The sister of Andre Cushing III, the assistant Senate majority leader, is suing the Newport Republican, alleging he fraudulently siphoned off assets from a family corporation.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Penobscot County Superior Court, claims Cushing misappropriated more than $1 million from The Cushing Family Corporation via unapproved loans, real estate commissions and other transfers to himself or business entities in which he held an interest. The plaintiff, Laura Cushing McIntyre, wants punitive damages and her share of the misappropriated money.

Cushing said in an email that the allegations are without merit, but that he had not read the court filing and so it would be inappropriate to comment. “Members of my family, including myself, have been aware for several years that my sister was disgruntled and worked to address her questions,” he said. “Sadly, she has been unresponsive and has clearly chosen her means to address this issue.”

Also named in the lawsuit are Cushing’s wife and three adult children, who also are shareholders in the family corporation, which was set up by McIntyre and Cushing’s late father, Andre Cushing II, for the purpose of managing the family’s timberlands and investing in the stock market. The corporation and four companies that Cushing has an interest in are also named as defendants.

“The more we peeled back the layers, the more it was obvious that this corporation was being sucked dry,” Walter McKee, the Augusta attorney representing McIntyre, said via email. “It was the hydra’s head of financial discovery – every time we would find one questionable transaction two more would pop up.”

Cushing, who is the state chairman and serves on the national board of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an association of corporations and conservative state lawmakers, is running for re-election representing Newport and 16 other rural Penobscot County towns against independent Dennis Marble.

Cushing declined to speak with a reporter by phone and instead sent a statement via email. In it, he said he found it “disturbing” that “the plaintiff’s attorney has apparently already decided to run to the media” with the newly filed lawsuit, and expressed disappointment that a family matter had spilled over into the public domain.

McIntyre, who owns 11 percent of the shares in The Cushing Family Corporation, alleges that her property was improperly spirited away by Cushing and allied family members and into their companies or bank accounts. Between 1999 and the end of 2014 – a period when many of the allegedly improper transfers took place – she claims the value of the corporation’s stock portfolio went from more than $1.4 million to just $16,751.

Among the alleged improprieties: Nearly half-a-million dollars was given, without board approval, to New England Forest Products, a company allegedly controlled by Cushing, between August 2008 and the end of June 2009. When, at Cushing’s request, the family corporation purchased half of the forest product company’s shares from another investor three months later, the $483,000 “was gone and unaccounted for,” the complaint says.

McIntyre also says the family corporation made more than $1.37 million in payments to Cushing Contracting Corp., of which Cushing was the sole shareholder and president, even though the board had approved only $150,000 in payments. While also serving as the family corporation’s managing director, Cushing, a real estate agent, also pocketed commissions for property transfers between he family corporation and Cushing Contracting, the complaint alleges.

McIntyre also claims that in 2008, Cushing asked the family corporation for a $30,000 loan to start a company called New England Firewood. Subsequently, she says, she discovered that checks totaling $249,000 had been issued to New England Firewood. The family corporation’s records only had $10,000 in promissory notes – legally enforceable repayment agreements – from New England Firewood.

“What is crystal clear from what we have discovered with the assistance of a highly experienced fraud examiner is that this corporation with its once-significant assets was being illegally gutted, year in and year out,” McKee said by email. McKee said McIntyre would not speak with a reporter.

McIntyre’s complaint also alleges that some of the companies named in the suit disbursed funds “in excess of $20,000 to individuals for the benefit of (Cushing’s) political career,” and that New England Forest Products had disbursed funds to Cushing’s Senate campaign and leadership PAC, or political action committee.

Asked for more information about this, McKee provided a document summarizing McIntyre’s research. The document inventories numerous alleged financial transfers between New England Forest Products and Cushing’s campaign or the Respect Maine PAC dated between July 2014 and Oct. 2, 2016. It shows five payments from Respect Maine to the company totaling $18,500 and one from Cushing for Senate for $6,000, she alleges. The company allegedly made six check payments to Cushing’s political organizations – some to the PAC, some to Cushing’s campaign, and some to Cushing with a memo referencing the PAC – totaling $27,900.

While peculiar, such payments would not violate state election law, which has few restrictions on how candidates use their leadership PACs. But any contributions and expenditures are supposed to be reported to the state ethics commission.

The alleged payments and contributions do not appear in Respect Maine’s filings with the commission, although they do show New England Forest Products gave the PAC $250 in 2013. The company also donated $125 to Cushing’s campaign that year.

Cushing did not respond to a request for comment on the alleged payments.

The only defense attorney referenced in the court filings – Bryan Dench of Auburn, who apparently represents The Cushing Family Foundation – did not respond to a request for comment.