AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Republican Party said Friday it would file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, claiming she violated laws with her use of a private jet.
The GOP said in a press release that Maine’s 1st District congresswoman broke the law by flying to a New York fundraiser on Sept. 13 on fiance Donald Sussman’s private jet. The party said private jet travel by candidates to campaign events is forbidden under federal election law.
“Congresswoman Pingree has repeatedly shown disregard for election law and needs to be held accountable,” said Charlie Webster, chairman of the Maine Republican Party.
Pingree faces Republican Dean Scontras in her re-election bid.
Pingree said in a statement that her opponents are avoiding talking about the real issues Maine people face, such as fixing the economy, protecting Social Security and taking care of veterans. She said the repeated allegations are politically motivated and untrue.
Earlier this week, Pingree’s communications director gave the Bangor Daily News a copy of the letter from the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Standards of Official Conduct that gave the congresswoman permission to accept flights on an aircraft privately owned by her fiance.
The Sept. 24 letter, signed by chairwoman Zoe Lofgren of California and ranking Republican member Jo Bonner of Alabama, explained that House rules specify that Pingree may accept a gift from Sussman, just as any member could from a relative. Members are not normally allowed to accept gifts, but there is an exception for relatives — including fiances.
In a press release, the Maine GOP countered that federal election law defines immediate family as “father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, father-in-law, or mother-in-law of the candidate.”
Earlier this week, GOP communications director Lance Dutson pointed out that the plane is not registered to Sussman personally and therefore should not fall under the “relative” exception. The plane is registered to Magic Carpet Enterprises LLC in Ithaca, N.Y. Pingree spokesman Willy Ritch said Sussman created the corporation for insurance and liability purposes.
The GOP has blasted Pingree this week, largely because of congressional testimony she gave in 2006 — when she headed the Washington, D.C., lobbying firm Common Cause — that was critical about legislators using private aircraft