Dems file ethics complaint alleging ties between Maine GOP and fake news site

The Maine Democratic Party on Tuesday filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission asking that it launch an investigation into possible coordination between and campaign finance violations by the Maine Republican Party and anonymous right-wing blog the Maine Examiner.

The Examiner has drawn scrutiny for publishing false reports attacking Democratic candidates, as well as other Republican propaganda, that are quickly disseminated by the state GOP–in what appears to be coordinated fashion.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that the Examiner violated state campaign finance laws regarding the use and reporting of independent expenditures “by publishing fake news stories with the clear intent of defeating then-Lewiston mayoral candidate Ben Chin within the 35 days preceding the election,” according to the Democratic Party.

Under Maine law, an independent expenditure is defined as “any expenditure made by a person, party committee, political committee or political action committee, other than by contribution to a candidate or a candidate’s authorized political committee, for any communication that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate.”

The Democratic Party is also requesting that the Commission investigate whether the state GOP “is affiliated with or has coordinated with” the Examiner.

“It’s beyond hypocritical that the Maine Republican Party decries fake news but then happily turns around and peddles it to achieve their political goals,” said Maine Democratic Party chairman Phil Bartlett.

“To put it plainly, this is the worst of politics: pushing misleading or outright false claims while hiding behind the safety of anonymity,” Bartlett continued. “Mainers don’t hide their faces–they stand up, speak, and own their beliefs. Whoever is behind the Maine Examiner should do the same, not cower behind a mask of secrecy –and the Maine GOP should be upfront with the people of Maine and tell them whether or not they are purposefully using this bogus website to advance their partisan agenda.”

The complaint references recent reporting by the Bangor Daily News and Boston Globe  looking into the relationship between the Maine GOP and the anonymous site. The Examiner has repeatedly declined requests for interviews or information while the Republican Party has declined to say whether or not it is coordinating with whomever runs the site.

Since November, the state GOP has populated its Facebook page with Examiner posts. At the same time, Maine Republican Party executive director Jason Savage has also posted at least a dozen Examiner articles, often “within ten minutes of the blog posting the piece to their Facebook page,” as Beacon previously noted, adding: “On one occasion he posted ten minutes before the Examiner did.”

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