THE FORKS, Maine — Republican candidate for governor Bruce Poliquin continued his attacks against fellow candidate Les Otten on Monday by launching a television advertisement highlighting what the Poliquin campaign called “dishonesty with the voters.”
Otten said Poliquin’s ad is based on “lies and exaggerations.”
At issue is a 30-second television commercial that Poliquin communications director Brian Phillips said was to begin airing Monday. The advertisement criticizes Otten for his past involvement with American Skiing Co. Under Otten as its chief executive, the company was anything but a success, according to the advertisement. Otten piled up debt and mismanaged the company to the point that it was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange and forced to file for bankruptcy, according to the ad, which concludes with the catchphrase, “Les Otten, Less Jobs.” Poliquin does not appear in the advertisement and neither does his voice.
The Otten campaign retaliated with a press release referring to several “inaccuracies” in the campaign ad, countering that American Skiing never filed for bankruptcy, Otten was never “forced out” as CEO, and the company’s removal from the New York Stock Exchange wasn’t because of financial mismanagement.
Otten, during a campaign stop Monday afternoon in The Forks, dismissed the ad.
“It’s all just exaggerations and stuff [Poliquin] decided to make up,” said Otten, who said he hadn’t yet seen the advertisement, which is posted on the website YouTube. “I don’t know why Bruce Poliquin decided to attack me negatively. That’s his choice but I’m not going to lose five minutes of sleep over it.”
Phillips said Poliquin opted to produce the advertisement because Otten “has not been honest with the voters.” Poliquin himself did not respond to two requests through Phillips on Monday for an interview with the Bangor Daily News.
Phillips circulated a list of citations for the claims made in the advertisement. The document cited various newspaper articles and a book called “The Story of Sugarloaf” by John Christie.
“We feel these are reputable sources,” said Phillips. “This is not a personal attack. Mr. Poliquin feels that it’s time Mr. Otten start telling Mainers the truth.”
Phillips referred to Otten’s denials, particularly on the issue of whether American Skiing Co. ever went bankrupt, as “semantical arguments,” though Otten said his record is clear-cut.
“The media and the Maine voters will figure out the truth,” he said. “I’m not worried about it at all.”
Phillips would not say how long, with what frequency or where the advertisement will be broadcast because “that information would be useful to the other campaigns.”
This is not the first time Poliquin has attacked Otten. Last month, after Otten fired a campaign employee for plagiarizing from a Maine Heritage Policy Center document, Poliquin issued two press releases attacking Otten. Asked why Poliquin is attacking Otten and not the other five Republican candidates for governor, Phillips said there is no evidence that the other candidates are stretching the truth.
Otten built Sunday River in Newry into the biggest ski area in Maine before taking the company public in the late 1990s. His company grew aggressively but later struggled because of its debt and a couple of rough seasons.
Otten later stepped down as CEO as the company was selling off its resorts. In 2007, after the company relocated to Utah, it sold its final resort and went out of business.
Otten said he’s proud of his accomplishments with American Skiing Co., which he said included building a multimillion-dollar company from nothing and transforming the economy of western Maine with the rise of the Sunday River ski resort.
“Go to Newry and ask people what they think of Sunday River,” he said. “I think you’ll find that they’re nothing but happy with the jobs it’s created and its effect on the local economy.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.