Democratic state Sen. Troy Jackson says money is the reason that a major environmental group has endorsed his opponent in the 2nd District congressional primary, and is targeting him. The League of Conservation Voters is supporting state Sen. Emily Cain, and criticizing Jackson's environmental voting record, in a series of mailers to voters in the district. Jackson says one of Cain's financial backers in Maine, R. Donald Sussman, gave a big contribution to the League to help fund the $150,000 campaign. But an official with the organization says Sussman had nothing to do with the mailers, and that the real issue is Jackson's record.
In a press release announcing the ad campaign, the League of Conservation Voters provides a link to two of the direct mail pieces. The first features campaign head shots of Emily Cain alongside photos of Mt. Katahdin, Quoddy Head Lighthouse and a blue lobster boat. "Maine's Environmental Leader" is printed above the Katahdin photo.
The second mailer has two large arrows on the front. One points backwards, and inside has a photo of a dirty smokestack against a backdrop of darkened sky. The other arrow points forward and features a photo of an array of solar panels with blue sky overhead. "When it comes to addressing Climate Change," the mailer reads, "Troy Jackson will take us backward. Emily Cain will move us forward."
"There's a really clear contrast in this race," says Jeff Gohringer, the League's national press secretary.
Gohringer says the mailers are merely designed to point out that Cain, by League of Conservation Voters standards, has a much stronger record on the environment than Jackson. Gohringer says Cain has a 90 percent lifetime rating from the League, while Jackson's scores 64 percent.
"All too often Troy Jackson sided with polluters and really failed to take on big challenges like climate change," Gohringer says.
One mailer criticizes Jackson for failing to support a 2008 bill to force coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions. It also calls him out for voting to repeal the Maine's pesticide notification registry. Jackson, though, says the criticism is unfair, noting that his recent ratings from the League of Conservation Voters have been strong. Jackson was a guest on Wednesday's Maine Calling program on MPBN Radio.
"My rating this past session was 71 percent, the same as U.S. Sen. Collins. and Sen. Collins has just been endorsed by them," Jackson said. "They did an independent expenditure for her, in support of her, and they actually gave her an award with the same rating that I have."
Jackson has his own theory about what's going on here. One of Cain's big financial backers, hedge fund manager Donald Sussman, who is married to 1st District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, recently gave $25,000 to the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund, which backs house candidates across the country.
"Thirteen days later, they end up endorsing Sen. Cain, and then, all of a sudden, they give the biggest independent expenditure ever," Jackson said. "They've never spent $150,000 ever in a primary, nowhere, in this country, against me. And that, obviously, is their prerogative. But it's really, in my opinion, a joke."
Sussman was traveling Wednesday and could not be reached for comment. But a source close to Sussman says the financier's contribution to the League's Victory Fund had nothing to do with the Democratic primary in the 2nd District or the mailers targeting Jackson.
Jeff Gohringer, the League's press secretary, echoes this. "Our decision to target Troy Jackson with a mail program is solely based on his voting record, and the clear contrast in this race between him and Emily Cain," he says.
But the Jackson campaign says the attacks are unprecedented. They claim the League has never targeted a candidate before with a lifetime environmental score above 55 percent.
The mailings are scheduled to reach more than 28,000 voters between now and the primary on June 10.