LEWISTON — At least two Maine candidates are getting a boost from the political action committee created by former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe.

Snowe, a Republican, rolled about $500,000 of her last campaign war chest into Olympia’s List, a multi-candidate PAC that’s meant to help moderates and those who seek common ground in politics, when she retired in 2012. 

But so far, the PAC has doled out only $15,000: $10,000 to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ re-election campaign and $5,000 to the U.S. House Second District campaign of Kevin Raye. Both donations were made in 2012.

Raye, a former state Senate president from Perry and a former chief of staff for Snowe, is locked in a heated primary race against former Republican state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin. The two recently exchanged jabs over Collins’ work in Washington, with Raye defending her and Poliquin suggesting voters should remove all “career politicians” from Washington.

Lucas Caron, a spokesman for Snowe, said Tuesday that the former senator had been busy on the lecture circuit in recent weeks but was getting ready to issue more campaign cash.

Caron said Snowe is interested in breaking the dysfunction of the U.S. Senate, and campaign donations from Olympia’s List likely will go to candidates largely outside Maine in an effort to find cross-over Republicans who are willing to work with Democrats and independents.

Some of that money likely will be earmarked for incumbent U.S. senators who worked with Snowe across party lines during her terms in the U.S. Senate, Caron said.  

And she likely will help some candidates who are seeking to oust her former colleagues, especially the entrenched partisans.

The PAC has a little over $288,000 on hand, according to the latest available Federal Election Commission campaign finance reports.

“She will be making another substantial round of donations soon that will be mostly, if not exclusively, to Senate candidates,” Caron said.

Caron said the PAC has seen steady donations but has been steadily depleted by operating expenditures and would be gearing up to seek new donations.

Snowe told the Sun Journal in March 2013 that she largely intended to use the PAC to fund the campaigns of moderate Republicans.

“I just hope that ultimately, we get people who are going to be prepared to work together and that’s what it requires; it requires collaboration and Maine people understand that fundamentally and so do many Americans,” Snowe said.

“Obviously, we all have our political differences and there is legitimacy to the different views,” Snowe said at the time. “But then the question is, once both sides in the United States Senate put up their respective views and positions and they don’t prevail, then what happens? Ultimately, it’s moving that ball forward that needs to happen and that’s not happening.”

With $288,000 on hand, the PAC isn’t that sizable in the context of a U.S. Senate campaign. Snowe’s re-election war chest was approaching $4 million in 2012.

Finance reports show donations to the PAC have trickled in since it was formed in January 2013, collecting just over $77,000.

But Paul Mills, a Farmington lawyer, political observer and author, said a donation from Olympia’s List would have certain value beyond any actual buying power it would lend to a campaign.

“It becomes more of a symbolic gesture, perhaps it’s a prestige item, because the funding is nothing like the Koch brothers financing on such a grand scale,” Mills said. “I think she is such a revered figure that the fact something she influences is donating to you bears some kind of significance as an endorsement.”

Mills said where the money comes from could be more important than the amount. “I would much rather get $1,000 from Olympia Snowe than, say, from a convicted felon,” he said.

But, he said, collecting donations to fund the PAC could prove difficult because potential donors will be uncertain as to how their money will be used.

“Not knowing what’s she’s going to do with it makes it a little bit harder for people,” Mills said. “That’s an element that might diminish some of the enthusiasm for the fund.”

Snowe was traveling Tuesday and was not available for comment on this report.

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