Today, we introduce our readers to “Political Party Time” — or, as our colleague Kathy Kiely from the Sunlight Foundation calls it, political “money porn.”
Consider it the Victoria’s Secret catalog of Maine politics documenting the titillating and naughty stuff underneath that wholesome and sincere exterior most politicians want to project.
The Sunlight Foundation originated “Political Party Time” in 2008 from the national perspective. By cataloguing and presenting invitations to political fundraisers, they set out to show the public how “candidates and the incumbents they want to unseat … are breakfasting, lunching, dining and happy-houring for dollars.”
It’s a window into how politics really work in Washington, D.C. And now, with our Maine-focused Political Party Time, the first state-based version of the feature, readers can have the same inside view of the soliciting that goes on behind the virtuous image promoted by many Maine politicians.
Scroll through these invitations and you’ll find that underneath the “I’m-a-champion-of-the-little-guy” image there’s often someone else: an avid and obsequious supplicant of the big guys in Maine politics, the lobbyists for everyone from big business to big labor.
Here’s the text of an email that was sent to lobbyists from House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, which accompanied an elegant invitation to an end-of-the-legislative-session fundraiser hosted by Eves and Democratic House leaders Seth Berry and Jeff McCabe. For donations of $500, $1,000, $2,500 or $5,000, lobbyists could join the “host committee” of the event.
From: Mark Eves [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, June 2, 2014 10:16 AM
Cc: ‘doug kempner’
Subject: IMPORTANT: House Democratic Campaign Committee Reception- Thursday, June 5th
It has been an honor to work with you over the past two legislative
sessions. The important work we accomplished would not have been possible without you and your clients. I look forward to continuing to collaborate in the future, and I hope you will feel free to reach out to me if you would like to debrief the legislative session or discuss the future.
House Democrats are focused on keeping our majority for the next several cycles and your support is crucial to our success! We plan to implement an aggressive and focused campaign strategy, but it won’t be possible without your support.
Please join me, Majority Leader Seth Berry, Assistant Majority Leader Jeff McCabe and members of our caucus this Thursday, June 5th for a fun evening in South Portland to benefit the House Democratic Campaign Committee. We will be gathering at the Saltwater Grille in South Portland from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
*We will be compiling the host board TOMORROW*, and it would mean a lot to me and our entire caucus for you and your clients to be a part of this great event.
To RSVP please email Doug Kempner at: 207-689-1744, or email@example.com
Thank you to those who have already made generous contributions.
I have attached a PDF of the invitation, so please feel free to share with friends and colleagues.
We are excited to see all of you on Thursday, June 5th to celebrate the work we have accomplished together!
Speaker of the House
The House Democratic Campaign Committee is a political action committee (PAC) run by Eves to support Democratic House candidates. Between May 28 and July 15, 2014, which includes the date of the fundraising event, the PAC took in $188,550 from lobbyists, the interests they represent and individual donors.
Those donations included $1,000 from prominent lobbyist James Mitchell, who importuned legislators during the last legislative session on behalf of clients including Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble and JD Irving’s mining interests in Aroostook County; $1,000 each from fast food giant MacDonald’s, the Maine Education Association (the state teachers’ union) and Central Maine Power; $2,000 from the Maine Association of Realtors; and $150,000 from the state’s largest individual Democratic donor, S. Donald Sussman, who is married to Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, and who owns the state’s largest newspaper group, MaineToday Media.
Eves’ spokeswoman Jodi Quintero said this week that the invitation was sent to “every registered advocacy group and lobbyist in the state regardless of policy position or political affiliation. That includes a wide range of organizations from environmental groups to health care organizations and business groups. Many that oppose each other.”
There was no requirement to pay to come to the event, said Quintero, who said that Eves’ office is open to all Mainers, not only lobbyists who attend fundraisers he and his fellow Democrats hosted.
“Speaker Eves is grateful to the many organizations, from business groups to environmental organizations, who help shape the law by testifying before committees and educating lawmakers with their viewpoints and experience. Sometimes these organizations agree with him and sometimes they don’t. But regardless of their positions on the issues, it’s important to hear from them to help understand complex issues and how they impact different groups of Mainers,” said Quintero.
Some fundraisers have themes that dress up the image of political panhandling. That includes the “Holiday reception” last December hosted at the Augusta Country Club by Senate Republican leaders Michael Thibodeau of Winterport and Roger Katz of Augusta. Sponsors were not required to show up with presents, apparently — all they needed to do was write checks of $500, $1,000, $2,500 or $3,500 to the Maine Senate Republican Majority PAC.
The “Summer Wine Occasion” to raise money for Portland working class champion and progressive Democrat Rep. Diane Russell’s “Working Families PAC” managed to be both proletarian and upscale at the same time. The invitation asked potential hosts to make donations ranging from $50 to be a “Congress Street Host” to $2,500 to be an “Eastern Prom Host.”
Then there was the pointed theme of Rep. Matthew Pouliot’s summer fundraiser for his re-election campaign.
“Take your best shot! Guns provided, plus FREE ammo,” read the invitation from Pouliot, an Augusta Republican who claims to be “District 86’s TRUE pro second amendment candidate.”
For a $100 entry fee, attendees could participate in a “Turning Target Contest,” and a “Multi-Target Contest.” Pouliot promised that the two top scorers of the target shooting competition would walk away with a Stainless Ruger Model 1911 pistol or a Mossberg Flex 12 Gauge shotgun.
Pouliot said in an interview this week that he canceled the event for lack of interest. But he said he’s been able to raise money at other events for his campaign, and state records show he’s brought in just over $18,000 for his re-election campaign.