$109,000 more for the consolidation cause

AUGUSTA -- The owner of Hollywood Slots, the chairman of L.L. Bean and the Coca Cola Company have helped the fans of Maine’s school district consolidation law add $109,000 to their campaign war chest so far this month.

Maine People for Improved School Education, the political action committee fighting to uphold the consolidation law, maintained its comparatively fast fundraising clip during the first three weeks of October, largely by collecting money from corporate sources.

The recent additions bring the committee’s fundraising total for the year to $340,000, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday with the state. The committee’s primary opponent, the Maine Coalition to Save Schools, has raised $9,851 for the year.

At issue is Question 3 on the Nov. 3 ballot, which would repeal the 2007 law that attempted to merge Maine’s 290 school districts into 80. A “yes” vote would overturn the law; a “no” vote would uphold it.

The pro-consolidation campaign benefited this month from a $5,000 contribution from Pike Industries, the New Hampshire-based contractor that repaved Interstate 295 between Topsham and Gardiner; a $10,000 offering from Sunday River ski area; and another $10,000 gift from Portland-based First Atlantic Healthcare.

Hollywood Slots owner Penn National Gaming Inc. gave $10,000 to the effort; L.L. Bean chairman Leon Gorman contributed $10,000; and the Coca Cola Company gave $25,000.

Gov. John Baldacci, who proposed the consolidation law, has acknowledged making fundraising appeals on behalf of Maine People for Improved School Education.

The committee spent nearly $205,000 during the reporting period, including $194,000 to a Virginia media firm to produce TV advertising.

The pro-consolidation group ended the reporting period with $56,000 on hand, but owing $22,000 to the media firm and others.