Cutler campaign cash dwindles as outside groups shovel $10 million to party candidates

Independent Eliot Cutler’s campaign entered mid-October with less cash on hand than Republican Paul LePage and Democrat Mike Michaud, who on top of their own war chests have political action committees that have spent about $10 million for or against them.

The amount of outside spending has dwarfed activity by any of the campaigns and made clear the uphill battle Cutler faces in matching spending by either Republican or Democratic PACs, whose money is coming primarily out of Washington and spending big on television time.

The amount spent this year by outside groups has quadrupled the $4 million in independent expenditures in 2010, with about $10 million of that focused solely on the gubernatorial race. That spending is led by groups like the Republican Governors Association’s Maine-registered PAC, which brought in $4.25 million by itself as of Oct. 21.

Campaign finance reports filed by a deadline midnight Friday show the cash position of each campaign, but a look at independent expenditures makes clear that’s not where most of the action is or will be in the next week, as income and spending will change daily.

As for the campaigns, Michaud led the field for cash on hand as of Oct. 21.

Cutler’s campaign had $136,353 cash on hand as of that date, with no major changes filed in 24-hour reports since that time. Michaud’s campaign ended the period with $560,585 and LePage’s with $362,882.

Michaud also led fundraising for the period, bringing in $439,855 from Sept. 17 to Oct. 21. The LePage campaign raised $271,167 and Cutler’s $183,088.

In the last month, Michaud’s campaign surpassed the fundraising of Cutler’s campaign, bringing in $2.84 million, ahead of Cutler’s $2.76 million (a number that includes about $1 million in loans from Cutler’s personal funds).

Cutler’s campaign had spent the most as of that deadline. But, as noted above, his almost $360,000 spending lead on Michaud and more than $1 million spending lead on LePage has little significance for voters bombarded by ads from outside groups for either the Republican or Democrat (Cutler did get a $100,000 ad buy from the Campaign for Maine PAC Monday, but that still pales in comparison to PAC support for his opponents).

The RGA Maine PAC had spent about $4.14 million of $4.25 million raised to support LePage and oppose Michaud for the period. Maine Forward, a PAC backed by the Democratic Governors Association and unions, had spent about $2.25 of $2.7 million raised.

A number of other PACs like NextGen Climate Action have spent handsomely to support Michaud and oppose LePage.

In total, outside groups including Maine Forward and NextGen had spent about $4.9 million to support Michaud and oppose LePage through the week of Oct. 17.

Look online later today or to Tuesday’s paper for a rundown of independent spending in races for the Maine House and Maine Senate. 

Darren Fishell

About Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.