The affiliate of a labor union group spending money to help Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) win re-election also provided Jackson personal compensation, according to campaign finance records and income disclosures reviewed by The Maine Wire.
Campaign finance statements show the Building Solidarity PAC, a union-backed political committee, made an independent expenditure in support of Jackson’s reelection campaign on October 5 worth $5,735.34. On October 12, the PAC filed another independent expenditure report showing a second $5,735.34 spent in support of Jackson’s campaign.
The labor union spending bolsters the tax dollars Jackson’s campaign has received under the Maine Clean Election Act (MCEA), which offers public financial support to candidates who agree to forgo large dollar contributions.
Under Maine law, legislators are required to file a statement on their sources of income with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices by February 15 of each year. In addition, legislators are also required to update their statement within 30 days of a substantial change in income, defined in part by state law as a new source of income of $2,000 or more.
Jackson filed an updated statement on the sources of income for legislators on October 3. In it, he listed the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades as a new employer as of September 1. According to the filing, Jackson’s role involves member engagement. The union is an affiliate of the Maine State Building and Constructions Trade Council, which formed the Building Solidarity PAC in 2003.
Under the MCEA, participating candidates receive public financing by demonstrating a threshold amount of community support, which requires collecting a minimum number of $5 contributions from registered voters in a candidates’ district. Contributions go to the Maine Clean Election Fund, not to candidates’ campaigns.
Once a candidate has qualified for MCEA funding, he or she cannot accept private contributions. Funding for most campaign goods and services must come from MCEA funds.
Jackson’s request to receive certification under the MCEA was approved by the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices on April 26. He received a $2,175 payment for the primary, the standard amount Senate candidates in uncontested races receive.
General election candidates in contested races receive up to $20,000 per candidate as an initial distribution and can request up to eight supplemental payments if they collect an additional 45 contributions. Candidates cannot collect more than 360 qualifying contributions, which the commission must receive no later than three weeks before an election, and will receive $5,000 per supplemental payment. Contested general election candidates cannot receive more than $60,000 in MCEA funds.
On June 16, the commission authorized $21,850 in MCEA funds. On July 1, it authorized another $32,850, and on July 21 it authorized $5,745. In total, Jackson has received just under $68,000 in MCEA funding during the 2022 election so far.
The Building Solidarity PAC was originally founded in support of allowing the Passamaquoddy Tribe and Penobscot Nation to open a casino that would allocate some of its revenue to state education and municipal revenue sharing.
This statement of support was removed in the PAC’s 2004 registration. In a June 28, 2022 registration document, the PAC changed its statement of support to indicate its purpose was “to support candidates who share our values to support working families.”
The PAC originally registered as a voluntary organization in 2003 but it changed to a labor organization in a February 2014 filing.
Since its 2003 creation, the PAC has received just under $69,000 in contributions and loans and has accumulated approximately $42,500 in expenditures. Roughly $30,000 of that amount has been contributions to candidates, party committees, and other organizations.
The PAC has not participated in every election. Filings from some past election years list no independent expenditures either in support of or opposition to candidates or campaigns. The PAC also made no expenditures in support of or opposition to candidates in the 2022 election until October.
On October 28, the group made a $1,725 contribution in support of Gov. Janet Mills’ re-election campaign.
Other candidates who have received contributions, listed in a quarterly October filing as operating expenditures, include Rep. Chellie Pingree, whose reelection campaign for Maine’s first Congressional district received $1,000, and Rep. Jared Golden, whose reelection campaign for Maine’s second congressional district also received $1,000.
The PAC also contributed $2,500 each to the House Democratic Campaign Committee and the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee and $5,000 to the Maine Democratic Party.
In July, the PAC gave $5,000 to the Democratic party to sponsor the 2022 Muskie Lobster Bake.
Independent expenditures are defined by Maine’s election laws as any expenditures for communications that advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate.
According to reports the PAC filed with the Maine Ethics Commission, this is the first time they have filed an independent expenditure in support of Jackson’s campaign. Expenditures to Democratic campaign committees and politicians date back to 2004.
Jackson has previously listed work for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades on his income statements.
Jackson’s annual 2020 filing lists two positions, one as staff and the other as release staff, with the union as a source of income. His 2019 filing also lists work as an organizer for the International Association of Machinists.
Jason Shedlock, Building Solidarity PAC’s principal officer, said he does not believe there is a conflict of interest between the work Jackson has done for the union and the independent expenditure to his campaign made by the PAC, founded by an affiliate of the union.
“Independent expenditures are just that: independent of the candidate’s campaign. Further, I’d add that if anyone is shocked that labor unions and working families support Senate President Jackson, they haven’t been paying attention for the last 20 years.” said Shedlock.
Jackson did not return a request for comment about whether he believes a conflict of interest exists.
This story has been updated.