The Maine Ethics Commission on Thursday voted against investigating a pro-GOP “news” site that was secretly operated by state Republican Party executive director Jason Savage.
In their 3-2 decision, the commission said they were satisfied with Savage’s explanation that he ran the Maine Examiner in his own time and without relying on state GOP resources, according to the Portland Press Herald.
The two Republicans on the panel were joined by the one independent in voting not to investigate. The panel’s two Democrats dissented.
The Maine Democratic Party in January filed a complaint asking the commission to look into the site’s connections to the state GOP. The site had published a series of false stories disparaging a Democratic mayoral candidate who ended up losing his race by only 145 votes.
The Maine GOP strenuously denied any ties to the Examiner, which described itself as a small local news website run by a “group of Mainers.” But Savage acknowledged he ran and wrote for the site after metadata directly linked him to it.
Savage’s attorneys said that the site was not subject to state campaign finance disclosure laws, as Democrats alleged, because it was a “personal project.”
His party often shared videos and stories produced by the site on its own social media platforms.
The state Democratic party said that they still scored a win by uncovering Savage’s role in promoting the site.
“As a result of this complaint, the Maine Democratic Party was able to drive Savage out of the shadows, hold him accountable to the public for his disturbing actions, and shine a bright light on the underhanded tactics that he and the Maine Republican Party are willing to engage in,” Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett said in a statement.