Attack ads against Angus King overshadow issues in Maine Senate race

Cynthia Dill, Angus King and Charlie Summers are running to represent Maine in the U.S. Senate.
AP
Cynthia Dill, Angus King and Charlie Summers are running to represent Maine in the U.S. Senate.
Posted Sept. 25, 2012, at 5:55 a.m.

Candidates running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Olympia Snowe amped up the volume Monday. One called for a release of income tax documents, another called for a stop to negative campaign ads on television, and the third turned his focus to veterans.

In a release issued Monday, Cynthia Dill, the Democratic nominee in Maine’s U.S. Senate race, called on independent Angus King and Republican Charlie Summers to release 10 years’ worth of income tax returns.

“This united effort will give Maine voters greater insight into our backgrounds, full knowledge of our finances and a deeper understanding of who we are as candidates to the highest elected federal office in the state,” Dill said in a written statement.

Dill’s release came moments before King, former governor of Maine, opened a news conference to discuss another round of negative campaign ads against him.

The ads, purchased by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, are part of a nearly $2 million effort by conservative backed political action committees, aimed at discrediting King.

In Dill’s release Monday she referenced the outside spending that has become a predominant theme in this year’s election cycle in Maine.

“In truth, there is not much we can do to control the flow of such advertising, which falls under the protections of free speech,” Dill said.

The candidates releasing their tax returns, however, would address the broader concerns of transparency, accountability and public trust, Dill said.

She suggested the returns would be filed with a third-party escrow agent and would not be made public until all the candidates had submitted 10 years of returns.

Crystal Canney, the director of communications for King’s campaign, said they were having discussions on the matter with King, who was traveling Monday.

They had no immediate response to Dill’s suggestion, however.

“Charlie welcomes the opportunity, and we’re gathering all the necessary information and look forward to Gov. King being fully transparent with Mainers,” Drew Brandewie, a spokesman with Summers’ campaign, said.

The latest RNSC ad attacking King features what appear to be residents of the town of Roxbury, the home of a wind energy project built by a company in which King was a partner.

The residents accuse King of making “millions of dollars” in profit while leaving them with an ugly eyesore on the landscape.

King’s campaign was quick to rebut the ads.

“The latest attack ad is factually inaccurate and misleading,” King’s campaign said in a written statement. “Two blatant inaccuracies include the ‘millions made’ and ‘sweetheart deal.’ Both have been disproven in media reports.”

King earned $212,000 from the Record Hill project in Roxbury, according to a recent report in the Portland Press Herald.

During a news conference Monday, King’s campaign demanded the ads be taken off the airwaves. They also asked Maine Secretary of State Summers to distance himself from the ads and join in asking they be taken down.

Summers’ refusal to reject the ads was akin to endorsing them, Canney said.

“We are going to work to get this ad pulled off the air,” Canney said. “While Charlie Summers is silent he is in fact giving the nod to the NRSC that what they are doing is OK and it’s not. This is the worst of the worst and yet you have a candidate who has said it’s OK to subsidize oil and the nuclear energy industry but not renewables.”

King’s campaign also produced Roxbury residents who supported the project, including Roland Louvat, who touted the project’s impact on local property taxes.

“Taxes went down and I can hunt here, what more could I want?” Louvant said.

Later Monday, King’s campaign also released its own video featuring Roxbury residents who support the wind project there.

Summers campaign did not immediately respond to the King campaign’s news conference on the negative television ads. The ads are being paid for by a group outside of Summers’ official campaign.

King’s campaign also released a new ad over the weekend featuring an endorsement by a star from the NBC hit crime drama “Law and Order.”

King’s campaign also released a new ad featuring actor Sam Waterston on Saturday.

In it Waterston says, “Here in Maine groups from Washington are attacking a moderate, my friend Angus King . . . I think they are afraid of Angus in Washington, which might be the best reason to send him there.”

Meanwhile, Summers’ campaign was focusing on his military service as a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Brandewie said they would be rolling out a “Veterans for Charlie” campaign that would include a statewide coalition of veterans. The honorary chairmen for the new coalition are former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and Don Collins, a WWII veteran, former state senator and the father U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Summers is a commander in the United States Naval Reserve and has served on active duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

“There is no group of people I respect more than our veterans,” Summers said about the new coalition.”I’m humbled by their support and ensuring their needs are met will be one of my top priorities in the Senate.”

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