Sen. Olympia Snowe will spend the bulk of her remaining campaign funds starting up a leadership institute program for young women, her campaign committee announced Friday.
The retiring Republican senator has transferred $1.2 million from her campaign account to the Maine Community Foundation to support the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute, an initiative the senator will concentrate on after leaving the Senate early next year.
With the remaining $800,000, Snowe plans to pay off outstanding campaign debts and start a political action committee that supports the campaigns of centrist candidates who are willing to compromise.
“She’s excited about the next chapter,” said Lucas Caron, treasurer for the Snowe for Senate Committee. “She feels like there’s a lot she can do from outside of Congress in terms of trying to bring back a center and getting folks from both sides of the aisle to sit down and focus on solutions.”
Snowe, a moderate, shocked Maine’s political world in late February when she announced she wouldn’t seek re-election to the Senate, saying she was frustrated “that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.”
Snowe has served in the Senate since 1995.
As the Republican field to replace her settled, questions swirled about which candidate would gain her support. Secretary of State Charlie Summers, a former state director for Snowe, ultimately won the Republican nomination for the seat, but it’s unknown whether he’ll benefit from Snowe’s remaining campaign funds.
Snowe’s new political action committee will be set up to support candidates in the coming weeks, Caron said, but “it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s going to be doing a lot of activity with it this cycle.”
Caron said Snowe plans to support Republican candidates in Maine this election season. As for her political action committee, he said, “she doesn’t have any specific plans in terms of specific candidates she’s going to support.”
A spokeswoman for Summers’ Senate campaign couldn’t be reached for comment late Friday.
While plans still are evolving, Caron said the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute will pair high school girls with mentors who inspire them and help them determine the right career paths and postsecondary education opportunities.
The Snowe for Senate Committee had $2.4 million on hand at the end of March, according to the Federal Election Commission. Caron said that balance is down to about $2 million after the campaign had to refund all contributions made for the general election effort.
The campaign offered to refund donations made to Snowe’s primary campaign — the campaign would have been able to refund 40 percent of the value — but most donors were interested in supporting Snowe’s post-Senate plans, Caron said.
Federal election law allows candidates to transfer campaign account balances to charitable organizations, contribute to other candidates or save the funds for future runs for office.