Political Investing Profile: the 2020 Maine Senate Race




Maine’s contested Senate seat is currently held by Republican Susan Collins, running for her fifth term in the chamber. Sara Gideon, Maine's Democratic Speaker for the House, is challenging Collins for the seat. Collins is one of the most moderate Senators, but her votes to confirm Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh and acquit President Trump of impeachment diminished her standing among Democrat-leaning voters. A 2018 fundraiser raised millions for her future Democratic challenger.


Collins’s exact net worth is difficult to pin down, with estimates ranging from a 2020 estimate of $2.3 to $6.9 million to a 2019 estimate of $1.7 million. The difficulty arises in part from Collins’ and her husband Tom Daffron’s investment strategy. According to Collins's financial disclosures, rather than investing in mutual funds or ETF's, Daffron has invested in approximately fifty individual stocks. Most of the investments range between $15,000 and $50,000, leaving significant room for estimation error. There are also larger investments in companies like Apple, Union Pacific, and Roper Technologies.


Owning individual stocks is not barred by Congressional trading rules, but it does open one up to more scrutiny than owning mutual funds because potential conflicts of interest are more direct. When discussing the recent scandal surrounding Senator Burr’s (R-NC) COVID related stock trading, John Cornyn (R-TX) outlined his position on owning individual stocks: Maybe the bottom line is, if you’re going to be in the Senate you can’t own any stock. Or at least own mutual funds. Who knows, people could say you’re gaming an index fund.” (Politico 2020)


Collins’ portfolio as a whole is somewhat oddly allocated. Thirty-two percent of her total net worth is in Cash or Equivalents in the form of various savings accounts and Charles Schwab treasury securities.This is a fairly conservative allocation, especially given Daffron’s willingness to take on more risk by investing in individual stocks rather than mutual funds. Daffron also owns almost $1 million in individual bonds, ranging from municipal and state bonds from Maine to corporate offerings from JP Morgan.


On the other side of the race, Sara Gideon and her husband Ben, an attorney, are not as personally wealthy as Collins and Daffron. The Gideons have a net worth between $1 and $3.1 million according to their candidate filings (we estimate their net worth at $1.7 million). Their portfolio is fairly conservative in its allocation, and substantially distinct from Collins and Danforth’s. Only 35% of their net worth is in stocks (both US and Foreign), all of which are in the form of mutual funds and ETF's rather than individual company stocks. An additional 25% of their holdings are in bond ETF's, further highlighting their defensive strategy.


Ben Gideon is a lawyer with Berman and Simmons, a Maine based law firm that specializes in representing victims in civil lawsuits. Twenty two percent of the Gideons’s net worth, roughly $375,000 comes from his account at the practice, and he is the sole owner of over eighty percent of the family’s assets. Sara Gideon solely possesses only one asset, a Maine Public Employee retirement fund worth less than $15,000. The remainder of the Gideon family holdings are held jointly between them.

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