August 1, 2020
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican facing a tough re-election race, has run numerous ads over the last three months featuring testimonials from more than 20 people who were presented as ordinary Mainers — but in fact had close ties to the state's Republican Party or to Collins herself. While such deception is not obviously illegal, it's intentionally misleading and suggests that Collins has had trouble attracting supporters outside a tight circle of Maine Republicans.
This wasn't the first time that Collins' 2020 campaign has committed an unforced video error. Last summer her campaign drew sardonic criticism after posting several minutes of B-roll of the senator meeting with Mainers in factories, a classroom, a kitchen and so on. The video was mocked as a transparent gift of content for outside groups, which could amount to a campaign finance violation.
This year, however, the campaign might catch flak for a July 30 campaign ad that features lobsterman and small business owner Wayne Parry accusing Sara Gideon, speaker of the Maine House and Collins' Democratic opponent, of "not being honest" about her criticism of the Paycheck Protection Program.
The ad informs the viewer that Parry is a lobsterman from the town of Arundel, but does not mention that Parry also served as a Republican State House representative from 2010 to 2018, and is on the ballot as a candidate again in 2020.
Back in May, the Collins campaign put out a paid social media testimonial from a GOP selectman named Ryan Lorrain, without disclosing his party affiliation. Lorrain had written a letter to the Lewiston Sun Journal in October 2018 praising Collins' "stand against the media and the political left" during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing.
"What she did took courage that few people in politics have shown," Lorrain wrote. "I encourage others in the public eye to look to her example for handling controversy in a professional and accurate way."
The campaign ran a paid social media testimonial in May from former Maine GOP chair Mark Ellis. In 2010, Ellis worked as political director on the gubernatorial campaign of Steve Abbott, who now serves as Collins' chief of staff.
Another Collins-funded social media testimonial that month came from Bill and Jamie Logan, whose daughter, Jessie, once worked in Collins' Senate office in Bangor. Their personal connection to the candidate was not disclosed.
In July, former Maine House member and state Republican Party executive director Julie O'Brien gave a Facebook testimonial for Collins' campaign. In 2017, her son, Cameron, was hired as a legislative aide in Collins' Washington office.
Collins' campaign posted in April a testimonial from Ashley Luszczki, who is currently listed as policy director on the official website for the Republican president of the Maine Senate. Luszczki's bio says she previously worked as the finance executive for the Maine Republican Party.
In May the campaign ran a testimonial from the husband of former Maine State Sen. Amy Volk, and another from Zach Woods, a Republican selectman from Levant.
The campaign featured K.C. Hughes in a July testimonial, without disclosing that Hughes was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for a Maine House seat in 2019. In May, another Republican candidate for a State House seat, Merle Parise, vouched for Collins in a video posted to the campaign's Facebook page. In April, Collins' Facebook featured a video endorsement from Gordon Page of Owls Head — who is currently running to represent District 12 in the Maine State Senate — as well as video testimony from serving State Sen. Stacey Guerin of Glenburn, who is also on the ballot in November.
Collins ran three testimonials from young Mainers in June 2020 without disclosing their connections to her Senate office or the Maine GOP.
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