AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Ethics Commission voted Thursday not to pursue an investigation into a California-based organization that has pledged $50,000 in support of a Democratic candidate for the Maine Senate.
The commission, which discussed the case for about two hours on Thursday, voted twice against launching an investigation of the Progressive Maine PAC, which was set up by a national super-PAC called Progressive Kick. In August, Progressive Kick pledged the $50,000 in support of Democrat Jonathan Fulford, who is trying to unseat Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau for the Waldo County Senate seat.
Progressive Kick’s president, Joshua Grossman, has told the Bangor Daily News that the money is intended to fund canvassing activities for Fulford and at least two of the five referendum questions on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Paul Lavin, assistant director of the commission, said the five-member board voted twice against an investigation. The first vote was 5-0 against the notion that sufficient grounds exist for the commission to investigate whether Progressive Maine made an unreported in-kind contribution to Fulford.
The second vote, on a motion about whether there is evidence that Progressive Maine failed to report independent expenditures, failed 2-3.
Voting in favor of the second motion were Republicans Richard Nass and Bradford Pattershall. Voting against it were independent Chairwoman Margaret Matheson and Democrats William Lee and Meri Lowry.
Joshua Tardy, an attorney for the Maine GOP, argued the case on behalf of the party. He said after the ruling that he was concerned that the decision will have long-term ramifications, including encouraging more groups from outside Maine to spend on local races and for more candidates to let it happen.
Fulford, who is barred by law from communicating with the PAC or the super-PAC, has publicly disavowed outside spending in his race.
The commission’s next scheduled meeting is Oct. 26.