Fact Check is a series that examines the accuracy of political advertising in Maine’s U.S. Senate election, the most expensive in state history. It will appear frequently until the November election.

A video ad targeting U.S. Sen. Susan Collins says the Republican gave large corporations a tax cut of more than $1 trillion and that she will make working class Mainers pay for it.

It also says Collins has accepted more than $5 million from special interests in the 2020 election cycle.

The ads were produced by the Senate Majority PAC, a well-funded super PAC working to elect Democrats.

While the ad draws on some facts, it is also fraught with hyperbole and misinformation. Versions of the 30-second spot are airing on broadcast television as well as social media. The ad features photos of Collins from her 24-year career in the Senate, starting with older photos taken when she was first elected and proceeding to more recent images. As the pictures change, a male narrator makes the case that she has changed as well.

“Back then,” he says as an image of Collins appears with the year 1996 beside it, “this Susan Collins worked for Maine.” The black-and-white image of a younger Collins is then replaced with more recent color photos. “But now,” the narrator says, “this Susan Collins took more than $5 million from corporate special interests.” The claim references 2020 Federal Election Commission records.


The figure on the screen shows $5.7 million, which is a stretch. A check of FEC records for Collins’ campaign shows it has collected just $6 million in all through the 2020 cycle, most from individual donors. Collins’ haul so far from corporate PACs is $2.1 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Open Secrets website. Collins may have accepted more than $5 million in special interest donations during her Senate career, but she hasn’t received that much for the current campaign.

The Senate Majority PAC has already spent more than $20 million to oppose Republican congressional candidates in 2020, and more than $5 million has gone to defeat Collins.

The ad also says a federal tax bill that Collins voted for in 2017 gave a $1.3 trillion cut to corporations, but left middle class Maine families holding the bag.

“This Susan Collins said middle class families should get tax cuts,” the ad says, showing an older photo of Collins. “But this Susan Collins voted to make middle class families pay more,” as a more recent image appears.

While it’s true the tax law slashed corporate taxes, it also cut taxes for middle-income Mainers and eliminated federal income taxes entirely for households earning less than $24,000 a year. The law also nearly doubled the standard deductions used by 72 percent of Maine tax filers for both single and joint filers while also allowing up to a $10,000 deduction for taxes paid to local and state government for filers who itemize.

In a Dec. 27, 2017  guest column to the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Collins detailed how the new law would benefit households with specific income levels in Maine. The column was subsequently fact checked by a local television station, which took the claims to a local certified public accountant and tax preparer who found Collins accurately described the law’s benefits for Maine taxpayers.


Among key components, the law doubled the dependent child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 and increased the income ceilings for receiving it to $200,000 for single filers and $400,000 for joint filers. The income limits had been $100,000 and $200,000 respectively.

The law also allows up to $1,400 of the credit to be refunded to tax filers who owe no federal income tax.

The anti-Collins ad cites a 2017 analysis from the left-leaning Maine Center for Economic Policy in claiming the law threatens key entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare. However, the ad overlooks that the tax law prohibits cutting Social Security or other federal entitlement programs to reduce any deficit created by the law.

The Maine Center for Economic Policy analysis rightly notes that that tax law provisions to aid lower- and middle-income Mainers wind down until they end in 2027 with a tax increase for those income brackets. Yet the analysis fails to acknowledge that Congress makes nearly annual revisions to the federal tax code, and has overhauled it 11 times since 2010 alone. More changes are likely before 2027.

The ad strongly suggests Collins’ vote for this law and acceptance of corporate campaign funds indicates her support for working Mainers has changed, but after closer scrutiny of the facts, it fails to make that case.

The ad, like others appearing during this election cycle, depends heavily on distorting a handful of facts while drawing on far-reaching suppositions and glaring omissions to make a case that is ultimately not factual.

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