December 20, 2012

PAC to pay fine after missing deadlines

A group supporting gay marriage must pay $889 for being late on three campaign finance reports.

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — The state ethics commission voted Wednesday to impose an $889 fine against a political action committee that supports gay marriage for missing filing deadlines leading up to the Nov. 6 election.

The Washington, D.C.-based Lesbian Super PAC was launched this year with support from former tennis star Billie Jean King and actress Jane Lynch.

It violated Maine campaign finance laws in September when it began soliciting contributions through its

Facebook page to support Question 1 – the ballot initiative that ultimately legalized same-sex marriage in Maine – without having registered with the state as a PAC, said Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

After it registered, the group missed three filing deadlines for campaign finance reports.

L PAC donated $40,000 to Mainers United for Marriage, the lead group in support of the ballot question.

Maine voters approved the initiative, 53 percent to 47 percent.
In total, Mainers United for Marriage raised $4.8 million and received nearly $1 million in in-kind services, according to reports filed late Tuesday with the state.

At a meeting Wednesday morning, ethics commission members agreed to reduce the penalty from a possible $11,558 to $889 because L PAC said it was unfamiliar with Maine laws and because it tried to comply.

The commission’s staff had recommended a $1,106 fine.

Kate Knox, an attorney representing L PAC, said Wednesday that the group did not dispute that it missed the deadlines. “I think the proposed penalty is fair,” she said.

The reduction is similar to what was granted to the National Organization for Marriage, which opposed the ballot measure and also missed a filing deadline.

Suggested fines are based on a formula in state law that is tied to the amounts of contributions.

Last month, the commission fined the National Organization for Marriage $2,000 – a 75 percent reduction from what it could have been fined – for being 14 hours late in filing a report in October that showed an $800,000 contribution.

Throughout the campaign, the group gave more than $1 million to Protect Marriage Maine, the leading opponent to same-sex marriage.

In total, Protect Marriage raised $1.4 million and received $36,741 in in-kind contributions, the latest reports show.

L PAC is a federally registered committee that supports pro-lesbian candidates and ballot questions.

Also Wednesday, the commission voted to fine Biddeford Mayor and state Rep. Alan Casavant $75 for transferring $1,000 from his 2011 mayoral campaign committee to his 2012 legislative campaign. State law prohibits contributions in excess of $350.

Staff Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 621-5643 or at:

scover@mainetoday.com

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