Susan Collins (left) and Sara Gideon Credit: Composite photo

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Tim Woodcock is a lawyer and Bangor native.

Like many other Mainers, I have watched with dismay the dismal and often vicious political advertisements that have characterized the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Susan Collins and Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon. I have understood, however, that many of these ads come from interest groups over which neither candidate has control.

That is not the case with a recent TV ad approved by Gideon in which she crossed the line into outright falsehood. In this ad, Gideon attacks both Collins’ integrity, claiming that Collins used her position to benefit her (not yet) husband, Tom Daffron, and also attacks Daffron’s character as well. These accusations are false and all of us, irrespective of our political preferences, should firmly condemn them.

I have known Collins and Daffron for more than 40 years. For five years, I worked for Sen. Bill Cohen in Washington, D.C. During that time, Daffron was Cohen’s chief of staff and Collins was a respected, hard-working colleague. Eventually, my wife, Carol, who also worked for Cohen, and I moved to Bangor to start our family and make our lives here.

Years later in Bangor, Carol returned to work for Cohen in his Bangor office and, when Collins was elected to his seat, Carol stayed on to work with her. Carol is now the state office representative in Collins’ Bangor office. In that position, Carol has assisted many Maine citizens, institutions and businesses and has given something back to the community that gave so much to her and to our family.

Daffron is a man of impeccable character who, in his years as Cohen’s chief of staff, set the highest standards of integrity and public service — service to the people of Maine. It is no coincidence that for so many years, Cohen — who always observed the highest ethical standards — entrusted the administration of his Senate office to Daffron.

When Collins was elected to take Cohen’s place, she followed his dedication to ethical standards. So, clearly and consistently has she done this that she has never been accused of impropriety — never, that is, until now.

Gideon’s ad first accuses Collins of pushing for policies that “benefit[ed] her husband’s lobbying business, voting to repeal a tax on firms like his.” What are the facts? In 2011, the tax repeal in question passed the House of Representatives 422-0 and the Senate 95-0. Moreover, as Cohen himself pointed out in a recent OpEd in the Portland Press Herald, the tax repeal benefited all 3.2 million government contractors, of which Daffron’s firm was but one. Cohen condemned Gideon’s accusation as “false” and “dishonest”, and, “laughably absurd.”

The Gideon ad also accuses Collins of assisting Daffron’s firm by “fighting against President Obama’s push to make them disclose contributions.” But the ad fails to mention that opposition to President Barack Obama’s draft executive order was bipartisan; that Collins was joined by Democrat Claire McCaskill, Independent Joe Lieberman and Republican Rob Portman. Nor does she mention that the Obama Administration voluntarily abandoned the draft executive order because it was, quite simply, a bad idea.

The Gideon campaign’s false charges say nothing about Collins’ character, but they say a lot about Gideon’s. First, the ad shows that to win this election, Gideon is willing to authorize baseless attacks on Collins’ integrity. Second, if she can’t find any actual improprieties, she makes them up.

But perhaps this was just a mistake. If so, Gideon could still do something constructive. She could apologize and pull the ad from public viewing. With the ad’s falseness now manifest, if she fails to do that, her ad will send a new message and reveal Gideon’s true character.