Whoever won a raffle for a shotgun from the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine has Sen. Susan Collins to thank.
The Republican senator’s reelection campaign donated that prize in late March, according to details of her latest campaign expenditures filed with the Federal Election Commission (see page 310). Her campaign paid $1,055 to Fox Firearms Sales and Training Services of Vassalboro for the shotgun.
That raffle occurred as part of the annual State of Maine Sportsman’s Show, held March 28-30. Collins herself attended a portion of the show.
On Monday, there was no hint of shyness from Collins’s campaign spokesman Lance Dutson about the campaign having provided the raffle prize — at a time when fire departments, Little Leagues, churches, and other groups have drawn controversy for similarly raffling off firearms.
“She did it to support the Sportsman’s Alliance,” Dutson said. “Maine is a very pro-Second Amendment state. Hunting heritage is a big part of the culture here.” He said gun issues have not played much of a part in her reelection campaign, at least so far.
Even the Democratic candidate for Collins’s seat, Shenna Bellows, declined in an interview Monday to directly criticize Collins for her campaign’s donation of the gun.
“I can’t comment on what the Collins campaign chooses to spend its campaign contributions on,” said Bellows, who served as executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine for the last eight years.
But Bellows did describe her campaign as having received donations from more than 2,600 supporters in Maine, many in $5 and $10 increments, she said, adding that supporters know “we’re using our campaign funds for voter outreach.”
Pressed, Bellows said, “I support the Second Amendment.” But she added, “I think the Second Amendment is congruent with common-sense measures,” including background checks. “The race isn’t just about me,” she said, arguing that it’s about “the threat of a Republican majority in the Senate.”
David Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance, said he’s come across little questioning or controversy about the donation to the group, which claims 10,000 members. “Not really. When people find out the proceeds went toward gun education, it just dies on the vine,” he said.
Tickets for the raffle were $1 for adults, free for kids. Trahan said Monday he could not recall precisely who won the shotgun, but that it was an adult. Part of the process before handing the gun over to the winner, he said, was a complete background check.
The raffle raised about $1,000 for gun education programs provided by his group and the 4-H, he said.
Collins last year complained about attack ads run against her for her support of the bipartisan background-check amendment sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. The legislation failed.
National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam on Monday said his organization has not yet issued a grade in 2014 for Collins. “She was a C-plus in 2008” when Collins won her third term in the Senate, he said.