April 20, 2019

Ex-legislator’s complaint dismissed > State ethics panel sides with Abbot resident

AUGUSTA — Revenge was not sweet Wednesday for Sharon Libby Jones.

The former Greenville state representative who lost her bid for a state Senate seat last month by 1,220 votes was also rebuffed by the state Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

Jones, a Democrat, was targeted by Republicans this fall in the contest for the District 8 Senate seat formerly held by Steve Hall, a Guilford Republican. She lost to Republican challenger Paul Davis of Sangerville after both candidates combined spent nearly $80,000 on the race.

Ultimately, it was Wilbur “Bud” Landry of Abbot who claimed to get the biggest bang for the buck in the District 17 election. Landry spent about $36 to run off a two-page flier on his own photocopying machine. He produced a leaflet that explained why an organization called “Keep Me. Posted” perceived Jones as an “enemy of Maine private property rights based on her dismal voting record in the 118th legislative session.” Then he got into his wife’s car and drove to Guilford, Dover-Foxcroft and Greenville to distribute about 700 of the handbills.

Jones filed a complaint with the ethics commission alleging Keep Me. Posted was a political action committee that had failed to register with the state and had failed to file campaign finance reports. Jones additionally charged that Keep Me. Posted had not included an attribution statement on political communications involving a state Senate candidate.

After hearing arguments from Jones and Landry, the commission dismissed the former lawmaker’s complaint concluding Landry did not meet the definitions of a PAC under Maine law and that his fliers did not expressly advocate voting for or against Jones.

Jones told the commissioners that Landry’s fliers did reflect “an element of advocacy” adding that she found it difficult to believe that he could have carried out the entire flier enterprise single-handedly. She said she was concerned Landry had staged the distribution during the week of the election and that his characterization of her votes on property rights legislation “severely distorted her record.”

In a letter to the Eastern Gazette in Dexter, Jones said she was extremely disappointed by Keep Me. Posted’s misleading attack on her candidacy.

“This flier was clearly designed to make scurrilous charges and to make them so late in the campaign, I would have no time to respond,” she wrote.

Landry responded that he was the president, vice president, treasurer and staff of Keep Me. Posted, did not recommend or oppose the candidacy of Jones, and never exceeded the $50 expense threshold used to define PACs.

“It’s completely apolitical,” he said of his flier effort. “And was only intended to inform.”

The board unanimously dismissed the complaint, but not before Commissioner Merle Nelson asked Landry whether he thought “enemy” was the best choice of words to use in his flier to describe Jones.

“Well, in view of her votes [in the Legislature], would you call her a friend of private property rights?” Landry responded.

Jones left the proceedings suspecting Landry had acted in concert with others when the fliers were printed and distributed and that he had hoodwinked the ethics panel.

“People in the district take property rights seriously and there are a number of activists,” she said. “I think he [Landry] clearly played a role in the outcome of the election.”

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