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Democrats Seek Probe into Maine GOP Senators' Alleged Double-Dipping Scheme

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine Senate Democrats are urging an investigation into what they say is a double-dipping scheme by GOP lawmakers that cost Maine taxpayers thousands of dollars.

Minority leader Justin Alfond said Sens. Andre Cushing and Ron Collins used campaign committees to pay for travel and lodging while also billing the Legislature for the same expenses.

"This is really serious stuff," Alfond said. "Thousands of dollars have been taken from hardworking Mainers and are lining these two state senators' pockets."

Alfond asked Senate President Mike Thibodeau to convene the Senate ethics panel to explore the senators' use of the Legislature's reimbursement fund that cost taxpayers a combined $5,500.

But in a statement, Thibodeau said neither senator has done anything illegal. He also criticized Democrats' decision to run to the press with their allegations two weeks before the election instead of bringing the issue to his attention earlier.

That prompted Alfond to issue a written statement later on Monday.

“Apparently, the Senate President believes it’s completely above-board for an independent PAC or campaign committee to pay for a legislator’s expenses, and for that very same legislator to receive bogus reimbursements funded by taxpayer dollars," Alfond wrote. "Let’s be very clear about what happened here: Public records show unequivocally that Sen. Collins and Sen. Cushing took money from donors with one hand and from taxpayers with the other. I don’t think the people of Maine share Senate President Thibodeau’s rosy assessment of this double-dipping scheme.”

Cushing, who is being sued by his sister and is the subject of a separate ethics complaint, has previously said that his billing the state for $3,100 was a bookkeeping error. Cushing has also said he will repay the money.

Collins did not return a call seek comment.