Democrats from Maine’s 2nd Congressional District today asked the Maine Ethics Commission to investigate whether the Maine Families First PAC, an offshoot of the Virginia-based American Principles Project, has likely violated Maine campaign finance laws by failing to properly report contributions.

State law requires a PAC, like Maine Families First, to report not only cash contributions but also pledges; a contribution includes "a contract, promise or agreement, expressed or implied, whether or not legally enforceable, to make a contribution to a committee."

According to its campaign finance report, as of Friday September 30, Maine Families First had $0.00 cash-on-hand and had received only a single contribution for $100,000. Three business days later, it spent $999,245 in TV advertising against Governor Janet Mills, according to its October 7, 2022 report.

This means that in the first three business days of October Maine Families First received a pledge for almost a million dollars; received the cash; planned the advertisement; secured a new vendor; and, the vendor created and placed a television advertisement

“The tight timeline suggests instead that Maine Families First received a pledge from an existing donor in September, relied on the pledge to create the advertisement, and requested that the donor not send the money until October to attempt to avoid publicly disclosing the contribution,” the Maine Democrats wrote in their letter.

If the entire $999,245 did not come from Thomas Klingenstein – a GOP medadonor, including to Paul LePage, and someone who has been called “the nerve center of the American right” – the Maine Families First has violated the statute that requires the disclosure of the top three funders in a communication.

The American Principles Project has a history in Maine and nationally of peddling false and misleading political communications. The group misrepresented itself as a Maine news organization, and Maine Families First has a practice of suspiciously close contribution and expenditure dates; on September 8, 2022, it purchased digital advertisements and text messaging for $100,000 that it reported having received the prior day.

In the past week, the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald have characterized lies in Paul LePage, Maine Families First, and the Maine GOP’s TV ads as “egregious”, “off-base”, and “discredited,” even writing at one point, “No matter how much LePage says this about Mills, it is false.”

Read the full letter here.