National group studies paper chase in Maine governor’s race

The tight three-way race for the Blaine House is the subject of a brief report by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, which took a look at the most recently completed campaigns of each candidate for insights into ghosts of fundraising past.

What the report reveals are patterns of fundraising from in-state, out-of-state and personal sources that so far resemble the 2014 race, which the Cook Political Report has identified as one of the most competitive gubernatorial campaigns in the country.

And the money game in this race got more interesting this week as supporters for Independent Eliot Cutler filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court arguing the fundraising rules put candidates not enrolled in a political party at a disadvantage.

The group’s campaign finance report looks at the 2010 Blaine House runs for incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Cutler as well as the 2012 congressional campaign of Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud.

The report acknowledges challenges in comparing fundraising patterns in the 2010 gubernatorial race to Michaud’s 2012 congressional race, but gives unique insight by grouping individual contributions by industry, an effort supplemented by independent research into contributors’ occupations.

The report found LePage got the most support from contributors in finance, insurance and real estate (6.1 percent), general business (6 percent) and health (3.5 percent). Top industries contributing to Michaud’s 2012 campaign were labor (21.6 percent), health (9.5 percent) and finance, insurance and real estate (7.3 percent).

For Cutler, lawyers and lobbyists contributed the most by industry (3.7 percent), followed by finance, insurance and real estate (2.5 percent) and health (1.4 percent).

Those figures are hard to compare with the current campaign because more than 70 percent of contributors (through a May 27 reporting deadline) do not list an occupation and more than 45 percent do not list an employer, according to a Bangor Daily News analysis.

A search of the National Institute’s data shows 4,536 of its records are uncoded by industry, accounting for about $1.1 million in contributions in the 2014 gubernatorial race. But Pete Quist, the group’s research director, said in a phone interview that its new system will continue to improve its ability to recognize contributors, cross-referencing names with other fields and outside research to determine a contributor’s occupation and employer. (Check out the beta version of the group’s new search tool.)

Data on contributor types, however, is more reliable that employer and occupation information in the current campaign data, which provides other insights: that Cutler continues to lead in self-financing, Michaud leads in political action committee money and LePage leads in money from commercial sources.

Those figures can be compared with the National Institute’s study of 2010 and 2012 fundraising, which showed Cutler leaned most heavily on personal financing and LePage led the chart for funds raised from other entities in-state.

The look at Michaud’s 2012 congressional campaign found most of his funds came from out-of-state contributions, noting that the dynamics of a race for national office are different than a gubernatorial race.

Those trends noted in the historical figures are playing out in the current campaign reports, with Cutler leading for the amount of personal financing used, Michaud leading the pack for out-of-state fundraising as a percentage of total funds raised and LePage leading in-state contributions in the same measure.

In aggregate, by a May 27 report, Michaud led total in-state fundraising with about $300,000 more from Maine donors than LePage and about $40,000 more from in-state sources than Cutler, whose almost $500,000 in personal financing was included in in-state totals in the BDN analysis.

(Caveat: This is to say nothing of the influence that political action committees — in-state and out-of-state — may have on the race. Yesterday, a new PAC promised to spend at least $2 million in TV ads to support Michaud and other PACs are fundraising and spending to support LePage and Cutler.)

Take a look at those in-state figures, by town, below and peruse the other tabs in the view for different looks at the campaign dollars coming into the governors race in Maine:

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.