By Mal Leary
A Republican political action committee controlled by House Minority Leader Ken Fredette is under fire for distributing political ads masquerading as local newspapers.
Democrats say some of the materials falsely suggest that GOP candidates have won an important endorsement.
Some of the the ads in question are designed to look like a local newspapers, and Democrats say they’re being mailed to voters and also distributed to convenience stores and newspaper stands across the state. Some cite bogus endorsements by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, even though the the group had actually endorsed the Democrat in the race.
The ads even used the signature of David Trahan, the executive director of SAM. Trahan, a former Republican state senator, is angered by the ads.
“I made it very clear to those folks that were doing it we weren’t happy with it. Very disturbing to me. It’s not OK. And I think they need to apologize — if it was a mistake, come clean and apologize,” he says.
Trahan says SAM not only endorses candidates but grades them on the basis of their response to a questionnaire on issues of importance to its members. He says from now on, SAM will not issue grades, only endorsements.
He says the ads are another example of how nasty this election year has become.
“I have never seen it this bad. And I hope sane minds prevail and people back down off the cliff,” Trahan says.
Freeport Democrat Sara Gideon, who serves as assistant House majority leader, says she’s outraged at the fake newspapers. She says there have been plenty of pieces of campaign literature from both parties that have distorted records or used half-truths, but this is a new low.
“They will talk about certain issues that tend to divide Republicans and Democrats. This is very different. There’s a smell of deceit to it that I think is really disturbing,” she says.
Gideon says while the outright lies concerning SAM endorsements are the most egregious part of the fake newspapers, she says other candidates have been accused of voting on legislation when they have never even held elective office.
“They are really deceptive. For example, they will even use the name of sports teams from the local town in the title. They will have the sports schedules. I think for many people they won’t be able to discern they are actual political advertisements,” she says.
Fredette could not be reached for comment. Gideon says Democrats are considering whether to file a complaint with the state Ethics Commission about the ad campaign using fake newspapers.
The commission has a special meeting scheduled Monday morning, but this issue is not on the agenda.