A nonprofit group led by a Republican state legislator will be penalized $672 for failing to disclose election spending on a campaign flier targeting Rep. Jeff McCabe, a Democrat from Skowhegan who is running for the state Senate.

The flier sent out to voters in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District earlier this month tried to link McCabe to the Islamic State, saying he supports harboring illegal immigrants and terrorists in Maine.

Rep. Larry Lockman, R-Amherst, a co-founder of the conservative New England Opportunity Project who serves as the group’s president, said Monday he plans to contest the assertion by the Maine Ethics Commission that the flier the group sent out is election literature and needs to be disclosed under campaign finance laws.

The commission contacted Lockman last week after a story ran in the Morning Sentinel about the fliers, which he said were intended for fundraising, but which the commission said would likely be classified as election material given its political content and the timing of the flier just weeks before the election.

The disclosure form, filed Thursday, shows that the group spent $4,205 on the fliers opposing McCabe, a four-time state representative who is challenging Sen. Rod Whittemore, R- Skowhegan, to represent Senate District 3.

Lockman, in an email Monday to the Morning Sentinel, said that while his group agreed to file a disclosure form, he does not agree with the flier’s classification as campaign literature. Lockman said he will argue that the fliers were intended only for fundraising purposes and bringing awareness to the issue.

“It’s clear the piece is about public policy, not politics,” he wrote.

Under Maine’s Clean Elections Act, any communication that names or clearly identifies a candidate and is disseminated between Labor Day and Election Day is considered campaign material and falls under expenditure rules.

The flier targets McCabe for motioning to table a bill that Lockman had sponsored last spring that would have cut off state funding to communities that prohibit police from asking about a person’s immigration status. Lockman is widely regarded as a polarizing legislator in Maine and has been criticized for comments on abortion, gays and rape.

Paul Lavin, assistant director of the Maine Ethics Commission, said the New England Opportunity Project has not had any previous violations with the ethics commission. The nonprofit group was formed in 2015.

The commission will be sending a letter to the group saying they plan to charge a $672 penalty, based on the amount of money reported late and the number of days late the disclosure came, he said. The group could ask for a waiver at which point the commission would review the case and determine whether they pay the fine or not.

For the most part, outside spending in elections is done by political action groups and committees, and most of those groups are aware of campaign disclosure laws, Lavin said. As a result, he said it is rare for groups to not file disclosure reports when required to do so.

The New England Opportunity Project is not registered with the state as a political action committee, but would be required to do so if their spending on elections exceeds $5,000, Lavin said.

McCabe and the Maine Democratic Party last week called the flier misleading and condemned the New England Opportunity Project for failing to disclose election spending with the Maine Ethics Commission.

On Monday, McCabe said transparency is important in all elections, and he has heard from a number of voters who have reacted negatively to the fliers.

“What I heard from voters in Somerset County is that they are disgusted with these techniques,” McCabe said. “They want to hear from the candidates, they want to hear from them directly and hear the candidates’ positions on issues. These things serve as nothing more than a distraction.”

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