AUGUSTA, Maine — Sen. Olympia Snowe is using about a quarter of the funds remaining in her campaign war chest to launch a political action committee that she says will support candidates and elected officials focused on consensus-building.
Snowe, a moderate who is stepping down from the Senate in January after serving three terms, said Olympia’s List will first aim to build support for members of Congress she thinks are consensus builders and urge them to work in a bipartisan way during Congress’ lame-duck session following November’s election.
The committee doesn’t expect to make endorsements or contributions to political candidates this election cycle, said Lucas Caron, the committee’s treasurer.
“A more divided electorate has resulted in our government becoming more polarized and thereby failing to do the people’s business,” Snowe said Tuesday in a statement. “Americans must demand results from government — which will apply the political pressure necessary to motivate our elected representatives to step up and come together to resolve the challenges facing our country.”
The Olympia’s List website, olympiaslist.org, lists Republican and Democratic members of Congress who are closest to the ideological center, according to a rating system used by National Journal. According to a press release, Snowe’s committee will spend the next five weeks urging those members of Congress to work in a bipartisan way after the elections, which is when Congress will address the impending “fiscal cliff” expected when the President George W. Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire and the first wave of $1.2 trillion in federal budget cuts take effect.
Olympia’s List — whose name mirrors that of Emily’s List, a political action committee that supports pro-choice, Democratic women candidates — plans to raise money, make endorsements and contribute to candidates in future election cycles, Caron said. It’s too late to start doing that for this year’s elections since the committee hasn’t developed firm criteria for earning the committee’s endorsement, he said.
“We don’t feel like that’s something we could rush,” Caron said.
Snowe 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, who has about $2 million in remaining campaign funds, is using about $500,000 to start Olympia’s List, Caron said. In July, Snowe announced she planned to spend about $1.2 million in remaining campaign funds on a leadership institute program for young women, and the remainder on paying off outstanding campaign debts and starting the political action committee.
Before her campaign committee became Olympia’s List, Snowe made campaign contributions to Maine legislative candidates and Republican Congressional candidates Jon Courtney and Kevin Raye.
Absent from the contribution list was Charlie Summers, the Republican vying to replace Snowe in the Senate who served nine years as Snowe’s state director. Politico reported in July that Snowe hasn’t gotten over Summers’ decision not to endorse her in the GOP Senate primary when she was still mulling a run for re-election.