BREWER, Maine — Calling her re-election “critical to the small business owners” in Maine, the National Federation of Independent Business on Monday endorsed Susan Collins over her challenger, Tom Allen, in Maine’s U.S. Senate race.

In a brief event held at the offices of Trans-Tech Industries in Brewer, NFIB state director David Clough said Collins’ 100 percent voting record with NFIB in Congress and her background with her family’s lumber business in Aroostook County make her an easy choice for the group’s endorsement. Collins, who attended the event, was given a Guardian of Small Business statuette by Clough to reflect her voting record.

“She has a proven record of supporting small business and has demonstrated she understands small-business owners and the problems and challenges they face,” Clough said. “We think that [with] that combination of her experience and her voting record, it’s important to send her back to the United States Senate.”

Clough said Allen, who represents Maine’s 1st Congressional District, has a 12 percent rating from NFIB.

“That’s a great big contrast there,” Clough said.

The endorsement comes on the same day that Rasmussen Reports released the results of an Oct. 2 telephone survey that shows Collins is leading Allen 53 percent to 43 percent among prospective voters in Maine. Collins’ 10-point edge in the polls is down from a 13-point lead in September and 13 percent lead in August, according to the polling firm. She held a seven-point lead in the race in June and July.

Allen’s campaign issued a statement Monday afternoon saying that the congressman “has a great record of standing up for small businesses here in Maine and is working hard for real tax credits to help them prosper and expand.”

NFIB, according to the Allen campaign, is a partisan special-interest group.

“Tom Allen votes for smart economic policies that focus on small business and our middle class, while Susan Collins votes for the failed Bush economic policies that favor big multinational corporations and the superwealthy,” the statement indicated.

After the brief event, Collins traveled to Waterville and spoke at a local Rotary Club luncheon about the $700 billion economic stabilization plan approved last week by Congress and President Bush.

Collins told the group that, though no one may like having to prop up the banks and credit market with so much money, it is necessary to prevent the global economy from sinking into a deep economic depression. She laid the blame for the financial crisis on “greedy traders on Wall Street” and “unscrupulous mortgage brokers,” some of whom she said may be guilty of fraud.

The package that was approved last week sets the stage for another future bill that will address the regulatory shortcomings that contributed to the global credit meltdown, Collins said Monday afternoon while riding her campaign bus from Waterville back to Bangor.

The credit default swap market — a private, unregulated market that many have said is responsible for helping the credit crisis spread to banks throughout the country and across the globe — needs to be regulated, she said, either as an insurance market or by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. Mortgage-backed securities also need to be better regulated to promote better disclosure about loan risk for both businesses and lenders, she said, and the rating agencies need to be scrutinized more closely to ensure they are honest and objective about the companies and markets they evaluate.

Allen, like Collins, voted in favor of last week’s revised bill. Both argued that the bill should contain strong taxpayer protections, prevent excessive payments to executives of failing companies, and include strong accountability measures.

Robert Barton, a Rotarian and a certified public accountant in Waterville, said Monday after Collins’ talk that he had mixed feelings about the economic stabilization package. He said he had heard of the credit default swap market, but it was not anything that he ever came across in his business.

“You have to have money,” he said of the swaps, which some experts have said amounted to Wall Street betting on the likelihood that some companies would fail.

Barton said he thinks the federal government had little choice but to commit to buying the bad credit in order to keep the economy from going under completely. But the necessity doesn’t make the fact that the taxpayers have to pick up the tab for Wall Street’s risky financial practices any easier to swallow, he said. The package, he said, amounts to each taxpayer in the country coughing up $3,000 to prop up the failing financial institutions.

“I’m kind of disgusted by it, actually,” Barton said. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better. I don’t think people realize that, especially in Maine.”

Collins and Allen are scheduled to debate today in Brewer. The event, scheduled for noon at Jeff’s Catering, is sponsored by the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....