U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, left, and Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, right. Credit: File / AP

Good morning from Augusta. There are 15 days until the November election.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I think they’re playing us Mainers for fools,” said Bill Bridgeo, the city manager of Augusta and a skeptic of a proposed mining operation near Pickett Mountain in southern Aroostook County. “And I just find that offensive.”

What we’re watching today

Partisan-affiliated news sites have been recurring resources in Maine’s U.S. Senate race. A weekend New York Times report highlighted Maine Business Daily, a relatively normal-looking site that has run a mixture of press releases, brief articles and news stories critical of House Speaker Sara Gideon, the Democrat challenging U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in Maine’s hyper-competitive U.S. Senate race. 

It is part of a network of 1,300 sites across the country — including several in Maine — that are masquerading as local news sites to capitalize on the decline of small newspapers across the country. Behind the scenes, operatives are directly paying for much of the content. 

The Times found a Republican operative paid the site for at least one negative story about Gideon. It is not clear what kind of circulation the articles on the site receive, though they were cited half a dozen times by 1820 PAC, a pro-Collins super PAC, in negative ads about Gideon.

Partisan news sites are not new, but they offer differing levels of transparency. Maine Business Daily claimed to be “a key source of information about our state’s business climate, daily business transactions, and entrepreneurship.” That is a far cry from most other partisan news sites in Maine, which in some way acknowledge their bias but have still made their way into advertising on both sides of the U.S. Senate race and others.

The Sun Journal reported earlier this year about positive news articles about Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District, appearing in Courier, a national news site with a clear liberal bent that was paying to promote the thinly sourced stories that Golden denounced. But Courier’s website admits that it is owned and operated by “a progressive media company.” American Bridge, a liberal super PAC that has attacked Collins, also runs a news arm.

The progressive Maine People’s Alliance, which is working against Collins, also runs a news arm called Maine Beacon that often hits the senator. It includes a disclosure on linking on the news site linking it to the nonprofit, but the Maine People’s Alliance does not disclose donors. On the other side, the Maine Examiner prompted controversy two years ago over whether its articles amounted to campaign contributions. State ethics officials determined the site, operated by Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, had not broken any rules.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine’s US Senate race marks collision of 2 eras for women in politics,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “Gender has not been at the forefront of a race in which both major-party Senate candidates are women, but it represents a collision of two eras for women in politics. Collins, following in the tradition of moderate Maine Republicans, became part of an initial cohort of female senators to rise in politics on their own backgrounds. Gideon’s career spanned both sides of a post-2016 reckoning among Democratic women that sparked a new conversation about representation.”

— “Maine’s US Senate race has attracted so much money that it’s hard to spend it,” Piper, BDN: “Record levels of money have poured into Maine’s competitive race between [Collins] and [Gideon], shaking up the TV market for candidates and non-candidates and raising questions about how it can all be spent effectively by Election Day.”

— “Susan Collins’ PAC ‘not aware’ of 2 candidates’ QAnon ties when it donated to them,” Caitlin Andrews and Michael Shepherd, BDN: “In a statement on Friday, Collins campaign spokesperson Annie Clark said the senator ‘denounces QAnon’ and its conspiracy theories. She said the committee makes contributions at the recommendation of House Republican leaders and it was ‘not aware of the activities of these two individuals at the time these two donations were made.’”

Pence to rally in Hermon on Monday

The vice president scheduled a morning rally at the Dysart’s complex as part of a two-state campaign swing today. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to speak at 11:30 a.m. Monday in front of a logging truck backdrop in Hermon before heading to the swing state of Pennsylvania, telling us something about President Donald Trump’s campaign priorities about two weeks from Election Day.

Maine’s 2nd District looks to be one of the closest races for a presidential elector in the country, even though it was won by Trump by 10 points in 2016. Former Vice President Joe Biden is polling closely with Trump there so far in 2020, and both campaigns have prioritized it of late.

Pence could be the most high-profile visit to Maine of the campaign season. Former Gov. Paul LePage, Trump’s honorary campaign chair here, said last week that he would have expected Trump to visit this year under normal circumstances, but that the president’s recent coronavirus diagnosis complicated matters and may lead him to focus visits in bigger states.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email clumm@bangordailynews.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...