Fundraising Totals Show Competitive Race for Governor

With the release of fundraising totals for gubernatorial candidates this week, we have our first look at where all three major candidates are getting their money and what resources they may have to contest the election.

Unlike in 2010, we don’t have large primary fields or candidates running using public financing, so the comparisons this time around should be a little easier. All three major candidates are also experienced fundraisers and have ties to individuals, companies and organizations that may help them make 2014 a very expensive election.

In total funds raised, Eliot Cutler is at the head of the pack. He has been raising money for six months and has amassed a total of $449,716.81. Earlier this month, he announced having raised $430,000 from contributors other than himself and that total is accurate according to this report. He also contributed $17,625.81 from his own pocket in in-kind contributions (the dark strip at the bottom of his bar). Cutler also raised the most from individual contributors and the least from corporations and PACs (the slightly lighter strip) of any of the candidates.

Governor Paul Lepage has raised $339,654.08 for his campaign so far, but that includes donations from as far back as December of 2011. He has raised the most from corporations, PACs and other committees (the darker strip on his bar) of any candidate, with nearly a third of his total coming from sources other than individual contributors. There are a number of corporate interests with business before the state that have already given $1,500 or more to the governor’s campaign, including Cianbro, WalMart, AETNA, Maine Beer & Wine Wholesalers, FairPoint, Maine Hospital Association, PhRMA and Time Warner.

Congressman Mike Michaud reports raising the least of the three candidates with $313,530, but this amount was raised in a fraction of the time of his opponents’ totals. 11% of Michaud’s total is from corporations, PACs and committees, with maximum contributions from his Congressional campaign account, his Mill to the Hill PAC and the PAC of the United Steelworkers union, of which Michaud is a member.

Cutler’s claim to have raised 40% more than Michaud’s total is close to correct, but if his self funding is not included the figure is nearer to 38%.

The fundraising picture looks very different if we compare the candidates over the same time frame. In the first 18 days after he entered the race, Michaud significantly out-raised his opponents. If he maintains a similar pace, he’ll be well-situated for the election.

LePage’s fundraising rate may seem anemic during this short period, but it’s likely to increase a great deal following this report. During the legislative session he is prohibited from taking contributions from certain companies and lobbyists and his large fundraiser hosted by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush took place just after the reporting period ended.

LePage also had the advantage of his own dark money group operating in step with his re-election campaign. We don’t know what money has gone to Maine People Before Politics, or where it has come from, but they have already aired some campaign-like TV ads in support of LePage.

Cutler’s fundraising during this period was strong, especially considering that he may have already approached some of his more likely donors at an earlier point and that he can raise money only for the general election and not for a party primary, but the identities of some of his and Michaud’s donors may indicate some weaknesses.

As I noted previously, Michaud’s campaign treasurer, Bonnie Porta, supported Cutler in 2010 and her husband, Robert C.S. Monks, served as his treasurer. We see in this report that Porta, Monks, and other members of their family have given large amounts to the Michaud campaign.

Other former Cutler supporters who donated to Michaud this cycle include Leon Gorman, the former President of and Chairman of the Board of LL Bean, prominent lawyers Michael Asen and Robert Gips, The Highlands owner John Wasileski, Robert Baldacci and Lamey-Wellehan owner Jim Wellehan, who served as a co-chair for Cutler in Androscoggin County in 2010. All of these individuals are relatively well-known and represent a significant loss of money, connections and fundraising experience for Cutler and a gain for Michaud.

Of course, Cutler could more than make up for any fundraising disadvantage by using his his personal wealth to back his campaign, should he again chose to do so.

Another measure of the health of fundraising efforts and the local appeal of candidates is the percentages of contributions coming from Maine as opposed to out-of-state.

Governor LePage saw 85% of his total itemized contributions (the lighter bar) come from within Maine’s borders and 91% of his donors (the darker bar) listed Maine addresses.

Michaud’s numbers were similar, which I found somewhat surprising for a federal officeholder, with 83% of his funds and 88% of his donors from in-state.

Cutler raised 55% of his total amount from in-state, not surprising considering his fundraising history in 2010 and his connections in D.C. from his time in government and his career as a lawyer and lobbyist. In published reports, his campaign has said that 68% of their 632 contributors are from in-state. However, among the 517 contributors they have itemized in their report, only 62% are from Maine. If both are true, this means that Cutler had an additional 115 donors below the reporting level, 94% of which were from Maine (and according to the totals he reported, gave an average of $39). We have no similar information for the other candidates’ unitemized, small-dollar donors.

These numbers don’t quite jibe with the 433 Maine and 210 out-of-state Cutler donations reported by the Portland Press Herald (the provenance of which isn’t given). This may be a result of the difference between counting donations and donors, as some contributors gave more than one contribution.

Perhaps the best measure of the strength of these campaigns at this point is the money they have available to spend. If we take the fundraising totals and subtract the expenditures that have been made so far, we find that the three candidates are relatively evenly-matched. Michaud, having spent a smaller proportion of his funds, leads LePage by just $11,000 cash on hand. Cutler is in front by around $54,000.

With things so close at this point, it will be especially interesting to view the next reports and see if any gaps in resources have begun to emerge.

The media did a relatively good job reporting on these totals, perhaps because, unlike in 2010, no campaigns attempted to grossly inflate their own standings (looking at you, Bruce Poliquin), but I do have a few quibbles. MaineBiz only included the last six months of fundraising activity in their charts and portions of their article, ignoring LePage’s previous fundraising, including from out-of-state corporations. They also included Cutler’s self-financing without any differentiation or notation in their in-state totals. The Portland Daily Sun, on the other hand, failed to report LePage’s latest fundraising at all, giving instead his total from before the most recent reporting period.

Mike Tipping

About Mike Tipping

Mike writes about Maine politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People's Alliance and Maine People's Resource Center, writes a political column for the Portland Press Herald