A conservative group led by a Republican state lawmaker might have violated state ethics laws because of the release of a flier that targets the Maine House majority leader by suggesting he supports harboring illegal immigrants and terrorists in Maine.

The flier, which recently was mailed to voters in parts of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, features a photo of Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, along with the text, “Should Maine taxpayers continue to give welfare benefits to Islamic State terrorists living in Maine? Ask Jeff McCabe!”

It also talks at length about the city of Portland as an “ISIS incubator,” describes ways in which Maine has served as a “harboring haven” for Islamic terrorists and criticizes McCabe for not supporting L.D.1652, a bill that would have cut off state funding to communities that prohibit police from asking about a person’s immigration status.

On Wednesday, McCabe, a four-time state representative who is challenging Sen. Rod Whittemore in a race to represent Senate District 3, called the flier misleading. Meanwhile, an official with the Maine Ethics Commission said the group that sent it, the New England Opportunity Project, could be in violation of state ethics laws for failing to disclose the cost of the fliers. Rep. Larry Lockman, R-Amherst, is president and co-founder of the group.

“I in no way support giving benefits to folks that are here in Maine illegally, and that’s something I will continue to take a stand on,” McCabe said in response to the flier Wednesday. “I found the flier to be really misleading and I also found it disturbing that it wasn’t disclosed to the state ethics commission.”

The Maine Democratic Party also condemned the fliers Wednesday, with Chairman Phil Bartlett saying in a statement that he was “not surprised by this shadowy group’s lack of transparency.”

Officials with the Maine Republican Party declined to comment on the fliers and said they were not connected with or aware of them.

Lockman, who is running for re-election in House District 137, described the nonprofit New England Opportunity Project as nonpartisan as well as having a mission to “take on these left-wing progressives and fight fire with fire.”

Lockman has been criticized for comments on abortion, gays and rape.

Whittemore, R-Skowhegan, McCabe’s opponent in the Senate race, said he had not seen the flier but had heard of it and found it “very disappointing.”

“I’ve been trying to run a positive campaign here,” he said. “I haven’t seen it and I don’t have any control over it.”

Paul Lavin, assistant director of the Maine Ethics Commission, had not seen the flier but said that if a piece of literature clearly identifies a candidate in a race – whether by name, picture or another reference – that is enough to qualify it as a reportable campaign expenditure.

 

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