Allegations of fake news may lead to an ethics investigation in Maine.
The Maine Democratic Party has filed an ethics complaint that accuses the Maine GOP of peddling fake news that could violate campaign finance laws.
The Maine Republican Party Facebook page has been posting content from the Maine Examiner, an anonymous, right-wing site.
While some articles on the Examiner have checked out, others have been discredited.
In one post, the Examiner suggested State Senator Justin Chenette collected commission on political ads placed in a local newspaper. The publisher of the Journal Tribune put a note in the Jan. 17th edition of the paper clarifying that the Maine Examiner’s article was not true.
“These claims are categorically false,” said Sen. Chenette. “They are slanderous against me personally.”
The Examiner published multiple reports about Lewiston Mayoral Candidate Ben Chin in the days leading up to a run-off election. A report about Chin’s parking tickets has been discredited. Chin narrowly lost the election by around 140 votes.
A spokesperson for the Maine GOP has denied knowing who is behind the website. But digital digging shows some evidence that points back to a party official.
Metadata on several photographs on the website show the author as “Jason Savage.” That is the name of the Maine GOP’s Executive Director.
An error log on the Examiner’s website repeatedly displays the account name jasonsavage207.
The Maine Democratic Party has included this evidence in an ethics complaint filed this week for the Maine Ethics Commission.
Scott Ogden says campaign finance law requires this kind of political activity be disclosed.
“All they had to do was say who they were [in the Examiner content,]” said Ogden.
Staff for the Maine Ethics Commission confirms they are on a preliminary fact-finding mission, and will present a report to the full commission during a Feb. 22 meeting. Members of the commission will consider that memo and decide if they should launch an investigation into the Maine Examiner’s possible ties to the Maine GOP.
Jason Savage did not respond to multiple requests for comment Friday. A post on his personal Facebook page stated that he has the flu.
The GOP Party Chair, Dr. Demi Kouzounas, released a statement:
“This complaint is totally without merit. As far as the content we advertised, it is legitimate and not fabricated. The party takes its legal obligations seriously and has met them."