Politics

Sara Gideon, Vocal Opponent of Lobbyists, Took Nearly $20,000 From Them Last Quarter

Maine Dem pledged not to accept lobbyist gifts two weeks after she filed the donations

Maine Democrat Sara Gideon, who has built her Senate campaign on promises to root out lobbyists and fight for Mainers, collected nearly $20,000 in campaign contributions from out-of-state lobbyists in the final quarter of 2019, filings show.

Gideon, Maine's speaker of the house and the Democratic establishment's preferred Senate candidate, hauled in $19,068 in contributions from 22 lobbyists during the fourth quarter of 2019, a review of her most recent campaign filings shows. The new donations come on the heels of the nearly $20,000 lobbyists donated earlier in the cycle.

Gideon has shaped her campaign around promises of good governance and tackling special interests in Washington. The Senate hopeful's acceptance of lobbyist donations could prove troublesome for her campaign and usher in calls of hypocrisy from her Democratic challengers and state Republicans.

Just two weeks after the close of books on the campaign's fourth quarter fundraising, Gideon released her "reform agenda," which declares that "politicians are too responsive to their wealthy donors and corporate special interests," and includes a promise to reject gifts, meals, and trips from lobbyists. In total, "lobbyists" and "special interests" are mentioned 17 times in the document.

Of the 22 lobbyists who gave to Gideon's campaign over the last three months of 2019, 19 reside in the Washington, D.C., area. Those donors included employees of the Forbes Tate Partners lobbying shop, the public policy and legislative affairs team at WilmerHale, and a former Podesta Group lobbyist who runs a firm with more than a dozen lobbying and public relations clients.

Gideon's campaign did not return a request for comment on the donations.

Also as part of her agenda, Gideon is now promising not to accept money from corporate PACs. That promise did not stop Gideon’s leadership PAC, however, from taking in substantial contributions from corporations and corporate PACs in past cycles. Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine), whom Gideon would face in the general election, has criticized the state house speaker for accepting corporate contributions through Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's (D., N.Y.) leadership PAC.

The operations of Gideon's PAC have led to two ethics complaints, one of which followed a Washington Free Beacon report detailing how Gideon repeatedly reimbursed herself for personal political contributions with PAC money, violating election law. Maine's ethics watchdog unanimously found that Gideon had violated state laws and levied a fine against the committee, which is no longer in operation.

The quiet influx of new cash to the campaign is not the first time Gideon has benefited from lobbyists. Jay Nutting, who for three years acted as the treasurer of Gideon's state leadership PAC, is also a lobbyist who has worked for nearly 120 organizations. Some of Nutting's clients—including AT&T, Emera Energy, and Diego—previously donated thousands of dollars to the PAC.

Gideon is seen as the favorite to win the Democratic primary scheduled for June 2020. The Maine Senate race is expected to be one of the most expensive in the country.