POLITICS
04/19/2019 13:35 EDT | Updated 04/19/2019 13:49 EDT

Susan Collins Wanted To Limit Out-Of-State Donations. Now Her Campaign Is Banking On Them.

Only 15 Mainers contributed $200 or more to the Republican senator's reelection campaign between January and March.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the most senior Republican woman in the Senate, raised roughly $1.5 million in campaign donations last quarter ― the vast majority of which came from out of state.

Of the $1.1 million in itemized contributions ― those of $200 or more ― Collins received between January and March, just over 1 percent (roughly $9,000) came from Mainers, Federal Election Commission filings released earlier this month show.

Plenty of candidates, especially ones with a national profile like Collins, raise a significant amount of out-of-state money. But Collins’ willingness to accept these funds has shifted since she first ran for Senate in 1996. 

During an April 2, 1996 meeting between the Maine Citizens’ Campaign and Republican Senate contenders, Collins said “she favors limiting donations from out of state and would restrict the amounts of money candidates can contribute to their own campaign,” The Portland Press Herald reported at the time.

Asked about Collins’ change in position, Amy Abbott, deputy treasurer of the senator’s campaign committee, told HuffPost that “all serious candidates for federal office in Maine raise a majority of their money out-of-state.”

“One reason for that is the vast sums of money that outside groups pour into Maine during every election,” Abbott said in a statement.

Abbott added that Collins has always been “an advocate for campaign finance reform,” but also “believes in working within the existing campaign structure ― and that’s what she will continue to do.”

Last quarter’s haul continues the heavy flow of out-of-state contributions to Collins following her vote in October to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The last three months of 2018 marked the biggest fundraising period of her 22-year career, bringing in $1.8 million.

In-state contributions made up 41 percent of Collins’ itemized contributions during the first quarter of 2013 ahead of her last reelection bid. But nearly 70 percent of contributions toward her 2008 and 2014 reelection campaigns ultimately came from out of state, according to a review of FEC data on OpenSecrets.org.

By the end of March, Collins had amassed roughly $3.8 million cash on hand, narrowly edging out a crowdfunding campaign for her potential Democratic opponent created in the wake of her Kavanaugh vote.

Collins, viewed as one of the more moderate Senate Republicans, enraged Democratic Mainers when she cast her ballot in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, despite sexual misconduct allegations against him and his hysterical testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

So far, a crowdfunding campaign organized by Maine People’s Alliance and Mainers for Accountable Leadership has raised more than $3.75 million for Collins’ potential Democratic opponent in 2020.

No Democrats have formally announced their intention to run against Collins, though there has been speculation about several potential contenders.

“Out-of-state led campaigns have raised more than $4 million for Senator Collins’s opponent. In addition, Washington, DC-based Super PACS have already started spending money against her,” Abbott told HuffPost. “We know that we will be out spent by national groups, but we are confident we will have the money we need to wage a vigorous campaign.”