Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 30 Credit: Al Drago / AP

Welcome to Ad Watch, in which the Bangor Daily News’ political team breaks down who is behind political ads you’re seeing and whether what they are saying is true.

A Facebook ad from the campaign of House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, cherry-picks votes to create a misleading representation of Sen. Susan Collins’ record on prescription drug legislation.

The ad: Sara Gideon on Susan Collins’ prescription drug record

Who is behind it?

This digital ad was paid for by Gideon’s campaign. It has spent $2.2 million on Facebook ads since she announced her run in June 2019, including a few thousand dollars on variants of this ad, which generated between 80,000 and 90,000 impressions in Maine, according to Facebook data.

Gideon has raised nearly $24 million this cycle, while Collins has raised $16.7 million. You can follow campaigns’ full raising and spending in the U.S. Senate race, which also features independents Lisa Savage and Max Linn, with us here.

The major claims, with context

“Why are Mainers paying 10 times more for some medicines?” the ad asks. “Because Susan Collins took $1.5 million from drug and insurance companies and voted twice to allow drug companies to keep cheaper generic drugs off the market.”

Collins has taken a combined more than $1.5 million from the pharmaceutical and insurance industries during her career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which the ad cites. That includes money from corporate PACs that aim to advance affiliated companies’ interests.

The Republican senator did also vote against the two bills cited in the ad’s fine print. But that is an incomplete accounting of her overall record on drug bills in Congress. The nonpartisan site FactCheck.org concluded last month that a similar TV ad was “cherry-picking” Collins’ votes.

Of two votes cited in the ad, one from 2010 was a provision in an appropriations bill that failed in committee. The other failed on the floor in 2012, with opposition from 47 Republicans and 25 Democrats. Collins’ campaign argues the bill would not have brought down drug prices.

Collins has backed other legislation aiming to lower prescription drug prices, such as a bipartisan bill she co-sponsored last year passed as part of an appropriations package that aims to prevent pharmaceutical companies from blocking generic drugs from the market.

In her 24-year tenure in the Senate, Collins has voted on a range of bills related to health care and prescription drugs. But the ad’s suggestion — that campaign contributions the Maine senator received led her to vote in ways that made prescription drug prices more expensive — does not hold up with her overall record.