Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York is throwing his financial support behind Maine independent Senate candidate Angus King, who is battling a stronger-than-expected challenge from a Republican contender in a race that could help determine control of the Senate. Bloomberg is one of the major backers behind a $500,000 ad campaign that began running on the Maine airwaves on Friday, the group running the ads said. The ads extol King as an independent voice who could help break gridlock in Washington.
“As Maine goes, so goes the country. The country and Mainers are hungry for problem-solving, independent candidates running for important offices,” said Daniel B. Winslow, senior counsel at the law firm Proskauer, who represents Americans Elect, which is running the ads.
King, who served as the independent governor of Maine between 1995 and 2003, was a heavy favorite when he entered the race to replace retiring Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, but his standing in opinion polls has slipped after an onslaught of ads from outside groups backing the GOP candidate, Charlie Summers.
It is widely believed that King would caucus with Democrats if elected, and he has the tacit support of many Democrats. The official Democratic nominee in the race, Cynthia Dill, is running a distant third in most polls.
Still, national Democrats have not explicitly endorsed King, and he lacks the kind of party apparatus that would ordinarily swing into action with ads and fund-raising on behalf of Democratic or Republican candidates in a tight race.
The outcome of the race could have major implications for control of the Senate, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 51 to 47; there are also two independents who caucus with Democrats. Snowe’s retirement dented GOP hopes to win control of the chamber this year, since Maine typically leans Democratic in presidential elections and King was widely popular after his governorship.
Bloomberg, a billionaire who at various points in his career has been a Democrat, Republican, and independent, has been courted by politicians across the spectrum and has endorsed candidates in both parties. In the Senate contest in Massachusetts, he has supported Republican Scott Brown.
The ad campaign in Maine represents a new mission for Americans Elect, which formed initially to advance a third-party candidate in the presidential race. That effort fell apart in May, and the group has reconstituted itself to focus on electing independent candidates, said Winslow, a Republican member of the Massachusetts House from Norfolk who is serving as a lawyer for Americans Elect. In this cycle, King is the only candidate the group is supporting.
This year, Winslow said, the group has raised a total of $1.75 million to put into the Maine race — Bloomberg’s contribution of $500,000, plus $500,000 from financier Peter Ackerman and $750,000 from Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor John Burbank.
Court reinstates early voting in final days in Ohio in win for Obama campaign
A federal appeals court panel ruled Friday that Ohio counties can keep polls open for in-person early voting the three days before the election, delivering a win to the Obama campaign after months of legal wrangling over the battleground state’s election rules.
The campaign had gone to court to challenge a state law that would have ended early voting the final weekend before the election for most voters, one of a slew of restrictions instituted by the GOP-dominated Ohio Legislature last year in what critics said was an effort to tamp down turnout by the minority voters who typically make greater use of early voting.
With the ruling, almost all of those restrictions have now been reversed, either by the courts or by the Legislature, which repealed many of the restrictions after opponents gathered enough signatures to put them to a referendum. The rules in place in Ohio will now be largely the same as those in 2008.
The appeals court ruled that the Ohio law, which allowed uniformed members of the military and Americans overseas to vote early on those days but not other Ohio voters, was unconstitutional because it privileged some voters over others.
“The hard work to protect Americans’ right to vote has paid off,” the Obama campaign’s general counsel, Bob Bauer, said in a statement.
Ohio is considered among the most important states for both Obama and rival Mitt Romney. It was one of many states that tightened rules to restrict early voting or impose photo identification mandates after the 2008 election. Courts have overturned many of those rules, finding in some cases that photo ID requirements had a discriminatory impact on minority voters who are less likely to have the required documents.
Early voting began in Ohio on Tuesday.
Congressional Budget Office estimates 2012 budget deficit at $1.1 trillion
WASHINGTON — A new estimate puts the deficit for the just-completed 2012 budget year at $1.1 trillion, the fourth straight year of trillion-dollar deficits on President Obama’s watch.
The result was a slight improvement from the 2011 deficit of $1.3 trillion.
The bleak figures from the Congressional Budget Office, while expected, add fodder for the heated presidential campaign, in which Obama’s handling of the economy and the budget is a main topic. Friday’s release came as the government announced that the unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent last month, matching the rate when Obama took office.
The administration will release the official deficit numbers around mid-October, but they should line up closely with the budget office estimate, which showed that the government borrowed 31 cents for every dollar it spent.
The budget office estimate predicts a modest 3 percent increase over 2011 in both income tax and payroll tax receipts, reflecting the sluggish economic recovery.
Corporate income tax receipts are way up — almost 34 percent — but most of that is a result of tax rules governing write-offs of business equipment.
Spending fell across a broad array of categories, the budget office said, but not Social Security and Medicare.
Social Security payments rose by 6 percent, while Medicare grew by 3 percent, slightly less than in prior years.
EPA appeals court ruling on pollution from coal-fired plants
WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency asked Friday for a full-court review of a decision by a three-judge panel that threw out a rule designed to cut pollution from coal-fired power plants.
The agency, in a filing in the US Court of Appeals in Washington, said the judges in the 2-1 ruling striking down its cross-state air pollution rule developed ‘‘regulatory policy out of whole cloth’’ in violation of their role of review.
The panel’s decision dealt a blow to the Obama administration’s efforts to curb harmful emissions with a regulation it said would provide ‘‘dramatic’’ health benefits for 240 million people.
The eight active judges on the Washington-based appeals court heard only one so-called en banc case last term, according to the court’s docket.
On Aug. 21, two of the judges on the panel, Brett Kavanaugh and Thomas Griffith, ruled that the agency overstepped its legal authority and imposed standards that were too strict. The court sided with power companies and mining groups that challenged the measure, which caps emissions in more than two dozen states.