In February, the political establishment here in Maine was rocked by Sen. Olympia’s Snowe’s late and entirely surprising announcement that she would not seek reelection. The Senate, she said, had become a frustrating place, where “an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.” Rather than serve another term – her reelection was a given – she would “enter a new chapter” in which she would “help give voice to my fellow citizens who believe, as I do, that we must return to an era of civility in government driven by a common purpose to fulfill the promise that is unique to America.”
“I see a vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us,” she added, and later announced she would convert her campaign committee into a PAC to support such centrist, post-partisan change.
But here in Maine, where she is the perhaps most influential Republican, Snowe has not yet put her money where her mouth is.
As my story in today’s Portland Press Herald shows, Snowe, her husband, and her campaign committee gave exclusively to Republicans and in Maine’s state-level races this cycle, including divisive and polarizing figures like Gov. Paul LePage, with whom she shares a personal loyalty. Indeed, her staff say she gave to candidates based on their loyalty to her during her abortive reelection bid, and the pattern of her giving emphasizes party over ideology, as when she appeared in television ads to unseat the most avowedly centrist, non-partisan member of the state senate in favor of a Republican challenger.
Sources expect her political donations will change character going forward, now that her campaign committee has become Olympia’s List. Stay tuned.