TV ad criticizes Pingree for not ‘keeping money out of politics’

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree in March.
Robert F Bukaty | AP
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree in March.
Posted Oct. 25, 2012, at 5:17 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 26, 2012, at 10:56 a.m.
Jon Courtney, Republican candidate for 1st District House, campaigns in Bath on July 3, 2012.
Jon Courtney, Republican candidate for 1st District House, campaigns in Bath on July 3, 2012.

AUGUSTA, Maine — As Democratic incumbent Chellie Pingree’s campaign announced Thursday that it had topped the $1 million fundraising mark, Jon Courtney, her Republican challenger in Maine’s 1st Congressional District, launched a television ad that criticizes her for failing to “keep money out of politics.”

The ad, which shows footage of Pingree at a 2009 conference saying “having to attach yourself to people with money” is no way to run a democracy, marks a distinct change in tenor for the 1st District race. Previous ads from each campaign focused on their candidate’s’ achievements rather than attacking the opponent.

Courtney and Pingree maintained a largely cordial tone during a televised debate Oct. 18 at Bowdoin College in Brunswick.

The new Courtney ad notes that Pingree married wealthy hedge fund manager and Democratic Party donor S. Donald Sussman in 2011. Earlier this year, Sussman bought Maine Today Media, which publishes three daily newspapers in the state. Titled “The Problem,” Courtney’s ad accuses Pingree’s family of “buying the news media and influencing elections here in Maine.”

Keith Herrick, Courtney’s campaign manager, said the campaign spent $21,000 to run the ad “in targeted locations on major local news sources.” In a release announcing the ad, Herrick said Sussman “has spent $4.5 million over the last 10 years to push his agenda, over $1 million of which has been spent while engaged or married to Pingree, yet she insists that she wants to take the money out of politics.” Herrick also states that 97 percent of Courtney’s donations come from Maine.

“It’s sad that state Sen. Courtney has decided to attack Chellie and her family,” Pingree’s campaign manager Kate Simmons said. “The people of Maine deserve an honest discussion about how to improve the economy and create jobs, rather than nasty personal attacks.”

Pingree’s campaign issued a release reporting that its overall fundraising surpassed $1 million between Oct. 1 and 17. On a campaign finance disclosure statement filed Thursday, the Democrat, who is seeking a third two-year term representing Maine’s 1st District in the U.S. House, reported receiving $56,056 during that period.

In total, Pingree has raised $1,007,661 for this year’s election. She has maintained a huge lead at the polls and in campaign contributions throughout the race.

“Chellie’s grass-roots support continues to be tremendous,” Simmons said in a release announcing the fundraising accomplishment. “People from all over the state and beyond are supporting Chellie because they appreciate her willingness to stand up for the issues they care about.”

Pingree’s campaign also announced that it had purchased $50,000 in additional ad time between now and Election Day. With earlier ad buys, the campaign reports spending just less than $250,000 on ads designed to highlight Pingree’s constituent service and advocacy for Maine veterans.

The Democrat’s report lists $173,500 in cash on hand.

In the financial disclosure statement it filed Thursday to the Federal Election Commission, Courtney’s campaign reported raising $16,274 between Oct. 1 and 17. The Republican lists $121,596 in total receipts for the campaign.

The Courtney campaign has $30,852 in available cash, according to Thursday’s disclosure statement, the final fundraising report required by the FEC before the Nov. 6 election.

As of Friday morning, the FEC website showed no third-party independent expenditures on behalf of either candidate.

Contribution and spending records filed Oct. 15 for July 1 through Sept. 30 showed Pingree with a campaign coffers cache of almost 10 times that of Courtney. Polls show her with an advantage of at least 25 percentage points.

Courtney, of Springvale, serves as Maine Senate majority leader. He is making his first bid for federal elected office.

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