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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Taxpayer-funded staff working for Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) may have made illegal campaign contributions worth more than $2,600, according to a Thursday report from American Bridge, a liberal research organization.

American Bridge examined federal records from 2013-2019 and found five separate instances that appear to show contributions not allowed by federal campaign finance laws or the Senate ethics manual.

Senate staffers are forbidden from making contributions to the campaigns of their boss, and that restriction includes purchasing campaign materials, even if the staffer is immediately reimbursed for such expenses. Yet that seems to be exactly what happened with Collins campaigns on multiple occasions over the years.

The most recent unlawful contribution occurred in January 2019, when a caseworker was reimbursed by the Collins campaign for more than $180 for “academy meal reimbursement.”

The largest monetary infraction took place in 2015, when Collins’ chief of staff Steve Abbott was reimbursed $1,327 for “catering” expenses.

American Bridge learned Collins faced similar allegations from a 1998 campaign when Abbott was also her chief of staff. At that time, Abbott vowed that such behavior would stop immediately. Yet he himself is accused of the same illicit action.

Campaign finance violations are not the only issue facing the Collins campaign. At the end of June, a staffer working for Collins’ Senate office gave campaign updates to local Republican officials, according to the Maine Beacon. While staffers are allowed to volunteer for campaigns, they may not use official resources or their title as part of that work.

But those rules did not stop a Collins staffer from making a video for local Republican officials and talking about the campaign.

“I work in the senator’s Bangor federal office. So, I’m not a campaign worker,” the staffer said in a June 13 video. “The senator’s campaign is just up and running a little bit, really on the fundraising side, but we don’t have any real campaign staff. But I’m going to give you a little bit of report on the campaign.”

“This certainly appears to be a campaign event, based on both the content of the discussion and the event host,” Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform for the Campaign Legal Center, told the Beacon after watching the video.

Collins is currently the second least popular senator in the entire country, bested only by Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Sen. David Perdue

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) pulled out of his final debate against Democrat Jon Ossoff on Thursday —because he'd rather attend a Donald Trump campaign rally.

The Nov. 1 Senate debate was planned months ago, but Perdue's campaign said he could not participate as promised because he has been too busy doing his job.

"Senator Perdue will not be participating in the WSB-TV debate but will instead join the 45th president, Donald J. Trump, for a huge Get-Out-The-Vote rally in Northwest Georgia. For 8 of the last 14 days of this campaign, Senator Perdue went back to Washington to work for much needed COVID relief," his spokesperson John Burke said in a statement, referencing a failed attempt by Senate Republicans to pass Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) "skinny" $500 billion proposal.

"To make up for the lost time, Senator Perdue has over 20 campaign stops planned for the closing days of this race, and he is excited to welcome and join President Trump in Georgia before November 3rd to campaign for both of their re-election efforts," Burke added.

WSB-TV noted on Thursday that it offered Perdue's campaign other time slots to accommodate the Trump rally, but the overture was rebuffed.

Ossoff's campaign blasted Perdue's "cowardly withdrawal," saying in a statement that the move "says it all: David Perdue feels entitled to his office, and he'll do anything to avoid accountability for his blatant corruption and his total failure during this unprecedented health crisis."

The incumbent's decision to break his promise to debate came one day after a video of Jon Ossoff criticizing Perdue's anti-Obamacare record at a Wednesday debate went viral. As of Friday morning, a 72-second clip of Ossoff has been viewed more than 12 million times.

Perdue responded to that attack by making the odd claim that he repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act — which would take insurance away from hundreds of thousands of his constituents — because he believed doing so would cover more people.

"I voted against the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, because it was taking insurance away from millions of Georgians. Today almost 18 percent of Georgians don't have any health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act," he falsely claimed.

This is not the first time Perdue has put Trump ahead of the interests of Georgians. According to FiveThirtyEight, he has voted with Trump about 95 percent of the time, including backing his right-wing Supreme Court nominees, his tax cuts for large corporations and the very wealthy, and his repeated attempts to take money from military families to pay for a massive Southern border wall.

Medical experts and data analyses have suggested Trump's rallies have been super-spreader events for the coronavirus. Trump has refused to adhere to social distancing rules or to require mask usage at the events and the mass gatherings have frequently been immediately followed by case spikes in the communities where he holds them.

One poll this week found that voters across the country said they are less likely to vote for Trump because of his "large, in-person campaign rallies where wearing a mask is not required of attendees."

The race between Ossoff and Perdue is considered a "toss-up" by election experts, and polls show it as virtual tied.

If no candidate gets a majority on Tuesday, the top two finishers will face off in a January runoff.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.