AUGUSTA — Maine lawmakers can collect unlimited money from corporations and lobbyists and use those funds to bail out family businesses.

They can do so by launching their own political action committees. Several ethics officials and lawmakers have long lamented largely unrestricted “leadership PACs” that supporters say helps legislators recruit candidate and gain leadership positions.

The issue recently came to light when ethics commissioners imposed a $9,000 fine on Republican Assistant Senate Leader Andre Cushing. He faced violations for failing to report short-term loans from his PAC to a family business. The loans themselves are legal.

Democratic Sen. Justin Chenette said he plans to again submit legislation eliminating leadership PACs.

The Associated Press reviewed 2016 campaign reports and found 36 leadership PACs reported collecting over $670,000 from donors like corporations and lobbyists.

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