Non-profit

Maine Momentum

Website:

www.mainemomentum.org

Location:

ME

Tax ID:

83-4606676

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Type:

Election Advocacy Group

Maine Momentum is a left-of-center organization that is a part of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a major left-of-center “dark money” lobbying and advocacy organization. Maine Momentum was founded to oppose U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) in her 2020 reelection campaign. During the 2020 election cycle, Maine Momentum spent nearly $3.8 million with the support of the Sixteen Thirty Fund to oppose Sen. Collins, primarily through televised attack advertisements. [1] [2]

Maine Momentum came under fire several times for publishing false and misleading advertisements. The left-of-center Washington Post ruled two of Maine Momentum’s advertisements against Sen. Collins “mostly false” and found that they contained “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.” [3] [4] Maine Momentum leadership also misleadingly characterized the organization’s relationship to the Sixteen Thirty Fund, claiming that it did not work with national Democratic organizations and was “totally Maine-based” before tax records revealed that it was funded by the Sixteen Thirty Fund. [5] [6]

2020 Election Spending

In 2019, the left-of-center “dark money” organization Sixteen Thirty Fund created Maine Momentum, a project designed to attack U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) during her reelection campaign. [7] Between the early fall of 2019 and June of 2020, the Sixteen Thirty Fund channeled over $3.8 million to Maine Momentum to attack Sen. Collins, portraying her as radical. [8] [9]

In 2019, the Sixteen Thirty Fund launched Tax March, another project in Maine to oppose right-of-center economic policy. That July, Tax March and Maine Momentum hosted a joint event to criticize the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, at which Maine Momentum director Willy Ritch refused to address the organization’s connection to the Sixteen Thirty Fund, instead claiming that the organization was a “totally Maine-based effort.” [10] Ritch has a history of misrepresenting Maine Momentum’s connection to the Sixteen Thirty Fund. In November of 2019, prior to the release of the Sixteen Thirty Fund’s tax records that showed funding to Maine Momentum, Ritch denied working with national Democratic organizations entirely, claiming that Maine Momentum and its supporters “do not and cannot” work with such organizations. [11]

Maine Momentum formed an additional spinoff organization called the 16 Counties Coalition in July of 2019. Listing the organization as a “social welfare” organization, Maine Momentum used the 16 Counties Coalition to launch an “education campaign” that attacked Sen. Collins for voting in favor of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. [12] Despite 16 Counties Coalition’s status as a “social welfare” organization, the group came under fire for appearing to do nothing but target Sen. Collins. In October of 2019, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) filed an IRS complaint against Maine Momentum and the 16 Counties Coalition, alleging that they had acted for the private interests of the Democratic Party and violated their tax-exempt statuses. The complaint noted that 85% of all 16 Counties Coalition tweets featured attacks on Sen. Collins, rather than any “educational” information about the 2017 tax bill. [13]

Attack Advertising

Maine Momentum began advertising against Sen. Collins before she even announced her reelection campaign, spending $540,000 in December 2019 to attack her vote on the 2017 tax bill for not supporting “regular Mainers,” despite the fact that nearly 9 out of 10 Maine families received an income tax cut due to the bill. Before the end of 2019, Maine Momentum spent over $2 million in Maine to oppose Sen. Collins. [14]

Aside from attacking Sen. Collins on her tax bill vote, Maine Momentum also ran advertisements attacking Sen. Collins’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. By May of 2019, just two months after the start of the pandemic in the United States, Maine Momentum had run over 1,000 pandemic-related attack ads against Sen. Collins. [15]

Between August 2019 and May 2020, Maine Momentum also spent $127,800 on Google digital ads attacking Sen. Collins on the tax cut bill. [16]

Controversies

Maine Momentum has come under fire several times for running advertisements against Sen. Collins that contained false or misleading information. In July and August of 2020, Maine Momentum ran an attack advertisement claiming that Sen. Collins voted to put “Social Security and Medicare in jeopardy” while giving large corporations a tax break. [17] Yet during the debate over the tax bill, Sen. Collins had successfully amended the bill in order to prevent the automatic 4% reduction in Medicare spending that would have occurred without her intervention. [18]

Maine Momentum cited their claims to the Tax Policy Center (TPC), a left-leaning think tank. Yet their claims actually traced back to an opinion column by an author who was not purporting to represent TPC. Even the left-of-center Washington Post ran a fact-check on the advertisement and found that it contained “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions,” putting the advertisement in “the realm of ‘mostly false.’”[19]

In June of 2020, Maine Momentum ran an advertisement accusing Sen. Collins of taking money from out-of-state hotel businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic then sending them millions of dollars in kickbacks while giving only “one in 10 Maine small businesses” support through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that Sen. Collins helped to create. [20] The Washington Post again fact-checked the advertisement and found that there was a surplus in PPP funding for Maine small businesses, while large corporations either did not receive funding or gave back excess funding improperly awarded. The Post also found that Sen. Collins took very minor campaign contributions from corporations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Post again reported that the advertisement was “mostly false” and contained “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.” [21]

People

Maine Momentum was led by Willy Ritch. Ritch formerly worked as a spokesman for U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME). Maine Momentum spokesman Chris Glynn previously worked as spokesman for the Maine Democratic Party and worked for former Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, Sen. Collins’s Democratic challenger in the 2020 election. [22]

References

  1. Piper, Jessica. “Democratic Dark-Money Network Put $4M into Early Anti-Susan Collins Effort.” Bangor Daily News, November 23, 2020. https://bangordailynews.com/2020/11/23/politics/democratic-dark-money-network-put-4m-into-early-anti-susan-collins-effort/.   ^
  2. Mistler, Steve. “Pulse Newsletter: Tax Filings Shine Light On Democratic Dark Money In Maine.” Maine Public, December 4, 2020. https://www.mainepublic.org/post/pulse-newsletter-tax-filings-shine-light-democratic-dark-money-maine. ^
  3. Kessler, Glenn. “Analysis | Dark Money Ad Claims Susan Collins Put Old-Age Programs ‘in Jeopardy’.” The Washington Post. WP Company, August 21, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/08/19/dark-money-ad-claims-susan-collins-put-old-age-programs-jeopardy/. ^
  4. Kessler, Glenn. “Analysis | Democratic Ad Misleadingly Attacks Susan Collins on the Paycheck Protection Program.” The Washington Post. WP Company, June 17, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/06/15/democratic-ad-misleadingly-attacks-susan-collins-paycheck-protection-program/. ^
  5. Arkin, James. “GOP Senators Hit by Early Wave of Outside Money Ahead of 2020.” POLITICO. POLITICO, November 8, 2019. https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/08/senate-outside-money-republicans-2020-067623. ^
  6. Mistler, Steve. “Pulse Newsletter: Tax Filings Shine Light On Democratic Dark Money In Maine.” Maine Public, December 4, 2020. https://www.mainepublic.org/post/pulse-newsletter-tax-filings-shine-light-democratic-dark-money-maine. ^
  7. Piper, Jessica. “Democratic Dark-Money Network Put $4M into Early Anti-Susan Collins Effort.” Bangor Daily News, November 23, 2020. https://bangordailynews.com/2020/11/23/politics/democratic-dark-money-network-put-4m-into-early-anti-susan-collins-effort/. ^
  8. Piper, Jessica. “Democratic Dark-Money Network Put $4M into Early Anti-Susan Collins Effort.” Bangor Daily News, November 23, 2020. https://bangordailynews.com/2020/11/23/politics/democratic-dark-money-network-put-4m-into-early-anti-susan-collins-effort/ ^
  9. Mistler, Steve. “Pulse Newsletter: Tax Filings Shine Light On Democratic Dark Money In Maine.” Maine Public, December 4, 2020. https://www.mainepublic.org/post/pulse-newsletter-tax-filings-shine-light-democratic-dark-money-maine ^
  10. Mistler, Steve. “Pulse Newsletter: Tax Filings Shine Light On Democratic Dark Money In Maine.” Maine Public, December 4, 2020. https://www.mainepublic.org/post/pulse-newsletter-tax-filings-shine-light-democratic-dark-money-maine. ^
  11. Arkin, James. “GOP Senators Hit by Early Wave of Outside Money Ahead of 2020.” POLITICO. POLITICO, November 8, 2019. https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/08/senate-outside-money-republicans-2020-067623. ^
  12. “Democrats Use ‘Dark Money’ Loophole for Early Assaults on Susan Collins.” Bangor Daily News, July 5, 2019. https://bangordailynews.com/2019/07/04/news/new-group-uses-exploited-advocacy-rules-to-educate-mainers-about-sen-collins/. ^
  13. Crabtree, Susan. “Watchdog Complaint Cites Dark-Money Group Targeting Collins.” RealClearPolitics, October 11, 2019. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2019/10/11/watchdog_complaint_cites_dark-money_group_targeting_collins_141475.html. ^
  14. Everett, Burgess. “Susan Collins Facing Massive Ad Buy Attacking Tax Vote.” POLITICO. POLITICO, December 6, 2019. https://www.politico.com/news/2019/12/06/susan-collins-ad-buy-077261. ^
  15. Kessler, Aaron, and Kenneth P. Doyle. “Homebound Viewers Blitzed With Election 2020 Coronavirus Ads.” Bloomberg Government. Accessed January 7, 2021. https://about.bgov.com/news/homebound-viewers-blitzed-with-election-2020-coronavirus-ads/. ^
  16.   “Google Transparency Report”. 2021. Google. Accessed January 4. https://transparencyreport.google.com/political-ads/advertiser/AR554674754032762880. ^
  17. Kessler, Glenn. “Analysis | Dark Money Ad Claims Susan Collins Put Old-Age Programs ‘in Jeopardy’.” The Washington Post. WP Company, August 21, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/08/19/dark-money-ad-claims-susan-collins-put-old-age-programs-jeopardy/. ^
  18. Kessler, Glenn. “Analysis | Dark Money Ad Claims Susan Collins Put Old-Age Programs ‘in Jeopardy’.” The Washington Post. WP Company, August 21, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/08/19/dark-money-ad-claims-susan-collins-put-old-age-programs-jeopardy/. ^
  19. Kessler, Glenn. “Analysis | Dark Money Ad Claims Susan Collins Put Old-Age Programs ‘in Jeopardy’.” The Washington Post. WP Company, August 21, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/08/19/dark-money-ad-claims-susan-collins-put-old-age-programs-jeopardy/. ^
  20. Kessler, Glenn. “Analysis | Democratic Ad Misleadingly Attacks Susan Collins on the Paycheck Protection Program.” The Washington Post. WP Company, June 17, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/06/15/democratic-ad-misleadingly-attacks-susan-collins-paycheck-protection-program/. ^
  21. Kessler, Glenn. “Analysis | Democratic Ad Misleadingly Attacks Susan Collins on the Paycheck Protection Program.” The Washington Post. WP Company, June 17, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/06/15/democratic-ad-misleadingly-attacks-susan-collins-paycheck-protection-program/. ^
  22. Lacy, Akela. “Dark-Money Groups Back Democratic Efforts to Retake Senate.” The Intercept, February 24, 2020. https://theintercept.com/2020/02/24/dark-money-democrats-senate-2020-elections/. ^
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Maine Momentum

12 MADISON STREET
PORTLAND ME 04101