Presidential candidate Rand Paul announces visit to Maine next week

Good morning from Augusta and welcome to the dry, crisp air that we’ve all been longing for. Here’s today’s soundtrack (it doesn’t get started until about 30 seconds in so be patient) (and disregard the “early grave” bit). 

It looks like most of the political action was packed into the first half of the week, with quiet days today and tomorrow. Wait, what am I saying? Haven’t we come to expect the unexpected in Augusta? Well, let’s get to it. 

Rand Paul coming to Maine

CNN reports that Rand Paul is coming to Maine next week. Specific details are sketchy but it looks as if Paul will have come and gone by Wednesday.

Paul, who is struggling in early polling, sees northern New England — and Maine in particular — as an opportunity for picking up support among libertarians. His father, Ron Paul, finished a close second in Maine behind Republican nominee Mitt Romney, 38 percent to 36 percent, in 2012. And there was also that dust-up caused by a bunch of die-hard Ron Paul supporters from Maine at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Another Republican presidential candidate, for Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, is also visiting Maine next week. She will attend the Maine Heritage Policy Center’s Freedom & Opportunity Luncheon on Sept. 3 in South Portland.

Sussman’s huge political donations

It comes as no surprise anymore that financier Donald Sussman, who is the husband of Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, gives a lot of money to political causes. What might be a little surprising is the degree to which he and a handful of his wealthy peers are staking a bigger claim to the overall pool of state-level political donations.

According to a report from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, fewer than 400 families and companies have given almost half of all the funds given to the 2016 presidential campaigns and super-PACs. Many of those same donors are also giving to state-level campaigns.

Here’s a startling statistic: From 2000 through 2014, the top 50 donors gave a total of about $77 million to state campaigns. More than half of that total, $39 million, was given by the top five donors alone, and nearly half of the $39 million was given by the top donor.

Here are the totals for the top state campaign donors:

  • A. Jerrold Prenchio: $17.1 million.
  • United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States: $6.3 million.
  • George Soros, $5.9 million.
  • S. Donald Sussman, $5.2 million.
  • Richard Ellis Uihlein, $4.7 million.

At the state level, the top 50 donors gave to Republican candidates and causes by a two-to-one ratio. Sussman goes a long way toward equalling that out in Maine. From 2008 through 2014, according to the Maine Ethics Commission, Sussman gave nearly $1.3 million to state and county-level Democratic committees alone. He also gave a series of smaller donations to individual candidates, including the maximum $3,000 to 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud.

Campaign finance guru to visit Maine

U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, a Democrat from Maryland, is coming to Maine next week in support of Question 1 on the Nov. 3 ballot, which calls for a range of campaign finance reforms.

Sarbanes has carved out a niche for himself as a national leader on the issue of money in politics and had sponsored federal-level campaign finance bills while in Congress, according to a press release from the Yes on 1 campaign.

Sarbanes will participate in two public forums while in Maine:

WHAT: Portland Breakfast Roundtable Discussion on Innovative Approaches to Fighting Money in Politics
WHERE: Room 109/110, Abromson Center, University of Southern Maine, Portland
WHEN: Wednesday, Sept 2 from 7:30 a.m. – 9 a.m.
MODERATOR: Alison Smith
PANELISTS: Congressman John Sarbanes, Hon. S. Peter Mills, Executive Director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections Andrew Bossies, President of the League of Women Voters of Maine Jill Ward

WHAT: Bar Harbor Round Table Discussion on Innovative Approaches to Fighting Money in Politics
WHERE: Jesup Memorial Library, 34 Mt. Desert Street, Bar Harbor
WHEN: Wednesday, Sept. 2 from 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
MODERATOR: Hon. Jill Goldthwait
PANELISTS: Congressman John Sarbanes, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections Executive Director Andrew Bossie

Question 1 proposes a range of campaign finance reforms, including increasing public campaign financing for candidates, requiring special interest groups to list their top three donors on all political ads; will ramp up penalties for violating campaign finance laws, and implement new spending and contribution limits. The referendum also calls for the Legislature to find and cut some $6 million in corporate tax breaks to help finance the new law.

Reading list

Excuse me while I plug my hometown

It’s not often that my beloved hometown of South Paris, Maine, makes the news, so it was with excitement that I read a small business there has received the 2015 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.

Paris Autobarn LLC, one of more than 950 automotive shops in Maine, will change your oil or rebuild your transmission with a focus on environmentally stable practices. The business, located right there on East Maine Street, even has solar panels on the roof, heat pumps for warmth and LED lighting on the ceilings.

Judging by its website, the owners are pretty serious about being eco-friendly. Their epic beards prove they don’t even waste electricity on trimmers. — Christopher Cousins


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.