Progressive Super PAC debuts with $106K to oppose LePage over weekend

A national Super PAC registered in Maine earlier this month has made its first expenditure, putting $106,000 of another PAC’s money into an online ad opposing Gov. Paul LePage.

The group Progressive Kick IE Maine had the second-highest amount of independent expenditures in the gubernatorial race over the weekend, after the Maine Conservation Voters Action Fund. The conservation group spent $265,677 on TV ad buys opposing LePage and $88,677 on ads supporting Michaud over the weekend. The group in August launched an ad criticizing LePage’s environmental record.

The spending from these PACs is separate from what campaigns spend in the race to try and sway voters’ opinions. Coordinating those expenditures with a campaign is against state law, though coordination is, understandably, hard to track or prove.

Progressive Kick received $250,000 from the PAC National Nurses United for Patient Protection in early October, the pool of money used for its ad buys.

According to Progressive Kick’s website, the PAC targets congressional candidates and state legislators. In its registration filing, the PAC indicated that its purpose is to oppose both LePage and independent Eliot Cutler.

The spending from the newcomer PAC Progressive Kick IE Maine provides a preview of some of the challenges in tracking independent expenditures by PACs and party committees in the two weeks before the election, particularly as those groups are turning more attention to House and Senate races.

The spending reports are available on a special page from the Maine Ethics Commission, which provides the PDF files of filings for each outside group filing independent expenditures in state races.

Some of those filings are done by hand. Others are done electronically and are available for download in spreadsheets where it’s possible to see the total spending and types of spending by a specific PAC as the race nears.

But there’s one key thing missing from the data: who the group supported or opposed with the spending.

I’m told those fields will be added to the Ethics Commission data, expected in advance of the election.

That still leaves the commission with the challenge of navigating between electronic and paper reports for independent expenditures, which is just one aspect of the commission’s work in this election. So far, outside groups have filed more than 245 individual PDF reports documenting at least $7 million in spending.

As of Oct. 10, independent expenditures totaled $6.83 million, topping the 2010 record of $4 million.

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.