Sara Gideon, the Democratic challenger to Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine), vows to combat lobbyists in a newly released campaign finance reform plan, but her campaign has accepted nearly $20,000 from more than two dozen lobbyists.
Between April 1 and Sept. 30, 2018, the Gideon campaign raked in $18,310 from 28 individuals who work directly with special interest groups or at firms that spend big on lobbying activities, filings show. A majority of the donations came from individuals in the Washington, D.C., metro area.
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Gideon’s reform agenda, released Wednesday, seeks to counter lobbyists' influence. Gideon, who is currently the speaker of Maine's House of Representatives, promises to refuse gifts, meals, and trips from anyone working on behalf of special interests. Her plan also rejects corporate PAC money, calls for the disclosure of dark money donors, and backs a lifetime ban on former members working as lobbyists once they’re out of office.
"Washington is clearly broken—politicians are too responsive to their wealthy donors and corporate special interests, promoting their agendas over the people they were elected to represent," Gideon's plan states. "Lawmakers and staff in Washington frequently skirt the rules to rub elbows with powerful lobbyists. No one should be evading ethics rules to attend lavish receptions held to sway elected officials."
While Gideon pledges to steer away from special interests, her campaign has already collected thousands of dollars from lobbyists.
Two lobbyists from Gideon's state who donated to the campaign, Richard Trahey and Ann Mitchell, have both lobbied on several bills in the state legislature while Gideon has been in office. Trahey has lobbied on acts to authorize tribal gambling and to restore revenue sharing, while Mitchell has lobbied on acts in relation to hiring immigrants through flexible certification and regulating employee benefit excess insurance, among many other bills.
Gideon's new reform plan also calls for overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court case, which allows corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited sums on political advertisements.
Gideon is rejecting corporate PAC donations and plans to make it a central issue in the race. The Collins campaign has hit Gideon over hypocrisy on the issue, saying that she has already accepted such donations through Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's (D., N.Y.) PAC. Gideon also received money directly from corporations and corporate PACs through her state-level PAC.
The plan also touts Gideon's support of the DISCLOSE Act, which would "crack down" on dark money groups by requiring them to disclose their donors.
Gideon, however, has received outside help from Maine Momentum, a dark money group working to oust Collins from office. Maine Momentum has topped $2 million in spending so far. Majority Forward, also a dark money group that is closely tied to the Senate Majority PAC, which works to elect Democrats to the Senate, has spent at least $750,000. The race is expected to be one of the most expensive in the country.
Gideon's campaign did not respond to requests for comment.