Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, left, and incumbent Sen. Susan Collins participate in a debate at the Holiday Inn By The Bay, Friday, Sept. 11, 2020 in Portland, Maine. Credit: Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald via AP

Welcome to 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 Sara Gideon’s campaign reiterates a Democratic attack on Sen. Susan Collins over her husband’s past work as a lobbyist.

The ad cites two bipartisan actions — one of them a unanimous vote — that predated her marriage and had broad effects on all government contractors, not just one. The Republican senator’s husband also retired in 2016 from running a lobbying firm and last registered as a lobbyist himself a decade earlier. It is all important context that the ad omits.

The ad

Who is behind it?

The ad comes from Gideon’s official campaign. A Democratic super PAC, American Bridge, has released a similar ad in recent weeks, accusing Collins of “corruption” and “nepotism.” Gideon’s ad does not go that far, but it relies on the same basic claims.

Gideon has raised nearly $24 million through June 30, while Collins has raised $16.7 million. You can follow campaigns’ full raising and spending in the U.S. Senate race, which also features independents Lisa Savage and Max Linn, with the BDN here.

The major claims, with context

The major premise of the ad is that Collins voted for legislation that helped her husband, who formerly served as the chief operating officer at a Washington, D.C. consulting firm until his 2016 retirement. He last registered as a lobbyist in 2006. The two were married in 2012. 

The ad cites a Huffington Post article from early September. But the logic there is circular because the article is largely about how Democrats are trying to make Daffron’s past work as a lobbyist an issue in the race and notes that they want to turn “relatively routine, bipartisan elements of Collins’ four terms in the Senate into fodder for attack ads.”

It notes two official actions referenced in the Gideon ad. Collins voted to repeal a 3 percent withholding tax on government contractors and led a push to block a rule which would have required government contractors to disclose political giving. Both of those actions took place in 2011, when Collins and Daffron were dating. They married the following year.

While the actions might have helped the firm where he worked, Jefferson Consulting, which chiefly helps clients get federal contracts, they were broad measures that would have affected all government contractors and received bipartisan support. 

The 3 percent withholding tax repeal passed the Senate in a unanimous vote and was signed by President Barack Obama. Collins’ letter opposing the disclosure rule for government contractors was signed by several senators at the time, including Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri.

While both actions could have helped Jefferson Consulting, the measures were not specific to one firm. The ad from American Bridge uses similar claims to allege “corruption” against Collins, but there is no proof of a specific link between the lobbying firm and the Maine senator’s actions. That renders the term far too strong.

Collins’ campaign has said Daffron never lobbied Collins directly. Federal lobbying records show he has not been registered as a lobbyist since 2006. Lobbyists are only required to register if at least 20 percent of their work involves lobbying.

In the end, the ad points to Collins’ support for measures that might have benefited the lobbying firm where her husband was an executive, but it fails to note that those actions were broad, had bipartisan support and took place before the pair were married. Those are all crucial points.

Watch more: