Democrat Sara Gideon has launched a new TV ad making an unsupported claim that Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has used her power in public office to advance legislation to help her husband and his business.
Gideon’s campaign began running the ad this month, in one of the country’s tightest U.S. Senate campaigns. Democrats hope they have a chance at flipping the chamber if voters send Gideon, currently the speaker of the Maine House, to the Senate over Collins, who is seeking a fifth term.
A look at claims in the ad:
Narrator in SARA GIDEON AD: “Susan Collins has a secret. Collins’ secret is she’s part of a perfect Washington marriage between a senator and a lobbyist. And Collins pushed for policies that benefited her husband’s lobbying business, voting to repeal a tax on firms like his and fighting against President Obama’s push to make them disclose contributions.”
THE FACTS: Gideon’s ad leaves out important details to lob a groundless accusation that Collins voted to line her husband’s pockets.
The vote referred to in the ad — a repeal of a 3% withholding tax on government contractors— was backed by Democratic President Barack Obama and unanimously approved by the Senate in 2011.
That 3% withholding tax was signed into law by GOP President George W. Bush years earlier to encourage government contractors to fully pay their taxes. It wasn’t specific to lobbyists, as Gideon’s ad suggests.
But the law was widely criticized by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers who said it placed an unfair burden on a majority of government contractors who paid taxes on time, and it was never even implemented before it was repealed in 2011.
The law would have been costly for both the government and its contractors. A 2011 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted $85 million worth of administrative costs to implement the 3% withholding tax over a five-year period. Contractors, meanwhile, would have been stuck with as much as $12 billion in costs — an expense that likely would have been passed on to the federal government through higher prices, The Associated Press reported.
Furthermore, Collins wasn’t married to Thomas Daffron, at the time of the vote. The Associated Press reported on Feb. 3, 2012 that she was engaged to Daffron — months after her vote on the withholding tax.
Daffron, a former Senate staffer, was the chief operating officer when the two wed on Aug. 11, 2012. He resigned from that job in 2016. Over the years the firm has won millions of dollars in government contracts.
As for the ad’s point about disclosing contributions, it’s true that Collins led a campaign and drafted legislation against a proposed Obama rule that would have required federal contractors to make public their political donations and expenditures. This also happened in 2011, before her marriage.
The proposed executive order was intended to make federal contracting more transparent and was hailed by liberal groups. It was opposed by Republicans and some top-ranking Democrats who said they feared the political disclosures might influence who wins government contracts. Obama eventually abandoned his effort.
EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.
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