AUGUSTA — The Maine Republican Party is alleging that Angus King’s first television advertisement in the campaign for Maine’s open U.S. Senate seat violates a provision in federal election law requiring candidates to state orally and in writing that they approve their TV spots.
In a two-page complaint dated Monday that the party sent to the Federal Election Commission, Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster notes that the federal “stand by your ad” provision requires candidate television ads to carry both oral and written statements from the candidate stating that he or she approves the content of their advertising.
King’s ad, which he launched Friday, features the former governor saying, “I’m Angus King, and I approve this message,” but carries no similar message in writing. An ad launched earlier last week by Republican Charlie Summers carries both verbal and written statements stating Summers approves his television spot.
“Angus King should promptly take down this ad, correct it, and apologize to the people of Maine for neglecting the very laws he says are so important for clean and fair elections,” Maine GOP spokesman David Sorensen said in a statement.
King spokeswoman Crystal Canney said the campaign’s legal team is looking into the Republicans’ complaint and would respond later Wednesday. An FEC spokesman said the Republicans’ complaint hadn’t shown up yet in the commission’s files, but that complaints often don’t show up until several days after they’re filed.
The “stand by your ad” provision came into effect as part of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that aimed to more closely regulate campaign financing and spending.
FEC complaints and allegations of election law violations are a common tactic political campaigns use against their opponents. In August, for example, Hawaii Senate candidate Mazie Hirono said her Republican rival, Linda Lingle, violated the “stand by your ad” provision in an ad.
With Webster’s complaint, an FEC lawyer will first review it to determine if it falls within the commission’s jurisdiction, then allow the King campaign 15 days to respond, according to complaint filing guidelines on the FEC’s website. If the FEC finds a campaign violated election law, the campaign could be subject to fines or the commission could use its alternative dispute resolution process.
If the FEC takes up the complaint, the matter is unlikely to be settled before this fall’s Nov. 6 election. In fiscal year 2011, the FEC says it handled 145 enforcement cases in an average of 10 months. Those cases led to a total of $527,000 in civil penalties.