Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speak to reporters after working with a bipartisan group of moderate senators to find a way to reopen the government on the third day the federal shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington in January 2018. AP File Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

To help boost her re-election bid, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is teaming up with a colleague from South Carolina who is one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill.

A new joint fundraising group called the Collins-Graham Majority Committee has Maine’s senior senator working closely with a fellow Republican, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, to raise money for costly political races.

The new committee hauled in $287,000 in the final days of March, most of it from big donors in the St. Louis, Missouri, area.

Among those who gave were Menlo Smith of Chesterfield, Missouri, who made his fortune creating confections such as SweeTARTS and Pixy Stix. Smith has since become a well-known philanthropist focused on micro-credit loans to help lift people out of poverty. He and his wife, Kathryn, each gave $1,000 to the new committee.

Its biggest donors included a couple from St. Louis, Jack and Mary Jane Bodine, who each forked over $11,200 to Graham and Collins. They made their money by leading Bodine Aluminum to become one of the country’s largest producers of complex aluminum and permanent mold castings.

Neither the Smiths nor the Bodines could be reached for comment Tuesday.


The group also collected $10,000 from Rely on Your Beliefs Fund, a leadership PAC for U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri; $5,000 from the Republican Jewish Coalition and $1,000 from the American Association of Orthodontists.

Graham, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, talks with Trump often and golfs with him frequently, gaining a reputation as one of the few senators who has the president’s ear.

The new joint committee gave Graham’s campaign $127,000 this year but hasn’t reported to the Federal Election Commission any contributions yet to Collins’ 2020 bid for a fifth term. It had $146,000 on hand at the end of March.

In addition to the joint committee with Graham, Collins has two other groups lined up to help bring in money for her campaign: GOP Winning Women and Americans United for Freedom.

Their FEC reports don’t provide any illumination beyond past support for Republican senators.

The same Virginia firm that operates the Collins-Graham committee — Huckaby Davis Lisker — also handles the GOP Winning Women and Americans United For Freedom groups. It has offered consulting to Republican candidates for more than three decades.

Collins raised $4.4 million for her campaign through the end of March. She has three Democratic challengers — state House Speaker Sara Gideon of Freeport, Saco lawyer Bre Kidman and lobbyist Betsy Sweet of Hallowell. Others are eyeing the race as well.

The winner of the Democratic primary will gain access to more than $4 million raised through crowdsourcing to assist efforts to defeat Collins, whom many Democrats around the country hold responsible for the controversial elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Collins also faces a potential primary fight from Derek Levasseur of Fairfield, who argues she’s not conservative enough. Independent Danielle VanHelsing of Sangerville is also in the running for the general election.

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