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Maine Politics

Can Money Buy Love?
By John Frary
May 2, 2010 - 9:05:53 AM

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If you are an admired sports star with a Congressional Medal of Honor and married a world-famous movie star, you already have the "name recognition" which is at the core of most electoral victories. You may not win with that alone, but you can't win without it.

"Free press" helps if the media think you are interesting. A Moslem Jihadist could be a big help if takes a shot at you, but only if he misses. If you can arrange to have your child kidnapped in the midst of the campaign during the campaign you'll get all the attention you could wish for, although it's best if the kid isn't an ugly, surly, pimply juvenile delinquent.

If you are not favored by such incidents you are going to spend a lot of money buying the name recognition you need. Voters don't pay  much attention to your message if they don't recognize your name. That is why the money matters in politics.

Here are the actual figures from the legally required financial reports for the period Jan. 1 to April 20. Mills got $600,000 from the taxpayers because he is the only Republican candidate running with "clean election" funds. He has a balance left of $394,000 for the rest of the campaign.

Otten "loaned" himself $1.2 million of his own money and raised only $31,000. He has already spent most of that total and shows a current balance of $26,000. Only he knows how much more he is prepared to put into the effort.

Otten also raised a lot of money for Mills(!) which illustrates a peculiarity of Maine's "clean election" law. It works like this. Otten spends lavishly from his personal fortune. This triggers the maximum public money for Mills. Beardsley, LePage, Abbot, Poliquin and Jacobson are running as traditional candidates, and get nothing. In short, Mills has an automatic money advantage over these four rivals because of Otten, whom he can't match because there's a limit to the total funding for a "clean election" candidate.

Poliquin has donated $150,000+ to his own campaign. He also contributed $10,000 to the GOP state committee and $200,000 to the TABOR II campaign. These last sums are not part of the campaign finance reports, but helped to establish his credibility as a candidate. He has a balance of $107,000, but nobody knows how much he's willing to spend.

Bill Beardsley has a store of name recognition because of his long tenure as president of Husson University. He and his wife donated $250,000 to his campaign and has $236,000 on hand for the rest of the campaign.

Paul LePage has a store of name recognition as mayor or Waterville and general manager of Marden's. He raised the 2nd largest amount of money in the recent quarter and he and his wife loaned his campaign $91,000. He has a balance of $189,000 to spend at this point.

Matt Jacobson, who has only limited name recognition from business activities largely unknown to the general public,  loaned himself $20,000 and has a balance of $31,000.

Steve Abbott's name recognition is largely confined to active Republicans because of his long service to Susan Collins' office and campaigns. He has the advantage of the senator's fund raising connections and raised $298,000, more than all the other candidates combined in the latest quarter, but has already plucked the "low-hanging" fruit, i.e., contributions from friends, family and close allies. He will have to work harder for more. He has a balance of $87,000 still unspent.

The race is on.

Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at:

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