LEWISTON — In the race to replace U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, Lisbon's Scott D'Amboise stands out.
D'Amboise, in the race the longest of the 11 hopefuls, has raised more than $609,000 — and spent $487,000 of it, all apparently without running a single campaign ad.
Yet the tea party-leaning Republican, who first entered the race to challenge Snowe in a primary prior to her announcement that she would not seek re-election, remains largely unknown in Maine, with only light support among the rank-and-file GOP.
A poll conducted between March 31 and April 2 by the Maine People's Resource Center showed that 3.9 percent of 318 potential Republican voters in Maine selected D'Amboise as their candidate of choice in a primary election.
A close inspection of D'Amboise's Federal Election Commission finance reports for the first quarter of 2012 shows most of his itemized campaign donations have come from donors outside the Pine Tree State, and most have been spent there as well.
Candidates must list all donors who give more than $200 during the election cycle.
D'Amboise's campaign took in itemized donations of $136,258 during the first quarter of this year. But his campaign's spending went largely toward finding more money, federal records indicate.
In the first quarter, the D'Amboise campaign spent $147,889 — $131,622 of it on companies that conduct direct-mail campaigns or companies that act as brokerages for mailing lists of potential political donors across the country.
One company, Century Data Mailing Services Inc., was paid more than $65,000 for postage. Another company, Century Data Systems Corp., which has the same Washington, D.C., address as Century Data Mailing Services, was paid an additional $21,282 for data processing, according to the federal report.
Base Connect Inc., a Virginia-based company that describes itself as a "mail fundraising company," was paid $21,149, while the D.C.-based Legacy Lists Inc., which describes itself as a "list management company" specializing in political candidates, was paid $8,256 for "list rental expense."
Graphics Innovations, a Virginia-based company, was paid $21,952 for printing and mail-shop work.
D'Amboise's first-quarter report is strikingly different from the reports of most of the other candidates. More than 93 percent of his funding in the first quarter came from outside Maine, with only 6.2 percent coming from in-state addresses. His campaign also lists expenditures unlike any of the other candidates.
Beyond the direct-mail solicitation expenses, the campaign was paying to maintain a bank account in Virginia and has paid an escrow management company there.
The campaign's Virginia-based treasurer, Chris Marston, said it's not an uncommon practice. The Virginia bank account was set up for one of the companies that processes donations, the money is then transferred to the campaign's Maine-based account.
Marston's company, Election CFO, has been hired to be the treasurer for about 10 campaigns and about 10 national PACs.
"Every campaign is different," Marston said. "If you start out with $100,000 and you end up with $110,000 you've raised $10,000 for the campaign. If you start out with nothing and raise $10,000, it's the same amount; it's just different how you get there."
The pattern of out-of-state donations is similar in both of the campaign's reports filed in the last two quarters of 2011. In all, D'Amboise's campaign has poured more than $290,000 — 48 percent of the money it's collected — back into mailing lists, postage and direct-mail campaigns to solicit more donations.
D'Amboise's campaign manager, Sam Pimm, said D'Amboise's quarterly report reflects the nationwide support he enjoys with conservative Republican donors, largely donors who wanted a conservative to challenge Snowe in a primary.
"Scott has a national conservative following," Pimm said. "We are approaching 10,000 individual donors."
Neither Pimm nor Marston would speculate on whether they think that support will dry up now that Snowe isn't in the race.
Their campaign finance report looks different from those of other candidates because "we have raised more money than anybody else in this race," Pimm said.
He said he was more qualified to answer questions about the campaign's financing than D'Amboise. "Scott's the candidate; he doesn't really pay that close attention to all the minutia," Pimm said.
But the campaign's pattern of donations and spending has even longtime campaign operatives in Maine scratching their heads.
Ted O'Meara, a former Maine Republican Party chairman who most recently managed Eliot Cutler's independent campaign for governor in 2010, said the D'Amboise report was unlike anything he's seen in more than 40 years of involvement in Maine politics.
Spending most of your campaign donations to raise more donations is "an incredibly inefficient use of money," O'Meara said.
"It sounds like most of it they are plowing right back in to raise more money when this is really the time — a few weeks before the primary — when you want to be pouring it on," O'Meara said.
At this point in a primary campaign, O'Meara said, he would expect the largest expenditures to be on "media buys" — purchasing advertising for the candidate.
The pattern of a large number of relatively small donors, mostly from out of state, stands out, O'Meara said. He also said that most donors who contributed to D'Amboise are probably unaware that most of their contributions were going back toward fundraising.
"Most donors never go back and look at an FEC report to see where the money is going," O'Meara said.
"You look through that list and it is very odd," O'Meara said. "Usually, your strongest base of support is from people in your home state or your home district and, in Maine, we usually think of that in terms of the entire state."
O'Meara, who is not involved in a U.S. Senate campaign in Maine, said that despite the relatively large amount of money D'Amboise had raised and spent, he had little to show for it.
It was also odd, O'Meara said, that D'Amboise would select a for-hire campaign treasurer like Marston. Usually, a candidate selects a treasurer with a personal connection who has good in-state name recognition.
"Because that treasurer's name appears on almost every official document or advertisement, it essentially serves as an additional endorsement," O'Meara said.
Few Mainers would recognize Marston's name, O'Meara said.
"Given the amount of money he's raised and the amount he's spent, you have to ask what is he getting for that," O'Meara said. "And apparently it's not much, given he still has relatively low name recognition in Maine."
O'Meara said he wouldn't be surprised if a candidate with a lot of in-state and national name recognition, like Angus King, saw a lot of contributions from away.
Even so, the first-quarter reports for King, who is running as an independent for Snowe's Senate seat, show that 90 percent of his campaign donations came from Maine-based donors.
His campaign's largest expenditure listed to date is just over $17,000, which appears to be for campaign-related computer equipment.
Others in the race
Like King's pattern of donations Democratic candidates Matt Dunlap and Cynthia Dill also listed more in-state itemized donors than out-of-state donations. In the first quarter Dunlap reported 94 percent of his donations coming from within Maine, while Dill received about 78 percent of her donations from inside Maine.
While Democrat Jon Hinck listed 65 percent of his donations coming from within the state.
Republicans Rick Bennett, William Schneider and Charlie Summers all listed more out-of-state itemized donations than in-state.
The bulk of Dill's out-of-state donations came from a Massachusetts-based liberal political action committee, Act Blue. The PAC donated to other Democrats in the race, but Dill appeared to be its favorite.
Republican candidate and state Sen. Deb Plowman listed only $5,278 in contributions in the first quarter, with $5,000 of that coming from the Austin, Texas-based Alamo PAC, which appears to have given $5,000 to every Republican candidate in Maine.
Democratic candidate Ben Pollard's report shows the only money in his campaign so far is a $9,000 loan from the candidate to his own campaign.
Maine's treasurer, Bruce Poliquin, is also in the race. While Poliquin has filed his initial statement of candidacy, his campaign has not filed any reports detailing campaign donations or expenditures at the time of this report.
D'Amboise's campaign manager, Pimm, said he wouldn't discuss the campaign's specific strategy for the upcoming primary vote, but he noted the campaign's war chest would continue to fill and that, as of the end of the last reporting period, D'Amboise still had more than $120,000 on hand.
"I think in our organization and technology, we are light-years ahead of the other campaigns," Pimm said.
Editor's note: The original post of this story contained incorrect information, the story was updated with the correct information on Monday, May 7, 2012.