New reporting from the Daily Beast exposed how a Washington special interest group is behind a billionaire-backed pro-Collins super PAC. 


The organization - 1820 PAC - is based in Washington DC and has reported no donations from Mainers, but has run ads that consist solely of pro-Collins videos produced by the Chamber of Commerce, “one of DC’s heaviest political hitters.” Last week, 1820 launched digital ads that link to a pro-Collins website run by the Chamber. 


Corporate special interests and Wall Street billionaires, like the ones funding both the Chamber and 1820 PAC, were among the biggest beneficiaries of the 2017 GOP tax bill that Senator Collins supported. Now those interests are spending big to try to keep Collins’ reliable pro-corporate special interest vote in the Senate.


The Daily Beast (Pay Dirt): Who’s Behind the Mysterious PAC Dropping Huge Sums to Reelect Susan Collins?


By Lachlan Markay

December 19, 2019


Key points:


  • One of the most vulnerable Republican 2020 Senate incumbents is getting major air cover from a new super PAC designed to sound like a local group. But all signs point toward the involvement of the country’s biggest business lobbies 500 miles away in Washington, D.C. 


  • The group, a super PAC called 1820 PAC, has dropped about $700,000 on ads this year pressing for the re-election of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who is facing a tough fight in a race sure to be one of the most expensive of the cycle. 


  • The name of the PAC is a reference to the year of Maine’s founding, but 1820’s mailing address is in Washington. And a PAY DIRT analysis of public records shows the fingerprints of one of DC’s heaviest political hitters: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


  • Both groups are using the same ad buyer for their pro-Collins television spots. Those ads all use footage from the same clip of B-roll uploaded to the Collins campaign’s YouTube page, a common tactic to circumvent super PAC coordination rules. 


  • 1820 has paid for digital ads that consist solely of the Chamber’s pro-Collins videos. And last week, 1820 started buying ads that link to the Chamber’s pro-Collins website.


  • The many connections between pro-Collins efforts by 1820 and the Chamber shed new light on the interests behind one of the cycle’s top super PACs so far, and show how groups in Washington can attempt to inject money into key political contests in ways that mask their involvement with a figleaf of localized branding.


  • The group won’t disclose its finances for the second half of 2019 until January. But in the first six months of the year, none of its donors hailed from Maine.


  • If the specific issues in Chamber and 1820 ads diverge, though, they do share one key characteristic: All of the pro-Collins ads released by both groups incorporate “B-roll” footage from the same six-minute video uploaded to the Collins campaign’s YouTube page.


  • The overlap between the two groups is even clearer in their digital buys. In early November, 1820 purchased a few Google ads featuring pro-Collins videos. But they weren’t 1820’s videos; the group was paying to place two of the Chamber’s pro-Collins ads hyping her support for apprenticeship programs.


  • Indeed, 1820’s entry into the Maine Senate race happens to have coincided with rising fears among Republicans about some crucial Senate contests. Reed himself voiced those fears in an October interview with Axios, calling Democratic fundraising success in key Senate states “a three-alarm fire" for Republicans.


  • And while Reed says he “a big supporter” and longtime friend of Susan Collins, the Chamber’s concerns appear to have less to do with the benefits of federal policy for Mainers than with who controls Congress’s upper chamber come January.