The House ethics committee may consider a fiance as a family member, but campaign finance laws do not.

So if Rep. Chellie Pingree used the private jet owned by S. Donald Sussman for campaign purposes, she would be in violation of federal campaign finance laws.

Federal campaign law has a narrower definition than House rules of who qualifies as a family member when it comes to non-commercial travel. Pingree is allowed as a House member to travel on her fiance’s jet between Washington and her home in Maine, for example, but not as a candidate to a campaign event.

“There’s two different bodies of law at work here,” said Tara Malloy, associate counsel at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C. “If it was her own fundraiser, for her own campaign, she wouldn’t be able to pay for it (with campaign funds) or even receive the travel as an in-kind contribution.”

That’s because federal election law defines a candidate’s immediate family members as a father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, father-in-law or mother-in-law.

House rules allow unlimited gifts, including travel, from a relative, whose definition “shall be deemed to include the fiance” of the member, according to official correspondence from the ethics committee that Pingree’s campaign released Monday.

A review of flight logs dating back to when Pingree took office in 2009 shows the 2007 Dassault Falcon 2000EX jet owned by Sussman made about two dozen landings each year at Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head, about three dozen each year at Portland International Jetport, and approximately six dozen over 20-plus months at Dulles International in Washington, D.C. The logs do not list which flights included Pingree as a passenger.

None of those flights, nor any others, was used for campaign purposes, said Pingree spokesman Willy Ritch.

Events to raise money for Pingree’s campaigns have almost always been held in either Washington or Maine. An exception came earlier this month, on Sept. 13th, when Pingree attended a house party at an address on the Upper East Side of New York City.

A minimum suggested contribution of $50 per person was listed on the invitation, which was available on her campaign website (chelliepingree.com), as well as higher levels of support, up to the maximum of $2,400 per person per campaign allowed under federal law.

Earlier that day, Pingree visited a fourth-grade class at Presumpscot Elementary School in Portland and read from “The Circus Ship” by Maine author Chris Van Dusen in recognition of Family Literacy Week.

According to its flight log, Sussman’s jet traveled 49 minutes from Portland to White Plains, N.Y., arriving at 1:20 p.m. It took off again at 9:22 p.m. bound for Washington. The party was scheduled to run from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

“Chellie traveled with her partner Donald to New York on a day he had business there,” Ritch said in a statement released Tuesday. “So he was traveling for business reasons and Chellie went along with him. Chellie also visited her son and drove to a campaign event in New York later in the day. The flight to New York was personal and no campaign or taxpayer funds were used to pay for it.”

Asa Pingree, the youngest of the congresswoman’s three children, lives, works and attends school in New York City, Ritch said.

“This thing with the ethics rule is really secondary,” said Lance Dutson, a spokesman for the Maine Republican Victory Campaign.

“The biggest issue for us, as the Republican Party, is the hypocrisy of what Pingree is doing. She’s railed against this stuff her whole career, and it appears she’s living high off the hog on this while the rest of us are sucking wind through this recession.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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