House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, arrives in the House chamber after being re-elected to her leadership position in late 2018 at the Maine State House in Augusta. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — A former lawmaker filed federal and state ethics complaints on Thursday against Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, for her past use of a partially corporate-funded committee to reimburse herself for political contributions.

Those contributions, which date back to 2015 and 2016, were first reported by the conservative Washington Free Beacon this month and were deemed by experts to be clear-cut violations of federal campaign finance law. Gideon’s campaign blamed “incorrect guidance.”

The Thursday complaints from former state Sen. Ed Youngblood of Brewer were the first attempts from Republicans to seek formal punishment for Gideon, who announced her run against U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, in June and raised $1 million in 10 days.

[Sara Gideon ran afoul of election law with political donations in 2015 and 2016]

Youngblood’s complaints, which he sent to the Bangor Daily News on Thursday after submitting one to the Maine Ethics Commission and having the other mailed to the Federal Election Commission, allege that Gideon’s contributions violated state and federal laws prohibiting political contributions made in someone else’s name.

In 2015, Gideon contributed $1,000 to a congressional candidate. Nearly a month later, Gideon’s state political action committee paid her $1,000. The committee reimbursed Gideon through 2016 for $1,750 more in contributions to that candidate and the Maine Democratic Party’s federal arm.

Federal law bars corporations from donating to candidates and party committees. Maine allows them. Gideon’s committee raised 60 percent of its money from commercial sources between 2014 and 2019. The contributions were disclosed as federal contributions in state filings.

Gideon’s campaign said earlier this month the committee “was given incorrect guidance on how to process” the contributions. After the issues were reported, Gideon’s campaign said the candidate sent a $3,250 check to the U.S. Treasury since the committee was dissolved.

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Youngblood, a former member of the Maine Ethics Commission, said he had been asked after news of Gideon’s contributions broke if anything had been done to hold her accountable. When he found out there were no formal complaints, he said he worked with Senate Republicans’ campaign arm and the Maine Republican Party to develop the ones filed Thursday.

“She may very well have been misled and probably was,” he said of Gideon. “But the fact remains that she broke the law and there ought to be a public record that shows that she did.”

On Thursday, Gideon spokeswoman Maeve Coyle said it was “unfortunate that people are trying to misrepresent the facts and turn this into a partisan political attack.” Gideon is running alongside lobbyist Betsy Sweet, lawyer Bre Kidman, retired Air Force major general Jonathan Tracey and travel agent Michael Bunker for the nomination to face Collins.

Jonathan Wayne, the executive director of the state ethics commission, said his staff is working to determine if the state request is “within our jurisdiction.” News of Gideon’s contributions earlier this month was followed by a Senate ethics complaint against Collins by a liberal group over reimbursed expenses from her campaign to official staffers.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...