June 2, 2010

Realtors spending big to repeal Maine tax reform

Wealthy individuals are the main source of support for the group opposing the repeal.

AUGUSTA - The largest contributor in the campaign on Question 1, the people's veto on tax reform, is the Maine Association of Realtors, which has donated $222,589 to encourage voters to overturn the legislation passed last year.

The leading contributor to the effort to preserve the new tax system is Donald Sussman, partner of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine. Sussman, a wealthy financier, donated $50,000 on May 20, after giving $100,000 on April 9.

Another significant donor supporting tax reform is Daniel Tishman, chairman and chief executive of Tishman Construction, which built the World Trade Center and holds contracts to rebuild several buildings on Ground Zero.

He and his wife each gave $50,000 to the No Higher Taxes for Maine Political Action Committee, which advocates a "no" vote on Question 1.

Thomas Chappel, chief executive of Tom's of Maine, gave $5,000 toward the campaign to protect tax reform. Tom Walsh, hotelier and principal of Ocean Properties Ltd., gave $10,000.

Iberdrola, the Spanish company that recently acquired Energy East, the parent of Central Maine Power Co., gave $15,000. Another utility, Bangor Hydro, gave $7,500.

Political action and ballot question committees that are engaged in the June 8 referendum campaigns made their latest financial reports last week. Disclosures cover the period from April 1 to May 25.

Overall, No Higher Taxes for Maine reported raising $337,180 since April 1, spending $303,875, and having $39,278 on hand.

A political action committee called Vote Yes to Reject New Taxes is leading the charge for repeal.

The Maine Automobile Dealers Association, the Maine Restaurant Association and the Maine Tourism Association each gave the Vote Yes PAC $5,000 in early April.

The Maine branch of the National Federation of Independent Businesses donated $2,000. About 20 separate garages and auto dealers supported the veto with donations of less than $200.

In total, Vote Yes to Reject New Taxes reported raising $24,480 since April 1, spending $8,298 and having $18,382 on hand.

The Realtors' contribution was listed under its ballot question committee, Save the Mortgage Interest Deduction.

A third committee, which led the signature drive to put tax reform on the ballot, also reported activity.

Still Fed Up With Taxes held a golf tournament in Vassalboro on May 15 at a cost of $2,371, and raised $10,650 from April 1 to May 25. It spent $11,390 in the period, and has $554 remaining.

The gubernatorial campaigns of Republicans Paul LePage and Les Otten each gave $500 to the PAC, as did a PAC registered to Senate Minority Leader Kevin Raye, R-Perry.

Still Fed Up with Taxes also received support from the Maine Republican Party, which sent fundraising letters -- one to hairdressers, the other to plumbers and oil repairmen.

The Democratic Party did not donate, though Democratic legislators did make contributions.

House Speaker Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven; Rep. Wendy Pieh, D-Bremen; and Rep. Elspeth Fleming, D-Bar Harbor; gave $100, $250 and $100, respectively, to the No Higher Taxes for Maine PAC.

 MaineToday Media State House Reporter Ethan Wilensky-Lanford can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: ewlanford@mainetoday.com


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