This small Maine political operation started the Trump-LL Bean commotion

Linda Bean in a Rockland lobster storage warehouse that burned in 2010. (BDN file photo)

President-elect Donald Trump turned his hot Twitter light on Maine on Thursday, backing L.L. Bean and company heiress Linda Bean after her donations to a pro-Trump committee led to an effort from progressives to boycott the outfitter.

But though her donation to the pro-Trump group has drawn global attention, it is relatively minor in the context of Bean’s past political activity in Maine, Bean, a Republican congressional candidate in 1988 and 1992, has given more than $580,000 to political candidates and causes since 1996. Before donating to the pro-Trump effort, she had given money to the 2016 presidential campaigns of Sen. Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina.

The committee she gave to was also a modest operation, spending most of a total of $67,000 on pro-Trump ads, including one that featured Ann LePage, the wife of Maine Gov. Paul LePage, saying Trump is “blunt, just like my husband, but he gets things done.”

The boycott call came last week from Grab Your Wallet after Bean was named in a report by the Associated Press on the Federal Election Commission’s finding that Bean contributed $30,000 to Making America Great Again LLC, a political action committee limited to taking just $5,000 in donations from one person.

The committee also told the AP that it had intended to file as a “super PAC,” which can raise unlimited amounts of money, but it didn’t in error. It re-filed with the FEC this week, saying it should be one, changing its name to Making Maine Great Again and changing the attribution of some donations.

Most of the committee’s money — just over $44,000 — went to a company controlled by conservative radio host Ray Richardson, a LePage ally who booked cable TV and radio ads with it. The group also ran an $8,000 Facebook ad campaign and bought signs.

L.L. Bean responded to the boycott call on Sunday, saying “we stay out of politics” and that Linda Bean is just one member of a 10-person board, looking like it wanted to stay out of the political fray.

But Trump’s tweet thanking Bean for her “great support and courage” and urging people to “buy L.L.Bean” reinvigorated the story, also raising concerns over his leveraging his power to boost a private company that may not have wanted his help and had nothing to do with the minor political operation that helped Trump in Maine.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.