Maine’s ethics commission on Wednesday assessed its first penalty under a 2006 law that requires lobbyists to disclose who they are representing when testifying before a legislative committee.

Joel Allumbaugh, an advocate for conservative health care policies, was fined $50 for failing to tell a legislative committee that he was a paid lobbyist for a Florida-based conservative think tank. Allumbaugh could have been fined as much as $5,000, but several commission members did not consider the violation serious enough to warrant a stiffer penalty.

Allumbaugh was accused of failing to reveal that he was employed as a lobbyist for the Foundation for Government Accountability when he testified before the Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Services Committee in May in support of a bill designed to encourage comparison shopping by health care consumers. The complaint was filed by two Democratic members of the committee, Rep. Ralph Tucker of Brunswick and Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick of Bangor.

Allumbaugh is a frequent advocate for conservative insurance reforms and the former director of health care policy for the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative advocacy group. According to his written testimony, he identified himself to the committee as the president of his company, The Allumbaugh Agency, which administers health insurance plans for small businesses.

He did not disclose his affiliation with the Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative advocacy group led by former policy center head Tarren Bragdon, whose new organization works against the Affordable Care Act. According to lobbying disclosure forms, Allumbaugh was registered as a lobbyist for the foundation and in May was paid over $1,400 to lobby for the comparison shopping health care bill.

Allumbaugh acknowledged that he failed to disclose his affiliation with foundation but said it was not intentional.


Several members of the five-member ethics commission questioned whether Allumbaugh should be penalized. Commissioner Richard Nass said Allumbaugh’s affiliation with the organization is well known.

“This smells of gotcha politics, and I’m not going to be a part of it,” Nass said.

Commissioner Andre Duchette said the complaint may have been politically motivated but the commission was obligated to follow the law.

“I don’t view our role as taking a side in this one way or the other,” Duchette said. “If it’s clear what happened is a violation, then it’s up to us to assess a penalty.”

Tucker, in a statement, said that enforcing the disclosure law is important because, if ignored, “credibility and transparency in lawmaking will be further eroded.” Tucker also asserted that Allumbaugh presented himself as a “local health insurance expert.”

He added, “We now have learned that (the Foundation for Government Accountability) and its conservative financiers and activists were eyeing Maine as a guinea pig for this complex health insurance initiative, one that could hurt rural hospitals, disrupt insurer medical networks, undercut the Affordable Care Act, and focus totally on price competition and advertising, rather than on access, quality and consistency.”

The bill was carried over from the first regular session and will be considered by lawmakers when the Legislature reconvenes in January.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.