Saturday, May 25, 2013
AUGUSTA – The Democratic state Senate candidate from Waterville who made international news for playing the online game World of Warcraft will not be investigated for her campaign fundraising, despite a complaint by the Maine Republican Party.
Maine's ethics commission ruled unanimously Wednesday that no further investigation is needed into allegations that Colleen Lachowicz improperly coordinated her fundraising with ActBlue, a national fundraising group that supports liberal causes.
Lachowicz is challenging Sen. Thomas Martin, R-Benton, for the Senate District 25 seat, which represents six communities in Kennebec County and two in Somerset County.
Lachowicz made global headlines when Republicans called attention to her online gaming character "Santiaga" in a news release and mailer Oct. 4. The party called her participation in the game "a bizarre double life," claiming she had a "disturbing alter-ego."
Lachowicz told the ethics commission that she was overwhelmed with positive responses to the Republicans' release. She said she was inundated with requests from media -- including the British Broadcasting Corp. and Spanish television -- and from other gamers who wanted to support her campaign.
As a publicly funded candidate in Maine's Clean Election program, Lachowicz cannot accept donations, so she asked the staff of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices if she could post a message on her Facebook page and campaign website directing supporters to ActBlue.
"It was a response to people to stop calling me, stop messaging," Lachowicz told the commission. "If people wanted to do something, here's where they should go."
The commission's staff advised her that directing supporters to ActBlue by providing a link to the website would not violate state law.
The commission's executive director, Jonathan Wayne, said that when he learned of language on ActBlue's site that asked for contributions to groups that are "working to get her elected," he advised Lachowicz to take down the link, which she did.
In a complaint filed with the commission, the Maine Republican Party said that while Lachowicz was a Clean Election candidate, she "directed her supporters to make donations to influence her election to organizations including the Maine State Democratic Committee."
William Logan, an attorney for the Maine Republican Party, told the commission that the ActBlue site was "clearly a Web page to raise money for her campaign."
A screen shot of the page that was provided to the commission shows that 171 people donated $6,126 to the page, under the heading "Support a Gamer Who's Under Attack."
The page indicates that Lachowicz cannot accept donations, but that the money would go to two political action committees that raise and spend money to support Democrats in Maine.
During testimony before the commission, Kate Knox, an attorney representing Lachowicz, said the Democrats did not know who created the ActBlue page, or where the money would go. She said Lachowicz was going through "an incredibly chaotic time" and the party felt the Republicans had launched "an incredibly personal attack on her character."
"We were hearing from people who were concerned about bullying against her because of her participation in this game," she said.
In a recommendation to the commission, Wayne wrote that Lachowicz asked for advice from the staff before posting the information.
He said it's likely that Clean Election candidates often refer potential donors to supportive political action committees, and it's not a violation "as long as the candidate does not coordinate" with the group to spend money to promote their candidacy.
Wayne concluded that there was no need for further investigation, and the five-member panel voted 5-0 to accept his recommendation.
"Ms. Lachowicz and her campaign performed their due diligence by consulting with the commission staff prior to posting the ActBlue link on the campaign website," Wayne wrote. "The exact language of the post was vetted by the commission staff and approved."
Staff Writer Susan Cover can be reached at 621-5643 or at: