Questions Raised on PAC Spending in Maine

Maine State HousePACs and Super PACs have been the focus of presidential election coverage this year, but the issue is alive in the states too. In Maine, the ethics commission is now looking into whether a state senator improperly coordinated with one Republican PAC.

The state Democratic Party filed a complaint last week after the Maine Senate Republican Majority PAC spent nearly $73,000 on television ads supporting Nichi Farnham, who is running for re-election to represent Bangor and a neighboring town. The only problem is that it turns out that Farnham is listed as the primary fundraiser and authorizing agent for the PAC, and PAC’s aren’t allowed to coordinate with the candidates or their campaigns.

Maine Ethics Commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne said the commission will consider the complaint in its next meeting, on October 31.

Farnham told the Bangor Daily News that the placement of her name on the filings earlier this year was meant to be only temporary, and that she was not aware of the ad buy in question. A GOP spokesman said the PAC had simply failed to remove her name from the filing due to an ‘administrative error.’

But in a post today, a blogger for the Daily News pointed out a couple of details suggesting Farnham was involved with the PAC more recently. In one example, the PAC’s treasurer copied Farnham on a June memo to the ethics commission.

The president of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections wrote an Op-Ed piece today in the Portland Press Herald arguing that the case highlights an inherent problem with PACs, which allow for unlimited fundraising even as state laws limit contributions to individual candidates. She points out that while PACs have the benefit of transparency, that’s of little value if, as the GOP alleges here, public filings are inaccurate.

The State Integrity Investigation put Maine near the bottom of the pack in corruption risk, giving the state an overall grade of F, and a D- specifically in the category of political financing.

Get the full story at the Daily News.

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