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Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.
Phil: Curious if there’s a cause you think could use $14 million in unspent campaign funds?
Ethan: Sure, but I’d rather have $200 million.
Phil: Of course you would. So many unmet needs and not enough taxes. I was referring to the extra $14 million Sara Gideon didn’t need to lose to Susan Collins.
Ethan: Pocket change, compared to the extra $200 million Donald Trump raised.
Phil: Except, Gideon raised hers to spend on a campaign that no longer exists. Trump has legal bills.
Ethan: I know Rudy Guliani is expensive, but even at $20,000 a day Trump won’t hit $200 million for more than 25 years. Pretty sure Trump bilked it out of his donors to exert his political influence for years to come.
Phil: Kind of like Gideon will likely do with her treasure trove?
Ethan: Somehow, I don’t see her using it on a propaganda tour like he will.
Phil: C’mon, Strim, Gideon was raising money on Election Day, saying she needed money to keep her digital campaign from going dark. Unless she was referring to laser-beaming messages to Mars to get absentees delivered, that was a fundraising ploy for the consultants.
Ethan: I just find all the hand-wringing by conservatives rather hypocritical. Team Trump sent plenty of emails on Election Day and no outrage. Olympia Snowe raised millions over five years before she pulled the plug on her reelection, and then dumped all that money into a foundation. George Mitchell did the same.
Phil: Snowe and Mitchell are different. They were both clearly raising money for a pending campaign. And then when they decided not to run again, they offered a refund to all donors before creating their respective foundations.
Ethan: And I have no doubt any donor who wants their money back from Gideon can also get a refund. Honestly, the only thing I am mad about is that she didn’t spend extra money on a better pollster.
Phil: Well, regardless of whether you feel she was righteous in raising $14 million more than she needed to lose, what do you think she should do with the money now?
Ethan: I would suggest the first thing she do is give a couple million to Democratic turnout efforts in Georgia (she has donated money to the two Democratic Senate candidates). I suspect a lot of her out-of-state donors gave money in hopes that the Senate would turn blue and this would be a good way to help fulfill their wishes.
Phil: Weren’t almost all of her donors out of state?
Ethan: Not as high a percentage as Collins’ donors.
Phil: OK, so let’s say she dumps $2 million into the lost cause of winning Georgia. I would suggest she take the next $5 million and give it to some shelters and food pantries across the state. She gave $250,000 to “Full Plates, Full Potential,” which is probably the least needy foundation in the state, but, clearly, she wanted to support her buddy, former liberal Maine Senate president turned real estate developer Justin Alfond.
Ethan: A $5 million donation for the needy works for me. I would then encourage her to put $3 million into the state Democratic Party. That amount could fund the annual operating budgets of the Maine Democratic Party for three cycles, and leave them free to simply raise money for all the actual election work they have to do. It would be good for her politically and it would be good for the people of the state.
Phil: Agree on the first reason, not the second. How about she then take the remaining $4 million and pay the tuition for every student in the Blue Collar Trades programs at our community colleges.
Ethan: I’d suggest she take a couple million of the remaining and put it toward something in her hometown like the library or afterschool programs, and keep the remaining $2 million for a future political opportunity. Nothing wrong with being prepared, and she deserves as much.
Phil: “Deserves” is a little strong for my taste, but if she gave away $13.9 million and kept $100,000, I could live with that.
Ethan: Now, how do we spend Trump’s $200 million?
Phil: I say he should finish the wall.
Ethan: As long as he chooses to live on the other side of it.