In Maine Senate Race, Sara Gideon's Ethics Violation Paid Off

Gideon receives $280,000 from EMILY's List after breaking ethics rules to contribute to leader's 2016 run

Senate candidate Sara Gideon (D., Maine) / Twitter screenshot
November 2, 2020

One of the Democratic candidates on the receiving end of political contributions that earned Maine Democrat Sara Gideon a slap on the wrist from the state ethics commission is now in charge of a pro-abortion juggernaut that has spent six-figures in support of Gideon's Senate run, according to campaign disclosures.

Emily Cain was running for U.S. Congress when she received illegal straw donations from Gideon, who was fined by the Maine Ethics Commission for using her corporate-funded leadership PAC to reimburse herself for personal political donations. Now Cain is the executive director of EMILY's List, a pro-abortion group that has endorsed Gideon and funneled nearly $280,000 in individual contributions to her campaign, according to Federal Elections Commission data.

Gideon's donations, first reported by the Free Beacon last summer, were in clear violation of laws prohibiting political donors from making contributions in the name of another person or entity. Maine disclosures showed that Gideon was openly using her PAC, which received money directly from Verizon, Walmart, and several other big-name corporations, to reimburse herself for donations such as the $1,250 she gave to Cain's failed 2016 congressional campaign.

Gideon said her illegal contributions were due to "incorrect guidance" she received from an adviser. She was found guilty of ethics violation by the state's ethics commission, which voted unanimously to fine her $500 for the straw donations.

Under Cain's leadership, EMILY's List has been one of Gideon's biggest backers. The group issued a day-one endorsement for Gideon's campaign to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins in June 2019, giving the candidate an early boost in the Democratic primary.

The support from the pro-abortion group is not unwarranted—during Gideon's tenure as House speaker, she has pushed through several pro-abortion bills. She cosponsored and passed one law to authorize taxpayer-funded abortions and spearheaded others that expanded abortion access, even over pushback from fellow Democrats. In addition to EMILY's List, Gideon's pro-abortion stance has appealed to other abortion groups, including NARAL and Planned Parenthood, which have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Gideon's campaign for Senate.

Gideon faced several controversies involving her campaign finances. While she has positioned herself as a "champion for the environment" opposed to lobbyists, she has also raked in tens of thousands of dollars from oil magnates and lobbyists. Gideon also faced additional ethics complaints this year for publishing unauthorized Facebook advertisements and illegally coordinating with a super PAC linked to Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.).

Neither EMILY's List nor the Gideon campaign responded to a request for comment.