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Finance disclosures: GOP megadonor behind text campaign accusing Mills of indoctrinating schoolkids

Tom Klingenstein
Tom Klingenstein

The lead funder of the group sending text messages to Maine voters and claiming Democratic Gov. Janet Mills is putting controversial books in Maine schools is a GOP megadonor and head of a controversial right wing think tank.

Thomas Klingenstein is a partner in a New York investment firm and chairman of the Claremont Institute, a California-based conservative group considered the epicenter for the modern conservative movement.

According to newly filed campaign finance disclosures, Klingenstein gave $100,000 to the Maine Families First PAC, which is led by the national conservative group the American Principles Project.

APP has been running ads in multiple states, including Maine, accusing Democrats of indoctrinating school kids with LGBTQ books and instruction.

Klingenstein has also given nearly $2 million to federal candidates and PACs in the current election cycle.

That includes donations to former Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who is challenging 2nd District Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden and independent Tiffany Bond.

Klingenstein's heightened public profile has come with increased scrutiny for him and for the Claremont Institute.

He defended institute scholar and attorney John Eastman for advising former President Donald Trump during his attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

And last year he used a speech to defend Trump as a necessary strongman in the life and death struggle against what he called "woke communism."

"I do not think that Trump is a bad man. But for those who do, I remind them that a bad man, in some circumstances, can be a good president," he said.

Klingenstein has also donated former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who is attempting to unseat Mills.

Tax records show the conservative philanthropist has owned property in Kennebec County and he once got into a public dispute with former Bowdoin College president Barry Mills for touting diversity efforts at the Brunswick campus.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.