WASHINGTON — There’s something a little ‘fishy’ about U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s latest filing with the Federal Election Commission.
The campaign spending disclosure forms of the Maine Democrat are all in order and were submitted on time, but the intriguing fact has less to do with forms than with fins: Almost one-tenth of Michaud’s campaign outlays have been spent at seafood restaurants.
Of the $182,248 Michaud has spent campaigning for the 2010 election, $13,072, or 7.2 percent, has been spent at seafood restaurants.
Michaud’s campaign manager, Greg Olson, said that the congressman tilts toward local caterers and food for fundraisers.
“When we do events up here in Maine, we like to showcase some of the finer foods we have up here, like lobster and other seafoods,” Olson said. “Also, when we do events down in Washington we try and do Maine-themed events.”
One such Maine-themed event was a $10,854 clambake and lobster dinner, catered by Foster’s Downeast Clambake of York Harbor. Olson said the dinner was “very popular” with the Washington donors who attended. The same company also has catered two events on the White House lawn and fed partygoers at former President George H.W. Bush’s Kennebunkport home.
Casting a net for donors with such high-profile events comes with a largish price tag. In fact, the only two listed Michaud expenditures costlier than the clambake were Olson’s $33,751 salary and $49,331 to Sutter’s Mill, a Washington fundraising group.
Receipts also show two visits totaling $895 to Saltwater Grille on the waterfront in South Portland, where entrees average about $22 and political events are not uncommon, according to restaurant manager Megan Brady. Brady said that she recalls only Democratic members of Maine’s delegation dining there, though “maybe one of the Republicans came last summer.”
Washington-based Pour House, which holds two or three political fundraisers every week, received $820 in Michaud campaign money. The tavern recently featured a Northeast-themed menu, including a $13 “lobstah roll” and a $12.50 baked macaroni and cheese with Maine lobster stirred in.
Another Washington eatery, Johnny’s Half Shell, tallied $505 of campaign money on five occasions. According to its Web site, “Johnny’s continues to delight Washington diners with its seafood specialties and strong drinks.”
Michaud’s patronage of local fishcentric eateries has not, from a financial viewpoint, hooked much support from fishermen. The congressman has received $1,000 from a political action committee representing the fisheries industry, far below the $10,000 he has raked in from PACs representing machinists and aeronautical workers.
Olson, however, said that the fishermen’s support could not be measured financially because they tend to give as individuals, not as an industry.
“When you look at things in PAC sense, I don’t think there’s that much organized fishery money like there would be for any other industry,” Olson said. “The fishermen are a nonideological type; they’re very focused on their own industry.”
Olson said that while Michaud does not invest a lot of time in choosing menus for events, he has made his preferences known.
“At the risk of sounding too corny, he loves lobsters, potatoes and blueberries, as all Mainers do,” Olson said.