October 19, 2012

Maine's political donations at $8.5 million

MaineToday Media majority owner Sussman has donated $700K to Democrats

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Mainers have donated more than $8.5 million to federal candidates and political committees this election cycle. Individual donors number in the thousands, but a select few are spending more than most.

click image to enlarge

S. Donald Sussman and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine

File Photo

TOP 10 INDIVIDUAL donors to federal campaigns and PACs in 2011-2012

1. S. Donald Sussman $920,200

2. Bruce Poliquin $125,201

3. Chellie Pingree $99,503

4. Lisa Gorman $88,700

5. Daniel Hildreth $88,200

6. Margot Milliken $87,300

7. Stephen King $86,700

8. Leon Gorman $85,700

9. Robert C.S. Monks $79,100

10. Cyrus Hagge $77,000

(The list includes only donations recorded from Maine addresses)

An analysis of Federal Election Commissions filings shows that the top 10 Maine donors have spent $1.7 million during the 2011-2012 election period, accounting for about 20 percent of the total spending. The figure contrasts with the average Maine donation of $907 and even more so with the median -- which tosses out the highest and the lowest amounts -- of $300.

The big-donor numbers track with national trends that show the wealthiest Americans account for nearly one-quarter of campaign spending. That analysis, conducted by the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, showed that 26,783 donors spent nearly $774 million, or 24 percent of all spending, during the 2010 election.

Nationally, the big donors have split party affiliation. In Maine, nine of the top 10 donors have supported Democratic candidates and political committees.

President Barack Obama has been the biggest beneficiary of Maine donors large and small. His campaign and the political action committee that supports him has received nearly $2.7 million. Mainers supporting Obama's Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, have given the former Massachusetts governor $208,379.

The second top beneficiary has been the House Majority Political Action Committee, the group that already has spent $15.3 million attempting to elect Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives. The House Majority PAC has received $750,500 from two Maine donors, S. Donald Sussman and Sarah McIntyre. Sussman, the majority owner of the Morning Sentinel, the Kenebec Journal and the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, has given $700,000 to the PAC from his Maine address.

Federal records show that Sussman's donations to the House Majority PAC, and to other federal political committees, are even higher when adding donations from his business address in Connecticut. The same may be true of other Maine donors with businesses located out of state. Those donations are not included in the Press Herald analysis or its online database.

When taking into account all of his federal donations, Sussman has given $1.15 million to the House Majority PAC and $1.35 million during the current election cycle. That figure puts Sussman tied at No. 27 in the country in disclosed political spending, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By comparison, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has spent $3.1 million, to place No. 10 on the national list. Republican donor Sheldon Adelson sits firmly at No. 1 after spending $36.25 million so far.

Those figures don't include so-called "dark money," that is, contributions to politically active nonprofit groups that don't have to disclose the identities of their donors. A recent investigation by Pro Publica showed that dark money groups had spent $71 million on political advertisements through Aug. 8, a figure that is certain to increase by the conclusion of the election.

Sussman, who has donated to candidates in other states, is by far the biggest federal donor from Maine. In an emailed statement, Sussman said that he was "proud to invest in Democrats to protect the values we all share -- we will all benefit from their leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives."

"Democrats are the ones standing up for fairness, equality, and a democracy that gives everyone a voice, and they are the ones who are going to move us beyond the Bush-era economic mess and help us build strong communities and new business opportunities so all Americans have the chance to fulfill their dreams," he said.

State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin is No. 2 on the individual donor list. Poliquin has given $125,201 to federal campaigns, nearly all of it to his own. All but $1,200 of Poliquin's donations went to his unsuccessful bid to become the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate. He finished second in the primary.

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