Supporters of the bear hunting measure on the Maine ballot have filed a complaint with the Maine ethics commission alleging that the group leading the opposition to the proposal failed to disclose campaign contributions from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting allege that IF&W has made "significant contributions" to the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council, claiming that IF&W has contributed "many thousands" of dollars to the No on 1 campaign by providing an event venue and equipment, guest speaking services, campaign literature, advertising and staff time.
Several ads against the measure have featured IF&W employees. The group says such activities are considered "in kind" contributions, and have to be reported.
"The state has almost certainly spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to influence the election - in addition to the nearly $3 million spent by private commercial interests - and the public is being kept in the dark from a campaign finance perspective," says Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting Campaign Director Katie Hansberry, in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court has denied the group's request for an expedited appeal in its pending court case against IF&W. Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting is appealing after a judge declined to issue an injunction it sought against wildlife biologists and other employees of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for their role in the referendum campaign.
Opponents of the referendum say they're "extremely pleased" with the ruling. "This is just one more glaring example of how this Washington, D.C. special interest group, the Humane Society of the United States, is trying to buy this election and the way that Maine people manage our wildlife," says James Cote, campaign manager for the NO on 1 campaign, in a statement.
Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting says it plans to continue its appeal, despite losing the bid to speed it up.