November 15, 2019
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Maine panel orders GOP candidates to share costs but finds no violation

Bill Trotter | BDN
Bill Trotter | BDN
This mailer for Ellsworth City Council candidate John Linnehan, which includes a photo of Linnehan (right) standing next to House candidate David Edsall, has prompted a complaint to the state ethics commission from the Maine Democratic Party, which contends the flier and similar newspaper advertisements violate the Maine Clean Election Act.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Ethics Commission voted against launching an investigation into campaign finance violations against two Republicans running for office in Ellsworth but ordered one candidate to pay part of the cost of another candidate’s mailings and newspaper advertisements.

At issue were two newspaper advertisements and a mailer paid for Ellsworth City Council candidate John Linnehan. They included photos of David Edsall, who is running as a Republican for the House of Representatives against incumbent Democratic Rep. Louis Luchini.

In the photos, Edsall is wearing a T-shirt advertising his own candidacy, which Democrats argued should be counted as a campaign contribution for Edsall that should have been reported.

The volunteer commission voted 4-1 on Monday against investigating the matter — with Republican Commissioner Bradford Pattershall of Freeport opposed. However, commissioners ordered that campaign finance filings be amended and that Edsall reimburse Linnehan with $300 of campaign money to help pay for the ads and mailer.

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the commission, said Monday there will be no investigation into the matter as long as the $300 is paid.

Tim Bryant, an attorney for the Maine Republican Party, said Monday that the candidates were satisfied with the ruling.

“We think the vote was an overwhelming agreement that Dr. Edsall didn’t do anything wrong and didn’t intend to do anything inappropriate,” said Bryant.

In a separate item, the commission opted to postpone action on another complaint by the Maine Democratic Party that alleges incumbent Republican Sen. Andre Cushing of Newport and David Haggan, who is running for the House District 101 seat against incumbent Democratic Rep. James Davitt of Hampden, did not properly disclose who funded a postcard mailing that featured both of them.

Wayne said the commission accepted that the two candidates funded the mailing equally and that the issue will be reviewed at the commission’s scheduled Dec. 8 meeting.

A new law implemented by citizen initiative last year requires that political advertisements include the identities of the sponsoring organization’s top three donors. That law also will be relevant in a new complaint by the Maine Senate Republican Campaign that a television ad paid for by the Maine Democratic Party against incumbent Sen. Rodney Whittemore, who is battling Democratic Rep. Jeff McCabe for the Skowhegan-area seat, did not properly identify the top three donors.

Wayne said that complaint has been put on the commission’s Dec. 8 meeting agenda.


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