The Falmouth Town Democratic Committee did not violate campaign laws by endorsing and soliciting support for Cathy Breen in the primary for the District 25 state Senate seat, the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices ruled Thursday morning.
Breen’s opponent, Yarmouth businessman Steve Woods, filed a complaint with the commission following his June 10 primary loss.
Woods, who could not immediately be reached for comment, claimed that party leaders violated a legal agreement to remain neutral in the contest in exchange for his exit from the gubernatorial primary to clear the way for U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud to receive the party’s nomination without going through a primary contest.
The commission voted 3-2 on June 26 to have its staff investigate Woods’ complaint, which claims that the Falmouth Town Democratic Committee should have registered as a political action committee when it endorsed Breen and communicated that endorsement to its members.
Staff for the commission, however, ruled against Woods, saying that the town committee’s actions did not constitute a contribution as defined by Maine elections law. A contribution is defined as money or non-monetary items of value, but excludes volunteer efforts that are conducted without the candidate’s knowledge.
“All of these activities may have ‘had value’ in persuading the 161 recipients to vote for her, but there was no expenditure incurred in endorsing Mrs. Breen or distributing the endorsement by email,” staff wrote in a July 24 memo to the commission.
In other matters, the commissioners voted 4-0 to:
— Not investigate a complaint that the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force should have registered as a ballot question committee in 2009 when it provided cash contributions and staff assistance to the same-sex marriage referendum. Staff determined that group’s fundraising was short of the $5,000 threshold that would have required it to register.
The commission delayed action on conducting a similar investigation of the Human Rights Campaign.
Complaints against the groups were filed by the National Organization for Marriage after the commission ruled that NOM should have registered as a ballot questions committee for its opposition to the same-sex marriage referendum in 2009. The commission levied a $50,250 fine against NOM and required the group to disclose its donors. NOM is expected to appeal the ruling in Maine Superior Court.
— Waive penalties against Michaud’s campaign for accepting $9,000 in campaign contributions from three separate businesses, all of which have the same address in Topsham and the same majority share holder. An individual can only contribute $1,500 toward a primary and an additional $1,500 for a general election. The campaign promptly returned the contributions, according to commission staff.
— Reduced penalties levied against Sen. President Justin Alford, a Democrat, for errors made in his leadership PAC’s, Alford Business, Community and Democracy, filings in 2013 from $31,764 to $1,500. The fines were reduced because the PAC accepted responsibility and the public harm was deemed minimal, according to staff.
— Reduced penalties for the Maine Forward PAC, which is supporting Michaud’s gubernatorial campaign from $2,500 to $250. The PAC did not disclose a $50,000 donation in a 24-hour report, as required, because it was never notified by its bank, according to staff.
Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at: