LePage’s heavily watched PAC makes big, late transfer to Maine GOP

Good Halloween morning from Augusta, where the specter of Gov. Paul LePage is looming over the last eight days of the 2016 legislative elections, with a big transfer out of his political action committee, ICE PAC.

He and two former administration officials run the group, which had raised $385,000 as of Oct. 25. So far, it has spent $199,000, with $193,000 of it going to the Maine Republican Party, including a $110,000 transfer on Friday.

This money is being watched by insiders in both parties closely, largely because of LePage’s tenuous relationship with Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, who is running the effort to keep the Senate majority that LePage has said he expects to lose.

The PAC also hasn’t shed much light on its activities. Reports filed with the Maine Ethics Commission also don’t illuminate much. Most of the money that went to the party was donated in general contributions, but $24,000 was for campaign workers’ salaries.

In September, LePage told reporters at a news conference (at the 16-minute mark) the PAC was formed to help Republican candidates, but he wouldn’t answer questions about who.

“I’m not going to tell you,” he said. “If I tell you, it’s no secret.”

The governor also said that he has been “actively, behind the scenes, supporting candidates and you haven’t caught me yet,” except that’s not entirely true: He played in two Senate primaries, including in Sagadahoc County, where he helped Bowdoin conservative Guy Lebida beat moderate Sen. Linda Baker of Topsham.

Thibodeau and other Republican leaders supported Baker, and they haven’t helped Lebida in a likely uphill battle against former Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic. That fueled suspicion among some that LePage’s PAC was an extra-party device. That hasn’t proved true, but we’d still like to know more about it.

Officers Michael Hersey and Holly Lusk as well as Maine GOP spokeswoman Nina McLaughlin didn’t respond to a request for comment on Sunday evening. We’ll report back if we find out more. — Michael Shepherd

Clinton pulls ahead in Maine; ballot question race tighten in new poll

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has surged in Maine and leads have shrunk for four of six ballot questions since September, according to polling released this weekend by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

  • Statewide among a sample of 670 voters, Clinton was up 48 percent to 37 percent for Republican Donald Trump and 11 percent for other candidates. She led by three points in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District after Trump led by 15 points in the newspaper’s last survey in September, casting doubts on his long-standing hopes of winning the district’s one Electoral College vote. This is similar to other recent polling in the race.
  • Questions 1 and 3 look to be Maine’s closest ballot initiative races. Marijuana legalization led with 50 percent saying yes to 41 percent saying no and 9 percent undecided, down from a 15-point lead in September. Expanded background checks on gun sales and transfers led at 52 percent to 43 percent. Its lead was 28 points in September.
  • Question 2, which would place a new 3 percent tax on income of more than $200,000 to fund education, was at 57 percent to 34 percent saying no, down slightly from a 28-point margin in September. Question 4, which would raise Maine’s hourly minimum wage to $12 by 2020 was at 57 percent to 35 percent, down from a 32-point margin in September.
  • And Question 5, which would establish ranked-choice voting for gubernatorial, congressional and legislative elections, was at 49 percent to 31 percent, with 20 percent undecided. The margin was similar in September. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • Late in their nationally targeted race, Democrat Emily Cain has nearly closed the fundraising gap with U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin. She raised $3.1 million as of Oct. 19, just behind the Republican’s haul of $3.2 million. She spent down all but $134,000 of it by that date, while Poliquin still had $1 million left. But Cain spokesman Dan Gleick said all major purchases have been made with “luxury items” like print and digital ads likely coming with remaining money.
  • Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson got an endorsement from the Maine Legislature on Friday. It was from Rep. William Tuell, R-East Machias, who said “I and many other Americans who believe that character matters will be seeking a third party alternative this year” and “if we in the two major parties don’t wise up really soon, candidates like Mr. Johnson are going to gain traction, and deservedly so.” — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • Learn ‘the art of tickling’: A man who has “done research on laughter and ticklishness” in Massachusetts says he has developed a technique that is “a great stress release,” so he’s seeking “a woman with ticklish feet that likes to laugh and enjoys massage to volunteer her soles and toes for exploration.” There is no pay and a mention in The Daily Brief does not constitute an endorsement. Here’s the best soundtrack with the word “tickling” in it.
  • I hope your Halloween goes this well: A woman dressed as No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani at a Halloween party in Lebanon “stood out like a glowing angle among demon chicks lol” to a man who started talking to her about “can ibis” — cannabis, I think — and realized that while she’s engaged and he’s “not trying to in fringe … you can’t deny we have a connection.” Here’s a bonus soundtrack. Happy Halloween, all. — Michael Shepherd
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.