A new ad from national Republicans aims to portray Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon as partisan but leaves out context about donations to Gideon’s campaign and her response to misconduct allegations against a former state representative.

The ad released Wednesday by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a political action committee aimed at electing Republicans to the Senate, plays off Maine’s long tradition of backing independent-minded candidates and Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ bipartisan reputation.

It tries to build a case against Gideon by saying she “took money from a multimillion-dollar bribe to fund her negative campaign” and by alleging Gideon “remained silent” in response to sexual assault allegations against a Democratic member of the Maine Legislature in 2018.

The ad also points to Gideon’s criticism of the Paycheck Protection Program, co-authored by Collins, which Gideon has criticized for helping special interests and large corporations.

“Sara Gideon would be just another partisan voice in Washington, and that’s a risky choice,” says the new NRSC ad.

The ad’s statement about “bribe” money refers to almost $4 million that was crowdsourced by the Be A Hero PAC, Mainers for Accountable Leadership and the Maine People’s Alliance in 2018, during the Senate confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.


The groups raised the money for Collins’ yet-to-be-chosen 2020 Democratic opponent after voicing opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination, and the campaigns have taken different stances on whether the crowdsourcing was ethical. Collins’ campaign has called the money a bribe but said in July, when Gideon collected the money, that it did not intend to file a legal challenge.

The ad doesn’t say that experts have presented different opinions on the unusual crowdfunding scheme, with some equating the fund to a bribe or extortion because it used money as a way to compel Collins’ vote on a specific issue. Others have said the fund is in theory no different than the prospect of losing or gaining financial support as the result of one’s voting record, and thus would not be a bribe.

The new ad released by NRSC also talks about the 2018 allegations against former Democratic state Rep. Dillon Bates, who resigned after a published report that he engaged in inappropriate behavior with several female students at the now-closed Maine Girls Academy in Portland. Bates was not charged with a crime.

As the ad shifts away from the crowdsourced money, it shows Gideon talking alongside images of Bates from news reports. “When a fellow Democrat was accused of sexual assault, Gideon remained silent,” the ad says.

This is not the first time the Bates allegations have surfaced as fodder in the Senate race. Both Gideon’s campaign and the NRSC have already released at least six online and TV ads between them on the issue.

Republicans have accused Gideon of staying silent on the allegations until reports were published in the media. But the ad doesn’t mention that Gideon did eventually call for Bates’ resignation.


Spokespeople said in July she did not speak up sooner because the allegations had not been corroborated and Gideon has also denounced the attack, saying she was the first official to call on Bates to resign after the allegations arose publicly.

Finally, the ad also brings up the Paycheck Protection Program Collins co-authored and which Gideon has criticized for helping special interests and large corporations. It doesn’t name the program but says Gideon “attacked a bipartisan program helping small businesses during COVID.”

While the PPP did generate controversy in its early days for wording that led some large corporations to take advantage of the forgivable loan funding, it also provided more than $2.5 billion in relief to Maine small businesses.

Gideon, whose husband’s law firm received a PPP loan, has criticized the program, including in one campaign ad referenced by the NRSC. A Washington Post analysis of that ad found it overemphasized the role of relatively small campaign contributions to create a misleading narrative.

The ad released Wednesday ends by saying Collins is the Senate’s “most bipartisan member” and points to a Bangor Daily News headline stating “Collins ranked as most bipartisan senator for 7th straight year.”

It’s true that Collins was named the most bipartisan senator in a May study by Georgetown University and the Lugar Center based on the frequency with which a member sponsors bills co-sponsored by at least one member of the opposing party or co-sponsors bills introduced by members of the opposite party. Overall, though, the ad leaves out some important context when trying to make the case Gideon isn’t.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is the top outside spender in the Maine Senate race, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, and has spent more than $9.2 million so far on the race, with most of that money going to oppose Gideon. More than $41 million total has been spent by outside groups.

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