Maine’s ethics watchdog decided not to pursue a late complaint against Maine Senate candidate Mike Tipping after determining the Orono Democrat had no role in an endorsement from his employer on Thursday.
Tipping has long held a leadership position at the Maine’s People Alliance, an influential progressive group. He was accused earlier this month by an Old Town resident of violating the state’s campaign finance rules after the group paid for a postcard endorsing Tipping and reported it as an in-kind contribution from its political action committee.
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But four commissioners were unconvinced that Tipping collaborated with his employer after the candidate provided proof that he had taken steps to distance himself from the organization’s political activities following his fall declaration as a candidate. They followed their staff’s recommendation to not pursue an inquiry after Executive Director Jonathan Wayne said there was no proof of collaboration between Tipping and his employer.
A September agreement between Tipping and Amy Halsted, one of the MPA’s co-directors, said Tipping would remove himself from any written or verbal communications where expenditures for legislative races or coverage of his race would be discussed.
He was forbidden from using MPA equipment for campaign purposes and was not allowed to use MPA staff time or communications to discuss his race. Halstead testified that employees were also informed to not speak with Tipping, as did MPA Campaign Vote!’s treasurer, Bridget Surber. Neither had heard of any violations of their agreement.
The race for Senate District 8, which runs from the Orono area to the Millinocket region, became messy after Tipping was accused of falsifying endorsements and planting yard signs by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and other top Senate Democrats.
They accused him last week of engaging in “gutter politics” — making allegations that Tipping has denied — and have instead endorsed his opponent Abe Furth, the co-owner of Orono Brewing Company.