AUGUSTA, Maine — The Federal Election Commission has fined Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree $9,750 for accepting campaign jet rides from Pingree’s then-fiance, Donald Sussman.
Pingree and her 2010 campaign treasurer, Anne Rand, were also ordered in the FEC’s decision on Wednesday to reimburse nearly $13,500 to Sussman’s company, Magic Carpet Enterprises LLC, which Pingree said she has personally done.
The decision stems from a 2010 complaint filed by the Maine Republican Party, which claimed that Pingree violated election law when she used Sussman’s private jet to fly to a fundraiser in New York.
“Congresswoman Pingree has repeatedly shown disregard for election law, and needs to be held accountable,” said then-Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster.
FEC regulations prohibit U.S. House candidates from traveling on noncommercial aircrafts during their campaigns and from accepting in-kind contributions in the form of noncommercial air travel. The law does allow candidates to travel on aircraft owned or leased by a candidate’s “immediate family member,” but the FEC ruled that because Pingree and Sussman were not yet married, Pingree’s use of the jet was illegal.
Sussman was also cited by the FEC as violating election laws for exceeding the $2,400 cap on contributions to any one candidate.
Pingree and Sussman argued to the FEC that they would have traveled on the jet on the days in question regardless of Pingree’s campaign, that they had a “good faith misunderstanding” of election law at the time and that the violations were inadvertent.
“We didn’t feel that either of those two flights happened because of any campaign events but obviously the FEC took a different view,” said Pingree in a written statement. “That disagreement dragged on for five years and I thought the best thing to do was put an end to it. I reimbursed my husband for the flights and my campaign paid a fine, which satisfied the FEC and now we can get back to focusing on issues that are a little bit more important.”
Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett offered scathing criticism of Pingree and Sussman, according to a written statement issued Thursday.
“In the action by the Federal Election Commission, the Maine GOP’s complaint is vindicated,” said Bennett. “The fact that we are even discussing the proper reporting of the use of private jets suggests that Congresswoman Pingree is out of touch with the working people of Maine’s First District.”