Thursday, November 3, 2011

Portland mayoral race: Following the Money

My home city of Portland, Maine is having its first mayoral election in 88 years, the result of a successful ballot referendum and popular disgust with the city council's handling of a proposed development on the Maine State Pier. Fifteen candidates are on the ranked-choice ballot, making it especially difficult for voters to become educated about the would-be mayors.

As regular readers know, I'm a big proponent of following the money in politics, but under current law, mayoral candidates didn't have to file campaign finance disclosures until last Friday evening -- just eleven days before voters go to the polls. (An effort to change this law for future elections has been stalled in Augusta.) Media coverage of the content of those reports has, to date, been focused merely on how much money each candidate raised, rather than from whom these resources came.

My piece in the new Portland Phoenix delves into the leading candidates' donor pools, identifying interest clusters, putting faces to some of the faceless Limited Liability Companies that donated to some candidates, and even ensuring the disclosure of the contributors to a Political Action Committee that thought it wouldn't be revealing such until months after the election. Curious how Ethan Strimling raised such a staggering sum of money? (Hint: Bob Baldacci) Want to know who Jed Rathband's secret admirers are? Curious who backs Nick Mavodones and Michael Brennan? Read on for answers.

One positive development to report: Until recently, my website was the only place you could find electronic copies of Portland campaign finance disclosures. as the city was unwilling or unable to post them itself. That's now changed. Not only is the City Clerk's office posting new returns online within days of them being filed, they've also posted all previous ones back to 2005. (Unfortunately, cities across Maine destroyed older campaign reports on the faulty advice of a mid-level bureaucrat at the Maine State Archives, a story I broke in 2009, which resulted in the the relevant law being changed.) Score another point for transparency.

Finally, if you haven't already, check out the detailed results of the Down East/MPRC poll on the mayoral race. Don't miss the projected round-by-round elimination section in the back. Will be interesting to see how accurate it proves to be.

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