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Posted: Jun 19, 2014

Abortion issue continues to divide Cutler, Michaud, even though they agree

Open Season

Eliot Cutler, independent candidate for governor, has given money to a number of federal candidates over the years, which is not surprising given his personal wealth and his interest in politics and public policy.

According to filings with the Federal Elections Commission going back 20 years, Cutler has given to at least three candidates who are pro-life, or were at the time of his contribution.

The first two were Randy Tate, a Republican who ran for Congress in Washington state in 1994, and Thomas Reynolds, a Republican congressman from New York from 1998-2008.

The third? That would be Democrat Mike Michaud. And that was in 2002, when Michaud first ran for Congress and was pro-life.

Michaud, of course, now says he is 100-percent pro-choice but the Cutler campaign and others have criticized the Democrat for flip-flopping on the issue of abortion.

Michaud has acknowledged that he has cast votes in the past against choice but says he has evolved on the issue.

So, should Cutler’s support for pro-life candidates open him up to criticism on this issue, given that he has said he “unequivocally” support a women’s right to choose?

"Eliot’s record of supporting and contributing to pro-life candidates speaks for itself,” Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said. “His distortions of Congressman Michaud’s record are ringing hollow with voters, especially after NARAL and Planned Parenthood embraced Michaud with their endorsements."

Asked whether he thought his contributions to pro-life candidates reflect an evolution on the abortion issue, Cutler said no.

In the cases of Tate and Reynolds, Cutler said he gave to their campaigns because his law firm had been involved in cases in their respective states and he was asked to give. He said he never asked either candidate about their position on abortion because it didn’t matter.

Reynolds, while he was in Congress, had a 0 percent rating by NARAL and a 100 percent rating by the National Right to Life Committee. Tate, after serving one term in Congress, went to work for Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, which is staunchly pro-life.

And in 2002, when Cutler gave $250 to Michaud's campaign, he said he never asked about Michaud's stance on abortion.

Additionally, Cutler worked for two Democrats – Sen. Edmund Muskie and President Jimmy Carter – who were both pro-life.

Cutler said he couldn’t even remember Muskie’s or Carter’s positions on abortion because it never really came up during his time with them.

It’s also worth noting that Cutler has donated to a number of pro-choice candidates over the years.

Cutler said the bottom line is: He’s not a one-issue voter or supporter.

He did, however, stress that his own views on abortion have not changed and said Michaud cannot make that claim.

“This is one of many issues where (Michaud) has made a change in his position in recent years,” said Ted O’Meara, Cutler’s campaign manager. “He has a much longer record of being against choice than he does being for women’s rights.”

The abortion issue has been prominent so far in the 2014 race for governor in Maine and it hasn’t even involved Gov. Paul LePage, the only pro-life candidate.

Instead, Cutler and Michaud have sparred over an issue they agree on.

Cutler, in particularly, has been critical of Michaud’s endorsement by pro-choice groups.

David Farmer, Michaud’s senior campaign adviser, said he wasn’t surprised about Cutler’s contributions to pro-life candidates but downplayed the significance.

“He has made a career out of political calculations,” Farmer said. “He was a Washington lobbyist and lawyer for many years. I’m sure he’s supported lots of people we might disagree with.”

Farmer also said Cutler’s campaign has been cherry-picking Michaud’s record.

“If you want to look at his record, fine, but you can’t just stop at 2004 or whenever,” Farmer said.

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