Show! Me! The! Money!
While the line is popularly associated with the Tom Cruise film “Jerry Maguire,” it probably can also apply to Federal Election Commission filings. At the end of March, candidates raising money for the 2020 election are required to file disclosures showing people the money they raised.
Sen. Susan Collins had a great fundraising season. She raised more than $1.5 million, putting her past $4.4 million raised in the race to date. While money in politics certainly creates diminishing returns once a candidate has “enough,” Collins is in a good position to ensure that her reelection campaign will not be wanting for funds.
However, the reports on file with the FEC also give a bit more detail. For those who have donated more than $200 to a candidate, they are required to disclose certain personal details, such as name, occupation, and hometown. What did Collins’ report show? She definitely raised a lot of money, and a lot of it came from out-of-state.
Her political opponents pounced. They spent a whole bunch of time declaring this meant Collins had abandoned Maine and must therefore be removed. The argument would have some credibility if it was offered with consistency.
The left-wing organizations leading the charge against Collins receive gobs of funding from out-of-state. They’ve started raising money for her opponent, clocking in at almost $4.4 million to date. Who are these funders of the equal-but-opposite reaction to Collins’ report?
We don’t really know. Unlike Collins’ legally required FEC filings, these groups do not need to disclose anything. Their money can be kept nice and dark. Googling the names of some of the public “endorsers” of the effort seem to indicate that it may be — gasp! — a whole bunch of people not from Maine.
One “endorser” — not sharing names, because the principle is more important than the personality — seems to have previously lived in Michigan and recently moved to San Francisco, with no discernable connection to Maine. However, in donating to the “Crowdpac” fund against Collins, she declared she was endorsing Collins’ opponent “because she let women down with her vote for Kavanaugh/Trump.” Of course, we have no idea who the opponent will be. Could be a wackadoodle with nutty ideas, like abolishing the lobster fishery or disbanding the Department of Defense.
This is why the hue and cry against Collins’ fundraising report suggests Democrats and their affiliated groups doth protest too much. They’ve been the recipients of significant non-Maine largess, particularly when it comes to referendum spending. The continual march of liberally driven ballot questions find their fuel in the deep pockets of national organizations, like the Michael Bloomberg-backed “Everytown for Gun Safety” or the Humane Society of the United States’ ill-fated bear hunting “reform.”
If someone wants to argue that Maine candidates and causes should reject out-of-state money as a condition for electoral success, then that’s a fine, principled position to hold. But it needs to hold true across the board.
Yet the reality is that money in politics is not a magic potion. Democrats win State House seats in downtown Portland because they match the characteristics of the residents; the GOP can’t spend their way to victory on Munjoy Hill. The same is true statewide.
If Collins wins reelection, it will be because Maine voters believed she was the best woman for the job, representing their interests. Not because anyone “showed her the money!”