Welcome to the first installation of Ad Watch, in which the Bangor Daily News’ political team breaks down who is behind political ads you’re seeing and whether what they are saying is true.
A new ad from a Republican super PAC reiterates a number of Republican talking points against House Speaker Sara Gideon, the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee, in an ad that misleads on Gideon’s record of paying taxes and would benefit from context on other issues.
The ad: “Who is it?” by the 1820 PAC
Who is behind it
The 1820 PAC was founded specifically to boost Sen. Susan Collins in her re-election campaign. Its top donors include two investment CEOs and longtime Republican donors who each gave it $1 million. The PAC has spent about $4.7 million on independent expenditures in the race so far on ads supporting Collins and attacking Gideon.
The major claims, with context
The ad reiterates several lines that Republicans have used against Gideon this cycle, attacking her on taxes, Maine’s coronavirus response and the Paycheck Protection Program, the business loan program championed by Collins, while attempting to paint Gideon as contradictory.
On taxes, it argues that Gideon tried to raise taxes in the Legislature. It highlights two votes during her legislative tenure: a 2013 bipartisan vote to override former Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a budget bill that included a temporary sales tax increase and a 2019 bill she co-sponsored that would have taxed carbon but used the proceeds to offset utility costs.
But the second half of the claim misleads by saying Gideon’s “family didn’t pay their own taxes on time.” It references $57,000 in late taxes by Concord Brook, LLC, a real estate firm which Gideon’s husband co-managed a decade ago. It fell behind on property taxes amid troubles it attributed to the financial crisis and paid them in 2012. It has never been alleged that Gideon or her husband failed to pay personal taxes on time.
The ad also attacks Gideon over her comments about the Paycheck Protection Program, saying she criticized the program while her husband’s business benefited from it. The law firm where Gideon’s husband is a partner received a loan from the program, although her campaign has noted that nearly 500 Maine law firms received assistance.
Gideon has been critical of parts of the program, but she has not called for its elimination or said that many categories of business should not have benefited. In her own ads, she has criticized Collins over allowing hotel companies that employ more than 500 people to get loans. However, she has also expressed support for additional funding for the program for small businesses.
The ad also argues that Gideon has “done nothing” to address the coronavirus crisis for months, a line often heard from the Collins campaign. Gideon and other legislative leaders from both parties agreed to shut down the Legislature for public health reasons in March, although the body passed a flurry of bills before closing and held hearings from May through August.
Gideon has since expressed a desire to bring lawmakers back, but leaders from the two parties have not reached an agreement, with Republicans balking at Democrats’ plan to address issues not directly related to the virus.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the year Concord Brook paid off its taxes.