In their latest campaign finance filing the Maine Association of Realtors reports giving the maximum individual donation of $425 each to 16 state lawmakers seeking re-election. All are Republicans and all 16 have been endorsed by the Christian Civic League of Maine, the state’s leading opponent of abortion rights which recently celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The realtors aren’t alone. Local insurance agents, contractors, dentists and other corporate groups are some of the leading funders of anti-abortion candidates. If Maine Republicans win a legislative majority and enact their plans to repeal abortion rights, it will have been made possible in large part because of this continued local corporate support.
“It’s just pure capitalism — just caring about money and not caring about anything else,” said Aspen Ruhlin, an abortion rights advocate with the Mabel Wadsworth Center in Bangor. “Because, contrary to what some people may say, corporations aren’t people, so they don’t have values.”
Anti-abortion extremist candidates
In the wake of the repeal of Roe and with decisions over abortion rights in Maine falling to the state legislature, Maine Republicans have continued to shift toward extremism. The party launched a platform in May that specifically calls for a repeal of abortion rights in the state.
Despite these new and higher stakes, corporate and industry donors have continued to back candidates regardless of their extremist anti-abortion stance.
The realtors have long been one of the top corporate contributors to Maine Republicans and Democrats. In addition to their individual contributions to individual GOP campaigns, the lobby group has donated $36,545 to the Maine Senate Republicans’ election fund and $22,500 to the House Republicans since 2013. During the same period, realtors have given $87,250 to Democrats.
Some of the candidates they back have publicly declared extreme anti-abortion positions.
“I go a little further than some pro-lifers,” said Rep. Peter Lyford (R-Eddington) in a YouTube interview with Christian Civic League policy director Mike McClellan. “I don’t believe in abortion at all. […] The doctor may say, ‘Well, I think the mother’s going to die.’ I believe there will always be someone there to take care of the child.”
Lyford is running for an open seat in Senate District 10 against Democrat Ralph Cammack, a former deputy fire chief in Brewer. In 2020, realtors gave $400 to Lyford ahead of his re-election in the Maine House.
Whatever serves their agenda
Beacon asked the realtors association if they agreed with the GOP’s anti-abortion platform. Chief executive officer Suzanne Guild said their only consideration is what most serves their agenda. “The Maine Association of Realtors PAC makes candidate funding decisions based on policy issues solely related to the real estate industry and real property ownership,” she said.
Ruhlin noted that groups like the realtors association often give to both parties. “There’s very much a thinking that if you play both sides, you always win,” they said. “Companies aren’t people, but they’re run by people who hold a lot of power. With that power comes a lot of privilege and they feel completely untouched by these abortion bans.”
Another local business group, the Maine Insurance Agents Association, has also given to Republicans endorsed by the Christian Civic League. A top recipient of the association’s donations is Sen. Stacey Guerin (R-Penobscot), who has participated in Maine Right to Life’s annual “Hands Around the Capitol” rally, where protestors encircle the State House to pray for the overturning of Roe.
In 2013, Guerin spoke at the rally and encouraged attendees to support a slate of anti-abortion legislation sponsored by Republicans that year, including a bill to deny public funds for Planned Parenthood programs. “Maine needs you and the babies need you,” she said.
Guerin has received $800 from insurance agents since 2013, most recently getting $300 in May before the primary for her re-election in Senate District 4.
Another frequent attendee and sometimes speaker at the anti-abortion “Hands Around the Capitol” rally, former Gov. Paul LePage, was endorsed on Tuesday at a campaign stop in Windham by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Maine. One of the association’s top contributors is Cianbro, the largest construction company in the state.
At the event with the builders association, gubernatorial candidate LePage tried to obsfucate his anti-abortion past when asked by the media if he would move to ban or curb reproductive rights in Maine. “I don’t have time for abortion,” the former governor said, belying his more strident statements from previous years, such as declaring at 2016 rally, “We should not have abortion.”
Lyford and LePage are among the Republican lawmakers highlighted in a video published by the Maine Democratic Party this week highlighting member of the GOP’s extremist positions on abortion rights.
The builders association has given $9,500 to the Senate Republicans’ election fund since 2013 and the Retail Association of Maine has all Republican PACs listed as their top payees, doling out $21,300 over the last decade to House and Senate fundraising efforts.
Other top industry groups that have frequently given to the Maine Republicans include Central Maine Power’s parent company Avangrid, which has given the GOP $30,700 over the past decade, the Maine Credit Union League ($38,500), the Maine Dental Association ($13,250), and the Retail Lumber Association of Maine ($9,500). These donors have also given money to Maine Democrats.
On the federal level, former Rep. Bruce Poliquin has refused to say if he would support a federal ban on abortion if relected in November.
During his two terms in Congress, Poliquin was largely funded by Wall Street investors but has received substantial backing from Maine corporations as well, including from the Central Maine Motors Auto Group ($13,800), the Quirk Auto Group ($11,900) and the Twin Rivers Paper Company, which runs a paper mill in Madawaska ($11,400).
Dan Neumann studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North’s interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago’s West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at dan(at)mainebeacon.com.
Maine Beacon, July 8, 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/