Following the money in the 1st District Congressional race
Pingree’s hedge fund windfall, California chem co. for Cote, and other curious contributions
By Chris Busby
If it’s true that politics makes strange bedfellows, then there’s a really kinky orgy going on in the race for Democratic Rep. Tom Allen’s 1st District Congressional seat.
Take Robert E. Diamond Jr., for example. Moneybags Bob, as the British press has dubbed him, is president of Barclays PLC, the London-based financial services behemoth. In the past, the aptly named Mr. Diamond has helped fill the coffers of Republican lawmakers like Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and former Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine, in addition to a $25,000 contribution to the Republican National Committee in 2004.
Diamond’s man in this race: Democrat Adam Cote, who received $2,300 from Moneybags last June.
State Sen. Ethan Strimling is no fan of gambling, but Daniel Gerrity, head of Saratoga Harness Racing Inc., is betting $1,000 that the Democrat will win this June’s primary.
And fellow Dem Chellie Pingree probably isn’t a subscriber, but last June she accepted $500 from Hugh Hefner’s daughter, Christie Hefner, who chairs the board of Playboy Enterprises Inc. these days (maybe she gets it for the articles).
A perusal of campaign finance reports filed by the six Democrats, two Republicans and lone independent in this race turn up contributions that range from the bizarre to the potentially damaging. Many others provide interesting insights into the way this campaign has split the movers and shakers in southern Maine’s political, business and arts communities.
Fat Cats for Pingree
The most notable group of contributions identified by The Bollard‘s analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission thus far is from Pingree’s list. The former state senator and national head of Common Cause – an organization dedicated to campaign finance reform and governmental accountability – had raked in more than twice as much cash as her closest competitors by the end of last year: $783,548.
Curiously, close to 10 percent of Pingree’s take (nearly $60,000) came from people associated with Paloma Partners, a secretive hedge fund headquartered in the Virgin Islands. Many of the 17 Paloma donors gave Pingree the maximum amount allowed by law: $4,600 per year (only half of which can be used for the June 10 primary). Even Carolyn Sussman, an unemployed resident of Greenwich, Conn., who’s apparently related to Paloma head S. Donald Sussman, had $4,600 to spare for this candidate running in Maine.
More curiously, Pingree has pledged that if elected, she’ll push to take billions of dollars out of the pockets of people like Donald Sussman by closing a tax loophole enjoyed by hedge fund managers.
Furthermore, the hedge fund industry has vigorously fought the government’s efforts to regulate its business, and Paloma has been in the thick of that battle. AsMother Jones reported in 2001, shortly after a Paloma executive testified against a reform proposal on Capitol Hill, Sussman “handed over $320,000 in campaign contributions to the Democrats,” and the reform bill subsequently “died a quiet death.”
Pingree was said to be unavailable for an interview, but her campaign released this statement regarding her position on the matter: “All you have to do is look at what’s been happening on Wall Street lately and you can see we need more vigorous regulation of financial services companies.”
Pingree’s communications director, Willy Ritch, acknowledged that it’s “clearly not in [Paloma’s] economic self-interest to have Chellie in Congress… She wants to really clamp down on tax breaks for the wealthy.” Ritch explained Paloma’s generous support of her campaign by saying “they’re not unlike people throughout the country who are just completely fed up and angry over the way things have been going over the past seven years.”
Sussman, who reportedly has a vacation home on Deer Isle, near Pingree’s hometown of North Haven, contributed to Pingree’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign six years ago, Ritch said. He’s also given cash to Casino’s No! and Maine activist Jonathan Carter’s effort to nix a forest management proposal in the late 1990s.
Big money “doesn’t influence her vote, it doesn’t influence what she believes in,” said Ritch. But others aren’t so sure.
Pingree has said she wants to close the hedge fund tax loophole, but the Paloma money “certainly makes you wonder” about her commitment to follow through, said Strimling spokesman Dennis Bailey (who, as head of CasinosNo!, has also been the recipient of Sussman’s money).
Former State Sen. Mike Brennan, another Democrat in this race, said he would not have accepted the chunk of hedge fund money Pingree pocketed from Paloma. “I think that when you start looking at that amount of money and that kind of money, the facts speak for themselves,” he said. “Someone is not making that contribution because they’re interested in the 1st District Congressional race or that candidate.”
Brennan had raised less than a quarter of Pingree’s total by the end of last year, $152,408. “The one thing you won’t find in [my list of contributions] is any aggregate amount of money that is so large that someone would say, ‘Clearly someone is trying to gain access and buy access and influence.'”
What the Storkans brought
Another group of contributions that’s raising eyebrows is the $9,200 Cote has received from a family in Pebble Beach, Cal., the Storkans.
Dean Storkan is CEO of Trical, a company that distributes the controversial soil fumigant methyl bromide, which destroys the earth’s ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol, an international treaty on ozone-depleting chemicals, lists methyl bromide as a banned substance, but the United States has successfully pushed for exemptions which allow its continued use in this country.
Once again, unemployed people in other states are giving thousands of dollars to a candidate in this Maine primary. Cote pocketed $2,300 from Dean Storkan last June, in addition to $2,300 from “student” Rick M. Storkan and $2,300 from Michelle L. Storkan, who’s listed in the federal filing as “not employed.” Joanne M. Storkan also forked over $2,300 last summer. A self-employed writer, she has one credit on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), for co-writing and co-producing the somewhat ironically titled 2004 comedy Surviving Eden.
Cote was also said to be unavailable for an interview, but his campaign’s political director, Emily Boyle, e-mailed The Bollard the following statement…
“Adam’s friends from Colby reached out to the Colby community nationwide to raise funds after he announced his candidacy for Congress last year. The Storkan’s daughter went to Colby and someone asked them to support Adam. We’re glad to have the support of Colby grads all over the country. We were unaware of their business until the Bollard called. They make a legal product, but Adam would like to see it phased out quickly as the Montreal Protocol called for and quickly move to a safer alternative.”
According to his Web site, adamcote.com, Cote graduated from Colby College and currently works for the Portland law firm Pierce Atwood, “where he focuses on real estate law and domestic and international energy policy, with a particular focus on renewable energy.” His colleagues at the firm contributed a combined $22,000 toward his year-end total of nearly $305,000.
The Democrats: Who’s giving to who?
Other notable Cote contributors include Justin Alfond, former director of The League (formerly The League of Pissed Off Voters), who chipped in $750. Alfond also tossed $500 into Brennan’s kitty.
Members of the Boulos family are big Cote contributors. Brothers Greg and Joe Boulos, principals in the dominant Maine commercial real estate company CB Richard Ellis/The Boulos Company (CBRE), have ponied up $3,300 between them. (Joe Boulos also gave Dean Scontras, a Republican candidate for this seat, $250; Greg Boulos is on Strimling’s list to the tune of $500.) Retiree Cheryl Boulos gave Cote $2,300, as did Stephanie Boulos, a “student” residing in Falmouth. CBRE partner Tony McDonald is on board for $1,000.
Moneybags Bob from London isn’t the only high-roller in Cote’s camp. TD Banknorth CEO Bill Ryan Sr. contributed $2,300, as did two Goldman, Sachs executives from New York.
Former Central Maine Power head David Flanagan, who once explored a run for governor as an independent, is in for $2,300. Olympia Companies’ president Kevin Mahaney, the would-be developer of the Maine State Pier, gave Cote $500, as did Dead River Company CEO Philip Andrews Nixon.
Portland Museum of Art director Daniel O’Leary apparently likes Cote twice as much: he gave him a grand last May. Former Portland Mayor Bill Troubh, a fellow attorney, is in for $250.
Unlike Cote, Brennan did not attend Colby, but he’s got the support of Colby president William D. Adams, who gave him $500 shortly after Christmas last year. In fact, Brennan has strong support from a host of people in the education field, including current Portland Superintendent Jeanne Whynot-Vickers, who gave him two contributions totaling $300, and former super Mary Jane McCalmon, now an “independent education consultant,” who chipped in $250.
Portland City Councilor John Anton gave Brennan a grand last April, and former state legislator Dick Farnsworth, who lost a Council race last fall, gave him $250. Former Portland Mayor Nathan Smith wrote a check for $500, and former Portland Mayor Anne Pringle wrote two totaling $1,250. (Seems all is not harmonious in the Pringle household these days: Anne’s husband, attorney Harry Pringle, who serves as legal counsel to the Portland school board, gave $500 to Strimling.)
A licensed social worker, Brennan said he’s proud of the support he’s received from people in the fields of social service, mental health and substance-abuse counseling, and made a negative comment about all the cash Cote and fellow Democratic challenger Mark Lawrence, the York County District Attorney, have received from lawyers.
United Way executive director Meg Baxter gave Brennan $250, but so did attorney (and Portland Planning Board member) Lee Lowry III. Suzanne McCormick, executive director of the People’s Regional Opportunity Program (PROP), likes Mike to the tune of $250, and David Faulkner, who directs the substance-abuse program Day One, wrote him checks totaling $350. However, combined, their donations still don’t match the $750 Brennan accepted from Joe Bornstein, who, last time we turned on the TV, was still a lawyer.
Bornstein, the bat-wielding barrister, also contributed to Lawrence’s campaign, but only gave him a third as much, $250. (Apparently doing some hedging himself, Bornstein gave Strimling $500, too.)
In a showdown between sheriffs, York County lawman Maurice Ouellette has Lawrence’s back and Cumberland County’s Mark Dion is backing Strimling (it’s a draw: each contributed $250). On the other side of the badge, two proprietors of rowdy bars have squared off in similar fashion, with Old Orchard Beach’s Paul Golzbein backing Lawrence for $250 and Old Port badboy Tom Manning backing Strimling for $500 (advantage Ethan, sorta; Gary Prolman, an attorney who’s represented Manning in bar matters, gave $500 to Lawrence).
Other notables on Lawrence’s list include super-lobbyist Severin Beliveau, who wrote him two $500 checks last year. Portland developer Nathan Szanton gave Lawrence $250, and Neil Rolde, author of several books about Maine history, pitched in $2,300.
Marc Malon, Lawrence’s political director, said the Lawrence camp’s “policy” is to “not comment on our opponents’ fundraising. We’re just focused on what we’re doing here.”
Pediatrician Steve Meister is at the back of the fundraising pack among Democratic candidates, having raised just over $46,000 last year. Asked about his opponents’ relative fundraising prowess, he said, “I’ve been ignoring it, to be honest… Pediatricians notoriously don’t pay attention to that sort of thing, which is why we’re among the lowest-paid specialties in medicine. We take Medicaid and we just take care of people.”
“The conventional wisdom is you have to have an ad on network television in the last two weeks that makes you look like the person to elect,” he added. “That’s what I think people will spend their money on. I need to raise as much money as I can to make sure I have an ad.”
Meister said his fundraising efforts have been limited to family and friends, including former colleagues in the military (a veteran of Gulf War I, Meister ran an emergency room near the Kuwait border, according to his Web site, stevemeisterforcongress.com). That helps explain why his donations come from people scattered across the country: a physician at a children’s hospital in Philadelphia; a psychologist from Pueblo, Colorado, working with the U.S. Olympic team; two developers in Pacific Pallisades, California.
The closest thing to a controversy on Meister’s donor list is the inclusion of 20th Century Fox executive Tom Rothman, who gave the candidate $1,000 shortly after Thanksgiving last year. The message board on Rothman’s IMDb page is full of comments with subjects like “arse hole,” “scumbag,” “total douchebag,” and “I hate you, Mr. Rothman for making a PG-13 DIE HARD sequel.”
Everybody’s a critic.
Pingree’s fundraising advantage is due in part to her past work with Common Cause and to the support she receives from members of EMILY’S List, a national group organized to support pro-choice, Democratic women running for office. That may explain how Hef’s daughter and Al Franken’s wife, Francis, ended up on Pingree’s list (Mrs. Franken, whose sister is active in Maine Democratic politics, gave Pingree $4,600 last April).
Pingree has also attracted a fair amount of support from Maine artists and musicians, like James Wyeth, who gave her $1,000, and The Toughcats, the unconventional roots-music trio from the Fox Islands, near North Haven. Working through the Democratic political action committee ActBlue, the band has raised over $4,600 for her run. Band member Colin Gully, who gave Pingree $500 himself, noted that Pingree recently attended a fundraising event at the Camden home of folk star Don McLean.
Among local politicos, Pingree has the support of former state lawmaker and Maine Democratic Party chairman Bed Dudley ($1,000), former Portland Mayors Karen Geraghty ($750) and Pam Plumb ($500), and State Rep. Anne Rand ($500).
High-profile attorney Harold Pachios gave Pingree $1,000, designer rug-maker Angela Adams chipped in $250, and designer furniture-maker Doug Green added $500. Lee Auto Mall chairman Shepard Lee gave Pingree $1,500 last year, as did Ned Lamont, the Connecticut Dem who lost a bitter Senate race to Joe Lieberman two years ago.
Love him or loathe him, you’ve gotta give Strimling credit for one thing: he’s always exceptionally well groomed. Now we know how he does it: Brenda Broder, owner of Amore Styles, gave Strimling $500 last year, and Akari owner Alan Labos tossed in $250. One assumes his first visits to these chic salons wasn’t to pick up checks.
Speaking of surprisingly great hair, Ocean Properties executive Bob Baldacci gave $750 to Strimling, and fellow OP execs Thomas Varley and Patrick Walsh each contributed $2,300. Another brother of the governor, Bangor attorney Joseph Baldacci, gave Strimling $500, but sister Rosemary Baldacci outdid them all. She made four contributions totaling $2,165, and is a field organizer for Strimling’s campaign.
Among the groups of donors Brennan griped about is the Monks family, which supports Strimling. Developer Robert C.S. Monks has contributed $4,600, as has his father, three-time Republican Senate candidate Robert A.G. Monks, mom Millicent Monks, and son Max, a student whose mailing address is One City Center.
Anthony Barrasso, proprietor of the Old Port pizzeria/cabaret Anthony’s Italian Kitchen, gave Strimling some dough (four contributions totaling $1,400), as did restaurateur Dana Street ($500). Master mastering engineer Bob Ludwig pitched in $300, and Blackstone’s owner Ralph Cusack added half a grand.
Outgoing Maine Med CEO Vincent Conti gave Strimling $1,000, and formerPortland Press Herald publisher Maddy Corson contributed $2,100. FormerForecaster owner and editor Marian McCue gave Strimling $500 in June, but gave Brennan the same amount three months later.
Among those of a political persuasion, Strimling supporters include former Portland Mayors Jim Cloutier ($250 on New Year’s Eve), Peter O’Donnell ($250 last summer), and George Campbell ($2,300 total); current Councilor Dan Skolnik ($500); and school board member Jaimey Caron ($250). Cliff Ginn, a candidate for Strimling’s state senate seat this year, contributed $2,300 a year ago.
In the summer of 2006, Strimling, a member of the Legislature’s taxation committee, threw a wrench into plans by Cabela’s – a big retailer of outdoor gear and L.L. Bean competitor – to open a store in Scarborough, citing his opposition to the company’s contention that its catalog division should be exempt from collecting state sales tax. Cabela’s execs initially threatened to nix the 130,000-square-foot hunting- and fishing-gear mecca, but later backed down and agreed to build it and add Maine sales tax to catalog, Internet and retail purchases associated with the location.
Perhaps not surprisingly, there are no contributions from Cabela’s honchos on Strimling’s list, but former Bean chairman Leon Gorman appears there ($4,600 total) as does Lisa Gorman ($4,600), current Bean CEO Christopher McCormick ($500), Bean executive John Oliver and wife Anita ($500 each), and Bean consultant Daniel Reardon (three checks for a total of $1,500).
Other newsmakers on Strimling’s donor list include Noa Shinderman, an owner of CAP Quality Care, who dispensed four contributions to Strimling’s campaign totaling $900. Last September, Shinderman and her husband, Dr. Marc Shinderman, paid $1 million to settle a federal lawsuit charging that they improperly dispensed methadone from their clinic in Westbrook. In March of last year, Dr. Marc was sentenced to six months in prison for prescription fraud.
Another Strimling contributor, developer Michael Liberty, got in hot water with the feds two years ago over allegations he fraudulently diverted money from an investment fund. The status of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s complaint against Liberty was still unclear at the time this article was posted, but he can’t be too hard up for cash. He gave Strimling $2,300 last Dec. 30.
The Republicans: Who’s giving to who?
The two Republicans vying for Allen’s seat are Dean Scontras and Charlie Summers. By the end of last year, Scontras had outpaced Summers on the fundraising front by about $80,000, having collected nearly $198,000 to Summers’ $117,126.
That said, few names on Scontras’ list are recognizable to most folks (though many are recognizably Greek), the exceptions being the aforementioned Joe Boulos and Maine Bank and Trust president Sam Ladd, who both anted up $250. You may not know Jeffrey Kane, CEO of National Distributors, but chances are you’ve drank a beer or a glass of wine handled by his company, which distributes Budweiser, Heineken, Gritty’s and Grolsch, among many other brands. He tipped Scontras $1,000.
Summers has the support of a retiree in Houston named George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, who lists a Kennebunkport address. The former first couple each gave Summers a grand. Wally Camp of the area’s Rowe car dealerships sent Summers $650 from his home in Florida, and former Press Herald publisher Corson threw him $500, as did former Maine ski mogul (ouch!) Les Otten and Jim Longley Jr., who held the 1st District Congressional seat for two years until Allen ousted him in 1996. Gritty McDuff’s proprietors Richard Pfeffer and Ed Stebbins (who are also The Bollard‘s landlords) got tapped for a grand each, plus $320 worth of in-kind beverage donations for a Barbara Bush event (who knew she could throw back that much beer?).
The independent: Who’s giving to Dexter Kamilewicz?
The short answer, it seems, is nobody, at least last year. The FEC report lists a grand total of $35 in individual contributions, and $683 as Kamilewicz’s “cash on hand.”
Which is not to say Kamilewicz has no support. His Web site, dexterforcongress.org, has a long list of supporters and endorsers, the most famous among them being Ralph Nader. Biddeford Mayor JoAnne Twomey is also endorsing Dexter, as are several Green Independent Party committees in southern Maine.
Local peace activists Jack and Fay Bussell are on Kamilewicz’s list, as is Portland City Councilor Kevin Donoghue, former Portland school board member Stephen Spring, and activist/radio host Karen D’Andrea.