AUGUSTA – Today on the 100th day of Speaker Sara Gideon sitting on her hands while Maine suffers, a story central to the accountability of Gideon and her terrible record of violating campaign finance laws is being overlooked.
Amid the lack of Legislative oversight on Governor Mills’ failed decisions during the COVID-19 crisis it has also become clear that Sara Gideon has a conflict: by not ordering Legislators to return to Augusta she is shielding herself from a full ethics investigation, determination, and fine.
Doctor Demi Kouzounas filed a request for investigation with the Maine Ethics Commission noting Gideon failed to disclose more than $3,200 in spending from her corporate funded PAC to promote herself in ads raising her profile and attacking her future opponent, U.S. Senator Susan Collins.
The violation investigation request demonstrates that, in total, the ads Gideon failed to disclose to the Maine Ethics Commission garnered more than 500,000 impressions on Facebook, funded with corporate money.
The spending was discovered through Facebook’s ads library feature, which showed Gideon’s Leadership PAC had run the ads, but the spending never appeared in Gideon’s legally required finance reports. The corporate-funded PAC was then closed out as Gideon launched her U.S. Senate campaign as she claimed to oppose corporate PAC money.
Now, Gideon’s continued refusal to bring the Maine Legislature back into session is providing her a shield from the investigation and penalties for the violation.
The Maine Ethics Commission has five Members. However it has been operating with only three Commissioners as it awaits the confirmation of two more Commissioners already nominated by Gov. Janet Mills. Mills announced those nominations on February 28th and the nominations were placed on file in the Maine Senate on March 3. Until those nominations are confirmed, the Commission only has three commissioners, the bare minimum needed for a quorum to conduct business.
However, just about 24 hours before a June 24th hearing, one of those existing Commissioners, Meri Lowry, suddenly announced she would be recusing herself from the Gideon hearing. Lowry had previously recused herself from another Gideon ethics violation hearing, disclosing she had donated to Gideon’s campaign. In this instance, Lowry also said she had been making small donations to the campaign of Gideon’s attorney, Ben Grant, who is running for Maine House.
The recusal move suddenly denied the Commission the necessary quorum to take up and determine the violation against Gideon. Gideon is now continuing to shield herself from the consequences of her illegal actions by simply refusing to bring the Maine Legislature back, effectively denying the Commission a quorum to impose a violation and fine.
“The Maine Ethics Commission has already found Sara Gideon guilty once,” said Doctor Demi Kouzounas. “Now, every day that passes with Sara Gideon ignoring the needs of the Maine people, she shields herself from accountability for her illegal violation.”
“Denying the Ethics Commission enough members to investigate her advertising scheme is the latest in what appears to be a very, very crooked pattern of behavior,” said Doctor Kouzounas.