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GOP-Led PAC Funds TV Ad Promoting Maine Democrat
08/24/2012   Reported By: Tom Porter

A television ad urging support for Democratic Senate candidate Cynthia Dill has taken to the airwaves today--and it's paid for by a Political Action Committee based in Washington D.C. that's described as having Republican ties. The PAC's treasurer, however, disputes the characterization of the group as a Republican Super PAC. In what's being viewed as an attempt to weaken support for Independent candidate Angus King, and make Dill more of a spoiler, the ad points out differences between Dill and King, and encourages Democrats to vote for Dill.

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Ad narrator: "For Senate--Angus King or Cynthia Dill? Both are reliable Obama allies on healthcare and taxes. But there are differences. Cynthia Dill is pro-labor and supports raising the minimum wage. Angus King vetoed it. Dill is known as a bold progressive and a champion of marriage equality and stronger gun laws. Cynthia Dill--a Democrate you can feel good about. Maine Freedom is responsible for teh content of this advertising."

Polls have had Angus King ahead so far, so a strong showing for Dill in November would likely benefit Republican candidate Charlie Summers in this fall's elections. Campaign managers for both Summers and Dill told journalists they were unaware of the ad, and are more focused on running their own candidates' campaigns.

According to the Bangor Daily News, a newly-incorporated PAC called Maine Freedom spent more than $71,000 to air the ad on four Portland television stations over the next 10 days.

The treasurer of Maine Freedom is listed as a Washington D.C.-based lawyer called Michael Adams, who also serves as general counsel for the Republican Governors' Association.

"It's a little manipulative and I think it's not very transparent for the public. You should be spending to support your own candidate not a different candidate," says Crystal Canney, communications director for the Angus King campaign. "What we're seeing again is another example of out-of-state interests trying to tell Maine people how to vote. I personally have never heard of a Republican PAC promoting a Democratic candidate."

Tom Porter: "I'm joined now by Ron Schmidt, political science professor from the University of Southern Maine. Welcome."

Ron Schmidt: "Thank you."

Tom Porter: "What's your initial reaction to this seemingly pretty Machiavellian development?"

Ron Schmidt: "I think to some degree it reflects the bizarre circumstances of our Senate race. The U.S. Senate seat is always very important, but right now, with control of the chamber so much up in the air, you would think that both RNC and the DNC would be pushing very, very hard to seize control of the situation, and you wouldn't think an independent candidate would really have a shot. But both sides clearly see King as the person to beat, and I think the decision made here by this 'Maine Freedom' to some degree makes sense, assuming that Dill would be easier for them to defeat than King--that at the very least this will force King to spend money defending himself on multiple fronts."

Tom Porter: "Are there any comparable situations or precedents to this kind of strategy?"

Ron Schmidt: "Well, just recently in Missouri, Rep. Akin, who made the comments about rape that have become such a cause of controversy, was aided in his primary victory by the campaign that was run by his opponent, current Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill -- a Democrat -- she ran ads depicting him as very conservative, and on the face of it they were saying that he was too conservative for Missouri. But the intent behind them seemed to be to convince Republican primary voters that he was the man they should support. And the reasoning behind that was that he would be easier to defeat in the general election because general election voters would see him as much too conservative."

Tom Porter: "Well, it's interesting to see that both sides-both parties-are capable of cynical election ploys."

Ron Schmidt: "To some degree it almost makes sense in Maine because of the peculiar circumstances of this election. I'm not that surprised when independents are strong in this state in gubernatorial races or statewide races. But frankly, I expected to see both the Democratic and Republican parties being much more aggressive and pouring a lot more money into their own candidates own campaigns right now rather than really more or less ceding the front-runner status to King and planning their strategies accordingly."

Tom Porter: "Thanks for coming in. Ron Schmidt is political science professor at USM."

As I mentioned earlier, the group behind the ad - a PAC called Maine Freedom - denies being a Republican-affiliated organization. In an email to MPBN, the group's treasurer Michael Adams - who's also general counsel for the Republican Governors' Association - said he provides legal services to a number of PACs, some but not all of which are Republican-leaning.

He described Maine Freedom as a "a bipartisan coalition of people who live in Maine or love Maine or both, and who are focused on getting the facts out about the candidates for U.S. Senate." He goes on to say that the "candidates themselves are highly self-interested, and cannot usually be counted on to provide unbiased accounts of their records. "


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