Ethics Watchdog Calls for Probe of Maine Democratic Party and Cain for Congress
Updated: Dec 17, 2019
FACT Says Acceptance of Illegal Contributions from Democratic Senate Candidate Violates Federal Law
Washington, D.C.—October 29, 2019—The non-partisan ethics watchdog, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), today, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against the Maine Democratic Party and Cain for Congress for violating federal law 11 CFR § 103.3(b)(2) governing the deposit of receipts and disbursements.
The complaint maintains that the Maine Democratic Party and Cain for Congress accepted illegal contributions from Sara Gideon, a Democratic candidate running for the U.S. Senate in 2020, and failed to refund or disgorge the contributions within thirty days of realizing their illegality.
In early August 2019, numerous national and state media outlets reported that Gideon made illegal contributions to the federal account of the Maine Democratic Party and Cain for Congress during 2015 and 2016. Evidence and Gideon’s own admission demonstrates these contributions were “straw donations”—they were not from Sara Gideon but from a PAC that comingled impermissible corporate funds.
When a committee has accepted a contribution that appears to be permissible under federal law, but later discovers that the contribution is illegal, the committee must refund or disgorge the contribution within thirty days of discovering the illegality, according to federal regulations. As such, the Maine Democratic Party and Cain for Congress, as recipients of Gideon’s faulty contributions, were required by law to give them up promptly.
However, it appears that the Maine Democratic Party and Cain for Congress have failed to refund or disgorge Gideon’s illegal contributions after having likely been aware of their illegality for more than thirty days. According to FACT’s complaint, given the committees’ demonstrated ties to the party’s front-runner for the 2020 Maine Senate race, it is unlikely that the committees were unaware of the media reports from three months ago regarding Gideon’s illegal contributions. Yet as of their most recent campaign finance reports, the Maine Democratic Party and Cain for Congress have failed to refund or disgorge Gideon’s illegal contributions.
“Hiding the source campaign contributions is plainly illegal, and if an organization mistakenly accepts such a contribution it must be refunded. Citizens can only trust in the system of disclosure if honest information is disclosed,” said Kendra Arnold, Executive Director, Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT). “Considering the substantial involvement of these two organizations with the donor it is both appropriate and necessary that they be investigated and penalized accordingly,” added Arnold.
A full copy of the complaint can be found here.
FACT is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government and civic arenas. For more on FACT, visit: www.factdc.org