STILL SCARED - Dems attack challengers to Baldacci

UPDATED 6:52 pm July 24 with comments from the Baldacci campaign.

You heard it here first - Baldacci's spokesman says he will not dramatically outspend his opponents, and may not even spend $1.2 million.

The Maine Democratic Party made much hay out of little political grass today, filing a complaint with the state Ethics Commission, seeking a ruling on whether it was illegal for members of the Chandler Woodcock campaign to give $5 donations to the Clean Elections effort of Barbara Merrill, and for members of the Merrill campaign to do likewise to the Woodcock effort. (See the Dems' shrill press release here.)

But the real question is: If the "Democrats continue to support Clean Elections and feel that the ground breaking law has been a huge success," as the press release says, why is John Baldacci not running as a Clean Elections candidate?

Even if Merrill and Woodcock are playing fast and loose with the letter of the law (and there has been no ruling to say whether they are or not), Baldacci (whose Dem-backed budget restocked the Clean Elections Fund earlier this year) is ignoring its spirit entirely by paying for his campaign purely with private dollars.

We can think of a few reasons - like wanting to be sure to raise more money than his Clean opponents, and wanting to use up as much of Maine taxpayers' money as possible in funds matching his own private fund-raising - but we seek your speculation.

We ran those ideas by Jesse Connolly, Baldacci's press man, and Connolly says the gov isn't running Clean because "he felt that it would be unfair to ask the taxpayers to pay for his campaign," especially in light of recent state budget tightness. Connolly also hinted that the campaign-finance reports that become public tomorrow (available here) might show that the gov's camp is not going to spend a massive amount of money, and may not even trigger maximum matching (of $1.2 million per candidate) for Baldacci's opponents.

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