued that as an independent, Cutler is at a disadvantage against Republicans and Democrats because of campaign finance laws that allow major-party candidates to collect a total of $3,000 from each individual donor, $1,500 for the primary election and $1,500 for the general election. Independent candidates, because they can’t have primary challengers, are limited to collecting $1,500 from each donor.

Cutler also has sworn off contributions from political action committees.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.