Jim Wright of Cornville, a Central Maine Power Co. worker and spokesperson, appears in a new TV ad funded by CMP's parent against a quasi-public takeover of Maine's major utilities that began airing on March 1, 2023. Credit: Screenshot of video

If you live in Maine and have a smartphone or computer, you have likely been bombarded by ads over the past few months on the proposed takeover of Maine’s major electric utilities on the November ballot.

The reason is that political committees funded by the parent of Central Maine Power Co. dumped $2.4 million into social media and online advertising in the first three months of 2023 alone, swamping opponents who look to be in dire financial straits.

The context: This ad blitz has made up nearly half of the $5.1 million spent on this kind of advertising since 2022 began. Avangrid, CMP’s parent, has been the sole funder of the campaign to date, spending nearly $12.3 million on the 2023 referendum efforts.

These ads have featured Jim Wright, the famous lineman-spokesperson for Central Maine Power Co., as well as the owner of the iconic A1 Diner in Gardiner, who got backlash for his appearance. The staggering sum that went into the ads was disclosed last week to the Maine Ethics Commission.

It is more remarkable when you consider that Our Power, the political group trying to put an elected board in charge of the electric system, has only raised $655,000 since its campaign began. The haul would have been effectively nothing in early 2023 had it not gotten $100,000 from   the 128 Collective, a San Francisco-based organization that funds climate initiatives.

What it’s doing: All of the ads from the CMP side have been essentially the same. They are hammering a utility estimate that the new government-like entity to administer the power system would have to pay $13.5 billion to buy out the infrastructure.

That estimate is contested by Our Power, which says it could be billions less. There is no certainty on this question, since passage of the referendum in November would likely kick off a long court and regulatory battle over these exact questions.

CMP’s narrative is going unanswered in advertising so far, which is never good for the opposition. While that side also ran up a huge financial advantage in their losing bid to persuade Maine voters to uphold their $1 billion corridor in 2021, the opposition had tens of millions of dollars of their own. This is not happening here.

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...