June 22, 2018
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The contradictions hidden in money trail of Maine GOP governor’s race

By Darren Fishell, BDN Staff

Campaigns, political action committees and individual people throw tens of millions of dollars behind their favorite candidates every election, hoping to buy favor, influence or just maintain a valuable relationship. It’s common for observers to examine those contributions to see who, hypothetically, has the most power over an election’s outcome.

But what about donations by the candidates themselves?

The analysis highlights contradictions between their actions and words. And it shows what resources they’ve drawn from — such as their PAC, business or personal savings — to donate to others, giving an idea of their networks and history.

Their contributions from their personal pockets date back as far as the early 1990s. Information on what their political action committees spent dates back a decade, to 2008.

This piece covering the four Republican candidates is the first of three stories looking at all the candidates vying for the Blaine House.

Garrett Mason

Republican Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason’s history reveals a contradictory stance on “welfare for politicians,” of which he is now a recipient. He’s opposed to Maine’s taxpayer-funded campaign system but decided to use it anyway.

“I have always been an opponent of the clean elections program,” Mason wrote in an email. “However, the people have overwhelmingly support[ed] the program three times now, and I do not believe that the system was put in place only for Democrats to use.”

His opposition isn’t just opinion. In 2015, the political action committee he leads, called Charting Maine’s Future, gave $300 to fight an expansion of the Maine Clean Election program. The expansion reopened the public financing system to candidates running for governor.

The system has delivered to Mason’s campaign $400,000 in Maine tax dollars. If he amasses another 800 qualifying contributions of $5, he could get another $150,000 before the June primaries.

Mason, whose political action committee raised roughly $175,000 since 2011, said the system was the best option to finance his campaign.

“The fact is I do not have the personal money to finance my own campaign,” Mason wrote.

That’s a contrast with at least one candidate, businessman Shawn Moody, who put nearly $500,000 into his 2010 independent run for governor. But past giving shows that the 32-year-old Mason does have some means.

In total, Mason has ushered almost $100,000 to other campaigns and candidates, but reports give the impression he shelled out more from his own pocket than he really did.

In analyzing Mason’s donations, the BDN found an error made by the Maine Republican Party. The party inaccurately reported to the agency that oversees election financing that Mason gave the party $7,750 from his own pocket when the money really came from Mason’s PAC. The Maine Ethics Commission confirmed the error.

That’s the case with a number of donations, which he said came from his Senate campaign and not his personal funds. Mason said “the majority” of contributions in his name actually came from his PAC or campaign, as with the wrongly listed $7,750 contribution.

While Mason downplayed an ability to raise funds, his political action committee, Charting Maine’s Future, brought in about $175,000 since 2011. The Maine Republican Party was the single-largest recipient of his PAC dollars, getting $38,197 in 2016.

Most of that political action committee money came from corporate interests.

Mason’s PAC received about a quarter of its money from individual donors, but most gave handsomely. He received $25,000 from Robert Bahre, the former owner of the New Hampshire International Speedway, and another $5,000 from Bahre’s son, Gary Bahre. Lobster magnate and L.L. Bean heiress Linda Bean also gave $5,000 to Mason’s PAC.

About half of contributions to Mason’s PAC came from corporations, with about 20 percent from other PACs.

“The donations that I solicited, including from personal donors, were used to implement an internship program comprised of college aged students from around the nation,” Mason wrote. “This effort not only helped win the Senate Republicans back to back majorities, but it provided these students the opportunity to learn about the political campaign process.”

Mary Mayhew

Mayhew’s political past is perhaps most complicated, with personal and professional history guiding her contributions to candidates on both sides of the aisle as she’s inched closer and closer to the Blaine House.

In 2008, the former Maine Department of Health and Human Services commissioner gave $200 to the political action committee of Democratic 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree, a contribution Mayhew’s opponents are eager to point out.

That contribution and others, to former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, and independent Gov. Angus King, date back to her time as a lobbyist. She represented the Beer and Wine Wholesalers of Maine before working for the Maine Hospital Association.

In 2010, her business Mayhew Government Relations gave $100 to Democrat Emily Cain’s bid for state Senate, shortly before giving $200 to the Maine Senate Republican Majority, a political action committee.

“Most of my donations were related to my work for the hospital association, or were to support personal friends,” Mayhew wrote.

Mayhew was, indeed, a Democrat before she switched to the Republican Party. Her father — whom she described as fiscally and socially conservative — was a Democrat, so she was a Democrat, she said.

“My conservative personal beliefs, as reflected in my work for seven years for Gov. Paul LePage, are most aligned with the values of the Republican Party,” Mayhew wrote.

Over the years, Mayhew gave LePage $1,500 of her own money, but did not say when asked whether she expects similar support from LePage, whose former campaign staff took jobs with her opponent Moody.

“I’m not sure how much the $1,500 bucks I gave him did, but I certainly did everything I could to support the governor in my work for him at DHHS as we cut taxes and reformed welfare,” Mayhew wrote.

About Moody’s staff, she wrote, “the paid political consultants working for [Moody] need to make a living so I can’t blame them for taking the job that was available.”

Mayhew leads the Republican pack for the amount of personal contributions she’s given to other candidates, at $14,730, just ahead of Moody, at $7,210. Unlike Republican House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Mason, Mayhew has not run a PAC.

Ken Fredette

Fredette has put more into politics than Mason and Mayhew combined, fueled by more corporate dollars than any other candidate in the race.

Fredette’s unlimited fundraising entity, Leadership for Maine’s Future, brought in more than $228,000 since 2011, spending $118,000 of that on contributions to other Republican candidates or causes, as part of his run to become the Republican leader in the Maine House.

About three in four of those dollars came from corporate sources, led by the Maine Motor Transportation Association and UK-based pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

“It’s about getting Republicans elected and so any donations that come in, regardless of where they come from, move the Republican agenda forward,” Fredette said.

Fredette gave most of his PAC money to the Maine Republican Party and the House Republican Majority Fund, another PAC, but he was the third-highest recipient of contributions from his own committee, receiving $2,325.

He delivered the largest chunk of his personal cash to the Maine Republican Party, giving $26,388 since 2011.

His smallest contribution, $25, went to former Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2009, which Fredette said came as Jindal was flirting with the idea of a presidential run. He met Jindal during an event at Harvard and decided to give him $25.

Shawn Moody

Moody began contributing to Republican political campaigns only after he ran for governor as an independent. While Moody’s campaign highlighted donations to Republicans, he has the shortest history of political giving in the primary field.

He made his first contribution to a Republican candidate in 2012, supporting unsuccessful Gorham House candidate Matt Mattingly.

He also has donated to the national Employee Stock Ownership Plan Association, a trade group that advocates for employee-owned businesses at the federal level. His company, Moody’s Collision Center, is employee-owned under such a plan.

Since, Moody has given roughly $7,000 to other candidates and causes, with the most going to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

Overall, Shawn Moody has put more personal money into politics than any other candidate in the race, but it was to back his own independent run for governor against LePage in 2010. Members of LePage’s team, including his daughter Lauren LePage, now work for the Moody campaign.

Moody spent more than half a million dollars on his independent run, and he plans to spend as much as his donors do on his current run for governor, matching their contributions.

“No one donor can contribute as much as I have to this race,” Moody wrote.

Maine Focus is a journalism and community engagement initiative at the Bangor Daily News. Questions? Write to mainefocus@bangordailynews.com.

Correction: A previous version of this story overstated by $1,200 the contributions from Ken Fredette’s PAC, Leadership for Maine’s Future, to the Maine Republican Party, due to inclusion of contributions before Fredette took control of the PAC in late 2011.

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