Some of the richest, most powerful people in America — including at least 15 billionaires — are pouring millions of dollars into Maine this fall.

It’s not for a new factory, a coastal resort or anything that would directly benefit most Mainers.

Instead, they’re using the cash to try to influence the outcome of the Nov. 6 election in a bid to install someone friendly to their interests in the congressional seat from Maine’s closely contested 2nd District.

That $15 million or more is likely to be spent on television advertisements, vigorous get-out-the-vote efforts, mailers and other campaign staples shows just how much a single seat in the 435-member House matters.

Money is already flowing in from both sides as two-term Republican Bruce Poliquin faces Democratic challenger Jared Golden of Lewiston.

Also in the running are independents Tiffany Bond of Portland and Will Hoar of Southwest Harbor, neither of whom is expected to spend much in the nation’s 2nd most rural district, where 43 percent of children are eligible for free or reduced price school lunches.

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Bond, who isn’t taking any campaign donations, bemoaned all the out-of-state cash dumped into her competitors’ coffers or squandered on advertising bashing someone.

“We shouldn’t be exporting our representation in Congress,” Bond said. Maine’s two U.S. House members ought to belong to Mainers, not high rollers in distant locales, she said.

Most of the money flowing into the race isn’t from Maine — and even less comes from the 2nd District. While millions will wind up in candidates’ treasuries, at least as much will end up funding outside groups that are prohibited from coordinating their efforts with the campaigns they support.

Overall, through the end of June, Poliquin has raised almost $3.2 million — $1.6 million of that from political action committees and $1.4 million in individual contributions of $200 or more.

In the same period of this election cycle, Golden has raised $1.2 million — $94,000 from PACs, $693,000 from donors giving $200 or more and $307,000 from contributors handing over less than $200 apiece.

Nearly all of the PAC money comes from other states, often from groups in the nation’s capital.

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Less than half of the individual contributions to both candidates originated in Maine. More than three-quarters of the donations were from people who live outside the district.

Often, people simply write the candidates’ campaigns a check. Those donations show up on campaign finance forms filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Others, especially big donors, give to political action committees that can take larger contributions. One category, Super PACs, can collect unlimited contributions — the reason they’ve become the most popular vehicle for the wealthy to influence elections since the Citizens United decision opened the floodgates after the 2008 presidential election.

There are two Super PACs whose operators are planning to each spend more than $3 million in the 2nd District race: the GOP-oriented Congressional Leadership Fund and the Democrat-backing House Majority PAC.

In Poliquin’s view, the House Majority PAC’s contributions show that “Nancy Pelosi is pouring millions of dollars into Maine for the third time to prop up the campaign of her hand-picked candidate, Jared Golden,” said campaign spokesman Brendan Conley.

To Democrats, it’s clear that House Speaker Paul Ryan is shelling out big money to keep Poliquin in the House.

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Golden has often complained, as he put it in an op-ed for the Portland Press-Herald in June, that “big-money special interests have too much power over Congress.”

He vowed to press for “more transparency and accountability” in elections and to reject money from corporate political action committees. He also promised “to condemn dark-money groups that lack transparency.”

Given that Super PACs are targeting Poliquin to boost Golden, Conley said the Democrat’s “pledges and his word are completely worthless.”

The Democratic Super PAC for House candidates has raised $35 million nationwide this year, including nearly $5 million from Donald Sussman, a hedge fund manager with longstanding Maine ties.

The House Majority PAC also collected $3.5 million from George Marcus, a billionaire real estate broker, and $3.3 million from James Simons, a hedge fund billionaire.

By the end of June, the GOP’s CLF had collected $96 million across America during this election cycle to spend on races across the nation. Its largest donors were Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam. Together, they forked over $30 million to the Super PAC.

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The next biggest donor to the CLF is another Super PAC, the American Action Network, which gave it $20 million to spend. The network is also putting on ads in the district on its own initiative to boost Poliquin’s chances.

Other major donors to CLF include billionaires Timothy Mellon, Bob McNair, Joe Craft and Charles Schwab.

While many of the financial contributions pouring into the race are public, making sense of them is a challenge.

One way to do it is to separate the givers by category. The Center for Responsive Politics sorted through Poliquin’s donations this cycle to determine that people in the securities and investment, insurance and real estate fields were the most generous to his campaign. It hasn’t yet figured out anything similar for Golden.

Another way to determine who’s who is more old school — just get a list of the biggest donors and try to figure out who they are. Legal limits allow them to give $2,700 per election, but they’re allowed to give for both the primary and the general election. That means some gave $5,400, a lot of money for most people but a drop in the bucket in such a costly showdown.

Start with the individual contributors to Golden’s race. Among the handful of people who gave his campaign the $5,400 individual maximum are Thomas Platz, an Auburn architect, and his wife, Paula Marcus-Platz, an Auburn therapist. They’re active Democrats in Androscoggin County.

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Other big donors include Daniel Tierney and Stephen Schuler, who each gave $5,400. Forbes called the pair “the new masters of Wall Street” back in 2009.

Another $5,400 donor was Gerald Chan, the billionaire co-founder of Morningside Group in Boston. He also gave more than $90,000 to the Serve America Victory Fund, which has handed $83,000 to Golden’s campaign.

Scott Mead, another $5,400 donor to Golden, forked over $104,000 to the Victory Fund as well. He is a former partner at Goldman Sachs.

The Salem, Mass-based Victory Fund is tied to U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., whom Golden has often cited as a role model for his push to get military veterans to run for public office.

Poliquin’s campaign raked in even more big donations. Among them was a $5,400 donation from James Emerson of Auburn and a $2,700 contribution from Scott Riccio, president of Northeast Charter & Tour Co.

Poliquin has received support from dozens of PACs with a range of business interests, including $5,000 payments from, among many others, the Alliance Coal PAC, the Koch Industries PAC, the American Crystal Sugar Co. PAC and the Goldman Sachs Group PAC.

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One of his biggest donors is Protect the House, a PAC that gets most of its money from the securities, finance, real estate and oil industries. It delivered $157,000 to him by  the end of June.

Then there are methods of giving that are a little more unusual.

Back on April 25, a campaign finance firm in Maryland notified the FEC that it had created something it called the Poliquin Comstock Victory Fund.

The fund received its first contribution April 24 and its last June 6 — both provided by billionaires.

The point of the new fund, according it its FEC filing, was to collect contributions, pay fundraising expenses and give away whatever was left over to one of five entities, all of them connected to the effort by Republicans to hang on to control of the U.S. House.

Its top priority was to hand over money to the campaign committees pushing the re-election of Poliquin and U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, an embattled incumbent from Virginia.

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It also planned to distribute money to two political action committees or the National Republican Campaign Committee. Pine Tree PAC, which is closely tied to Poliquin, was one of the two potential recipients.

Among those who handed over $10,000 apiece to the fund were Joseph Dimenna, a hedge fund billionaire who owns two polo fields; and hedge fund billionaires Stanley Druckenmiller, Scott Bessen, Michael Martino, and Julian Robertson. Another billionaire, Kenneth Langone, chipped in $5,400. His wife did the same.

In the end, the Poliquin Comstock Victory Fund gave $47,000 to Comstock, $42,000 to Poliquin and $10,000 to the Pine Tree PAC.

Two years ago, when Poliquin defeated Democrat Emily Cain to win re-election, the two candidates raised $6.85 million between them, with Cain pulling in a little more than the Republican.

Political party groups and political action committees dropped another $10.5 million or more into the race, which cost at least $17.4 million altogether.

This year, without a presidential race to gobble up the lion’s share of spending, the contest is likely to wind up attracting even more money.

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For Bond, all the money flowing into the race is a symptom of a political system that relies on perpetual campaigning, where politicians spend their time raising money instead of reading bills.

She said if everyone in politics followed her lead, the money would be spent helping people get heating oil, food and other necessities instead of buying airtime.

“That’s a better use of money,” Bond said. “And we’d like our elected officials a lot more.”

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Fundraising totals for U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, and his chief challenger, Democrat Jared Golden. Figures are from the Federal Election Commission, last updated on June 30.

Fundraising totals for U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, and his chief challenger, Democrat Jared Golden. Figures are from the Federal Election Commission, last updated on June 30.

A chart from OpenSecrets.org shows what percentage of they money raised by each of the two leading candidates in Maine’s 2nd District came from in-state and out-of-state contributors.

A chart from OpenSecrets.org shows what percentage of the money raised by each of the two leading candidates in Maine’s 2nd District came from in-state and out-of-state contributors.

This chart from OpenSecrets.org shows how much money each of the leading candidates in Maine’s 2nd District raised from political action committees through June 30 as well as whether the PACs were affiliated with business, labor or ideological groups.

This chart from OpenSecrets.org shows how much money each of the leading candidates in Maine’s 2nd District raised from political action committees through June 30 as well as whether the PACs were affiliated with business, labor or ideological groups.


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