Maine Democrat Running For Senate Accused Of Campaign Finance Violations

( Sara Gideon, a Democratic candidate for the Senate from Maine, is facing an ethics complain that says she has violated campaign finance law.

The Foundation for Accountability and Trust filed the recent complaint, which says Gideon’s campaign illegally coordinated with a super PAC that’s aligned with Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader from New York.

Recently, the communications director for Gideon’s campaign, Maeve Coyle, tweeted specific suggestions about what the voters of Main should “see and hear” about Gideon’s competitor, Maine’s Republican incumbent Senate Susan Collins.

Within one day of that tweet, the Senate Majority PAC, which is aligned with Schumer, published two ads that were very anti-Collins discussing those same topics that were outlined in Coyle’s tweet. The ads were also broadcast in the markets Coyle had mentioned in her tweet.

This would constitute a coordination between a candidate’s campaign and a super PAC that would be illegal. It prompted the Foundation for Accountability and Trust to file its complaint with the Federal Election Commission.

The complaint reads:

“There is reason to believe Gideon coordinated with SMP, resulting in an illegal in-kind contribution. We request that the Commission investigate and immediately take enforcement action to address these apparent violations.”

Gideon has found herself in campaign finance hot water in the past. An ethics watchdog in Maine once concluded the candidate siphoned money from a PAC to reimburse herself illegally for donations she made to Democrats at the national level. She received only a $500 fine for that last October.

Another ethics complaint was filed against Gideon in January of this year. It alleged a PAC run by Gideon didn’t disclose thousands of dollars that it spent on re-election campaign social media ads.

Thus far, the Schumer PAC has spent $4 million trying to support Gideon’s campaign. Super PACs are allowed to raise as much funds as they want, but they cannot coordinate directly with any candidates. Still, many super PACs and campaigns try to work creatively together to circumvent these rules.

The complaint further states:

“There is reason to believe that Sara Gideon and Gideon for Maine are coordinating with Senator Majority PAC based on (1) Gideon making a request using specifically formatted language for ads to be run with specific content in specific media markets; and (2) Senate Majority PAC responding by distributing those advertisements as requested.”

One of Coyle’s tweets read:

“Voters across Maine should see and hear how Collins has taken money from drug and insurance companies and then voted their way instead of for Maine people. In Portland they should also see and hear how Collins has stood with Trump and McConnell instead of Maine people.”

SMP initiated an ad buy of $500,000, with the content of the ad mirroring what Coyle’s tweet said in the same market she mentioned.

This race between Gideon and Collins is extremely tight, according to polls that were conducted over the summer. The most recent surveys show the two are just about tied with less than two months before the November 3 election.

Gideon is the speaker of the House of Representatives in Maine. Collins is the incumbent Senator from her district.