All politics is not local.

Chris Rufer is a tomato tycoon in Sacramento County, California, and a solid supporter of the Libertarian Party and its presidential hopeful, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. He has no connection to Maine.

Yet Rufer’s $50,000 donation to the Liberty For All Action Fund is earmarked to benefit just one politician’s campaign: state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn.

Rufer doesn’t know who he is.

But, he said, he’s comfortable to let Liberty For All officials allocate his contribution wisely.

Rufer said that for him, the bottom line is that he wants to see politicians elected in Maine who will “stop stealing from us in California” to deal with social issues that he may not want to fund.

The Virginia-based Liberty For All Action Fund-Maine filed paperwork with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics last week saying that it would use money from its political action committee to help Brakey’s campaign. It appears to be the only candidate-specific state Senate PAC.

Brakey said he has nothing to do with the political action committee.

“It was kind of strange to see something that was formed just to support me,” Brakey said.

Rufer and financial investor Richard Lee of Orlando, Florida, who chipped in $10,000, are the only donors listed in the filing.

As of Thursday, $10,053 of the cash had been tapped to pay for direct mail material from the New Hampshire-based Spectrum Marketing Cos. to benefit Brakey, who is trying to fend off Democratic challenger Kimberly Sampson in the Senate District 20.

Brakey said he’s seen two mailers put out by the group, both of them touting him in a positive way with nothing negative about them.

To his relief, Brakey said, “They’ve been very positive and accurate.” When he’s not in control of campaign-related items, he worries about what might go out, he said.

The political action committee was created in Virginia “to recruit and elect pro-liberty candidates all around the country,” including state legislative races. Officials with the PAC did not return calls and emails seeking comment about why they singled out Brakey.

Brakey said he looked up the group and saw that it aimed to assist libertarian-minded candidates.

He compared it to groups such as Emily’s List that funnel donations to women candidates they hope will advance a pro-women agenda.

“It’s nice to see something on this side of the aisle,” Brakey said.

BJ McCollister, director of the Maine Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, said Sampson “is running a people-powered, Clean Election campaign” while Brakey “is funding his campaign with wealthy special interests.”

“Now we are finding out that a big-money super PAC is trying to push their out-of-state values on us,” McCollister said, adding that “there is one candidate that was born and raised in this community that represents our values, and that’s Kimberly Sampson.”

Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, a Turner Republican, said McCollister is a hypocrite to complain about ‘wealthy special interests,’ when Democrats have benefited from $1.7 million in outside money to attack GOP candidates this year.

He apparently has nothing to say about the California-based Progressive Kick organization that’s spending $50,000 trying to oust Senate President Mike Thibodeau, Mason said.

Mason said at least those helping Brakey have “been completely upfront and transparent” instead of hiding their agenda and getting fined by the Maine Ethics Commission for failing to disclose where it’s spending money.

“As usual, Senate Democrats want to have their cake and eat it, too,” Mason said.

Sampson said she trusts voters “will see through the smoke-and-mirror show” and recognize that special interests and PACs are coming to Brakey’s rescue “after he’s been a mouthpiece for them in the Legislature.”

Rufer is president of Morning Star Co., a tomato-processing firm he started almost half a century ago from the back of his truck. Today, it is a dominant agribusiness in the heart of California’s farming community.

Rufer, who has donated at least several million dollars to the libertarian cause since 2012, said his political passion comes from the simple notion that “stealing is bad.”

He said he opposes politicians who want to use the heavy hand of government to force him and others to pay for things they may not like. Libertarians, Rufer said, would rather rely on the power of discourse to persuade people.

“Tolerance is the bottom line here,” Rufer said.

The man listed as the main officer for the PAC supporting Brakey, John Chicoine, is a New Hampshire antique dealer who held state leadership posts with the presidential campaigns of Ron and Rand Paul.

In a 2014 interview recorded on YouTube with Ben Swann, Liberty for All founder John Ramsey said it couldn’t be more true that all politics are local so his organization “goes and plays in state legislatures around the country and we try to elect the next generation of liberty-learning candidates.”

Ramsey said most members of Congress are “crazy or eccentric,” but at the state level, you can actually get real policy done so it’s a critical place to focus attention and funding.

“A lot of donors are finding out that, ‘Hey, I can get a lot bigger bang for my buck at the state level,’” Ramsey said.

Rufer said he thinks Ramsey is onto something.


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