Thursday, December 2, 2010

PACs in the age of Orwell

I've been doing "follow the money" forensics of late on the Maine midterm elections, which has me digging around the disclosures of the constellation of Political Action Committees through which much of the real campaign money flows these days. Tracking the flow of money is a bit of a shell game, as one PAC gives to another. Making things more complicated, the PACs often have names that would make George Orwell proud, ones that disguise their membership and goals.

Here are a few of my favorites so far:

The "Friends of Maine Hospitals" -- who spread $13,000 between Republicans and Democrats alike -- are really the CEOs and trustees of Maine's hospitals.

Green Jobs for ME sounds like an organization dedicated to promoting solar panel manufacturing in the Pine Tree State. Bizarrely, it's actually a surprisingly large group of Lewiston area anaesthesiologists compelled to spend $94,000 to get slot machines in their community. (If someone knows the backstory on that, I'm all ears.)

The Maine Values Voters PAC sounds like a broad grassroots coalition. In fact, it consists of just two Maine voters; the majority of its funding came from the Christian Right's national Goliath, the Washington-based Family Research Council (which urges you to pray for Tea Party Sen. Jim DeMint.) The PAC's purpose? Buying ads in support of Republican District 25 state house candidate Robert K. Emrich of Plymouth. (He lost in the primary, and the group apparently lost interest in values after that.)

The Move Maine Ahead PAC was the shell through which Marden's and Walgreens funnelled a little over $6,000 to Republican candidates, including Marden's General Manager (and Governor-elect) Paul LePage. It should not be confused with the Move Maine Forward PAC, which forwarded $3000 to Democratic forces from a handful of industry associations and businesses.

The High Hopes PAC apparently represents the hopes of outgoing Senate majority leader Phil Bartlett (D-Gorham), who is listed as its primary fundraiser and decision maker . It piped Democratic candidates and committees nearly $50,000 from a peculiar collection of individual and corporate donors, from Wal-Mart, PhRma, and Visa USA to Equality Maine and Green Party Portland city councilor John Anton. PACs make for some odd bedfellows.

Sound Science for Maine PAC was not, as it sounds, a group advocating for science-based policy solutions. Rather, it was the shell through which two out-of-state chemical companies -- Albermarle Corporation and Chemtura Corporation -- funnelled $20,000 to various candidates, PACs and other entities associated with both parties. Makes one curious what business they may have before lawmakers next year.

And now, back to work...


  1. I thought the "Jobs, Justice and the Environment" PAC was a misleading name, as well. Significant contributions from Maine Education Association and expenditures to advance Libby Mitchell's campaign.

  2. Green Jobs for ME is backed by Stavros Mendros who is trying to get a casino in Lewiston. All those anesthesiologists are his partners. The Lewiston casino is on the ballot next year, and they opposed the Oxford casino.

  3. @Steve: That makes sense; thanks for the intel. I guess by "green" they mean greenbacks.

  4. Seen Mendros in Augusta a fair amount lately, too. Probably trying to make sure that the Oxford casino legislation is stripped of the "no other casino within 100 miles" rule.