An ad by a political action committee that supports the re-election bid of Republican Sen. Susan Collins is attacking her Democratic opponent, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, over tax liens levied on property owned by a company that Gideon’s husband set up in 2008.

The ad, featuring a charcoal sketch artist drawing a portrait of Gideon, suggests Maine voters don’t really know who she is and further claims she wants to raise their taxes while her family business avoided paying its taxes.

“Do you know this person?” the female narrator asks. “She tried to raise your taxes, but her family didn’t pay its own taxes on time.” The frame then shows in dark gray text, “$57,000 in Tax Delinquencies.”

It’s one of two ads on this topic by the 1820 PAC, which has spent close to $5 million this election cycle to help Collins in a closely watched race that has become the most expensive election campaign in Maine history. The ads have run on online, in social media feeds and on television.

Despite the attacks, Gideon has maintained a slight lead over Collins in the most recently released public polls on the race.

The ads say the now-defunct real estate development company in question, Concord Brook, LLC, had 77 liens placed against it by the town of Freeport.

This line of attack now has been picked up by Collins’ official reelection campaign, which on Friday issued a news release about the liens that also questions Gideon and her husband’s purchase of their South Freeport home on the Harraseeket River – valued at more than $1 million – shortly after a bank foreclosure auction on Concord Brook’s properties.

The 30-second video draws on several truths but also omits key details and leaves the story of Concord Brook’s failure half told. It’s true that Gideon’s husband, Benjamin, an attorney, was listed as a manager in the real estate firm, according to a records check with the state’s Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commission.

Still, the ad blurs the lines by saying Gideon’s “family” didn’t pay its taxes on time. There are no records to indicate Gideon ever failed to pay either her personal income tax on time or the taxes on the home she lives in with her husband and children.

The ad does not mention that the liens on Concord Brook were all satisfied more than eight years ago — in other words the company eventually paid all the taxes it owed to the town of Freeport. The ad is accurate in saying the taxes were paid late.

Gideon’s campaign acknowledges the liens and late taxes for the company, but also points out that the real estate venture failed during a sub-prime mortgage crisis in 2008 that saw record levels of property foreclosures on failed real estate efforts.

Asked Friday about the liens and the attacks from the Collins’ campaign, Gideon called it a “primary example of how Senator Collins has changed, in focusing and trying to tear down another person.”

“Here are the actual facts,” Gideon said. “My husband years and years ago was involved in a business venture and there were these liens that existed for a short period of time. It was in 2008 when the housing market crashed and in fact that business that he was involved with – not a family business – did pay off all of the taxes and settled everything with the bank in a timely manner. And Senator Collins is very aware that those are the facts.”

Tax records show the property in question was foreclosed on by the bank and sold at auction for about $3 million less than what it was purchased for.

Gideon’s campaign also maintains that while her husband was listed as a manager on the articles of incorporation for Concord Brook, he wasn’t involved in the day-to-day management of the company and instead was working full-time as an attorney at the time.

The ad’s additional claim that Gideon voted to “raise your taxes” draws on a votes she took as a state lawmaker, including on budget bills that both raised and lowered taxes. One vote involved a bill that would broaden and raise the state’s sales tax in order to lower the income tax. The ad doesn’t note that while Gideon voted to increase sales taxes, she has also backed large property tax-relief bills – including a series of votes to increase the homestead tax exemption.

That program allows Maine homeowners to claim up to a $25,000 valuation exemption on their primary residence. Gideon has also supported increases to the state’s earned income tax credit, which benefits the state’s lowest wage earners.

The ad is accurate in saying Gideon voted to raise taxes, but is also misleading as it omits other key votes Gideon has taken to lower taxes for property owners and income taxes for lower and middle-income wage earners.

Finally, the ad criticizes Gideon because her husband’s law firm received a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, when Gideon has been critical of the program’s effectiveness for smaller Maine businesses.

It’s true that the law firm, along with nearly 500 others in Maine, received federally-backed PPP loans, Gideon’s campaign said in a prepared statement. Those firms employ about 3,500 workers in total, according to a statement from Gideon’s campaign communications director, Maeve Coyle.

“A large portion of those 3,500 Mainers are not attorneys,” Coyle wrote. “That’s the circumstance at the firm where Ben works. There are 61 employees and 43 are not attorneys.”

Coyle said Gideon’s criticism of the PPP has centered around small businesses not getting fair access to the funds, while larger corporations or those tied to special interests were able to more quickly gain access to funding.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. 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.