Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington in this June 30, 2020, file photo. Credit: Al Drago / AP

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I know they say it’s an odd, strange, one-in-a-million thing, but if it happens once, it can happen again,” Harpswell fisherman George Coffin said of the fatal shark attack off Bailey Island on Monday. “Who wants to let their grandchildren swim after something like that?”

What we’re watching today

Outside spending continues to flow into Maine’s U.S. Senate race, with the latest ad buy coming from a Republican-affiliated group. The Lincoln Project made headlines earlier this year with ads that got a lot of media attention and seemed to get under President Donald Trump’s skin. Now, the group is buying $1.1 million in air time in Maine to argue that Sen. Susan Collins is failing to adequately stand up to the president.

The ad, running in several TV markets across the state, accuses the Maine senator of enabling Trump and not believing in individual liberty, contrasting her with figures including former Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, her role model, and former Sen. Bill Cohen, her mentor. It is not the first time in Collins’ career that she has faced criticism from members of her own party, though past attacks on her record often came from conservative or pro-Trump wings.

The Lincoln Project, founded by a group of former Republican political consultants, has received money from both Republicans and Democrats, with its largest contribution this cycle coming from Connecticut hedge fund manager Stephen Mandel, who has a long history of giving to Democrats, including Collins’ 2008 Senate opponent Tom Allen.

The $1.1 million ad buy from the group does not come close to topping the list of outside spenders in the highly-watched Senate race. The Democratic-affiliated Senate Majority PAC has spent more than $4 million already, while two Republican groups — the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the 1820 PAC — have spent a combined $7.6 million.

Dark money groups on both sides have also spent millions, including One Nation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which support Collins, and Majority Forward and Maine Momentum, which oppose her. Collins released a straight-to-camera ad defending herself from attacks on Wednesday. We are tracking spending in the race here.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Opponents of Maine’s ranked-choice voting system try new tactic after past failures in court,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “Those making a fourth legal challenge in just over two years to Maine’s ranked-choice voting system are using a new lens of equity, but they will have to convince a federal judge that fundamentals have shifted since he tossed a similar suit in 2018.”

— “Max Linn now says he’ll only quit Senate race if Susan Collins endorses 5 policies,” Piper, BDN: “In a strange twist on Tuesday after saying he would end his campaign, independent U.S. Senate candidate Max Linn told reporters he would only quit to endorse [Collins] if the Republican incumbent endorses five of his preferred policies.”

Don’t bet on Collins endorsing these policies. In a Zoom call with reporters where Linn refused to take questions, he said the policies are a five-year ban on immigration, opposing the Central Maine Power corridor, broad student loan relief, giving $5,000 to every family by next June as well as additional relief for small businesses and endorsing term limits. They are both far to the left and right of Collins, whom Linn gave a Monday deadline to respond. Her campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the challenge on Tuesday.

— “Calais hospital wants to temporarily exit bankruptcy so it can qualify for PPP loan,” Charles Eichacker, BDN: “Calais Regional Hospital is now seeking to temporarily exit bankruptcy so that it might qualify for a federal coronavirus relief program from which it has so far been excluded because it’s in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings.”

A new study found that generous federal unemployment benefits did not reduce employment. A Yale University study released on Monday found “no evidence” that the $600 weekly benefit set to expire at month’s end disincentivized work “either at the onset of the expansion or as firms looked to return to business over time.” That argument has been hotly contested as Congress negotiates the next stimulus bill. 

Republicans want to reduce the benefit to $200 until states can set up systems that base unemployment on a share of workers’ past wages, which could take states months to implement. Collins and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District, have cited the potential disincentive effect as a reason to oppose extending the $600 benefit.

Revenue forecasting committee meets today

After months of waiting, the state’s revenue forecasting panel is set to give their thoughts on the financial fallout Maine government can expect from the virus. While outside estimates have climbed as high as $1.2 billion by next June, Maine’s budget officials have aimed a little lower. And while monthly reports painted an increasingly grim picture — and there is no doubt we are in a recession — rebounds in traffic volume and the filing of income tax receipts could make a difference.

The question is what lawmakers will choose to do with the information. Maine has two main options to counteract financial losses itself — cut spending or raise taxes. There is hope that Congress will provide additional aid to governments or allow them more flexibility to use CARES Act money. We don’t know whether lawmakers will try to deal with the fallout this year amid sparring over the scope of a special session or kick it to next year, however.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email clumm@bangordailynews.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...