PORTLAND – Political action committees that oppose a November referendum that would place limits on government spending have raised more than $1 million for their campaigns, more than four times the amount raised by the PAC that supports the initiative.
Citizens United to Protect Our Public Safety, Schools and Communities raised $625,000 between July 19 and Sept. 30 to oppose the Taxpayer Bill of Rights referendum, according to a report filed with the state. The PAC now has raised about $693,000 in total.
Citizens Who Support Maine’s Public Schools, a PAC for the Maine Education Association teachers union, which also opposes TABOR, has received $325,000 since July, all of it from the National Education Association.
Together, the two groups have raised more than $1 million.
Meanwhile, the PAC that favors the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, raised $147,000 from July 19 to Sept. 30, it reported in its quarterly filing with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. The PAC, TaxpayerBillofRights.com, says it now has raised about $225,000.
Bill Becker, head of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, said the filings show that most contributions in favor of the initiative come from Maine, while those against it come from out-of-state. The center, a conservative think tank in Portland, crafted TABOR.
“Maine people are being fooled into thinking the opposition to this is coming from a grass-roots movement when it’s not,” Becker said.
Dennis Bailey, spokesman for Citizens United, said although much of the money comes from outside of Maine, the organizations are membership groups – such as AARP and the National Education Association – with tens of thousands of members in Maine.
And regardless of where the money comes from, the idea for TABOR is being pushed by right-wing out-of-state groups, he said.
“It’s not a homegrown solution to Maine’s problems by any means,” he said.
Mainers will vote Nov. 7 on a proposal that would limit state and local government spending to the rate of inflation plus population changes, while requiring voter approval for all tax and fee increases.
Supporters say the measure would put an end to excessive government spending, resulting in lower taxes and an improved economy. Opponents say it would slash government services while doing little to help the economy.
The National Education Association is by far the largest contributor to the anti-TABOR effort, giving at least $575,000 to Citizens United and the teachers union PACs. The teachers PAC, in turn, has given $225,000 to the Citizens United PAC.
In the latest filing, Citizens United also reported getting $85,000 from the Maine Municipal Association, $50,000 from ALF-CIO councils in California and Massachusetts, and $5,000 from AARP. Leon Gorman, board chairman of L.L. Bean and grandson of company founder Leon Leonwood Bean, has given $2,000 to the effort.
The pro-TABOR PAC has now raised about $225,000 to promote the initiative, said campaign spokesman Roy Lenardson. More than 90 percent of the contributors are from Maine, he said.
Contributors include real estate developer Joe Boulos ($25,000), Idexx Laboratories founder David Shaw ($5,000), and New Elm Farm LLC, which gave $5,000 and is owned by DeLorme map company founder David DeLorme and his wife, Lenardson said.
Lenardson said it’s ironic that some anti-TABOR groups are claiming that the pro-TABOR initiative is being supported by out-of-state special interest groups when it’s the anti-TABOR forces that are getting most of their funding from out of state.
Bailey said TABOR opponents were convinced that the pro-TABOR effort was going to receive substantial funding from out-of-state organizations.
“That hasn’t shown up yet,” he said, “but I emphasize the word ‘yet.”‘