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In a race in Maine that's rated a tossup and could help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, Republican incumbent Susan Collins (left) is being challenged by Democrat Sara Gideon. (AP) In a race in Maine that's rated a tossup and could help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, Republican incumbent Susan Collins (left) is being challenged by Democrat Sara Gideon. (AP)

In a race in Maine that's rated a tossup and could help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, Republican incumbent Susan Collins (left) is being challenged by Democrat Sara Gideon. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher October 5, 2020

Claim that Maine Sen. Susan Collins acted to help her husband’s firm falls short

If Your Time is short

  • Two actions taken by Collins, both of which occurred before she married, were general and not targeted to help her future husband’s lobbying firm.

  • Collins voted for repealing a tax on government contractors that had never been collected and led an effort against requiring contractors to disclose their political giving.

In a Maine race that could help determine whether Republicans keep their Senate majority, attack ads have drawn in the candidates’ husbands.

First, Republican incumbent Sen. Susan Collins attacked her Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon, by alleging that Gideon’s husband’s law firm "took up to $2 million" from the same federal program that Gideon "falsely" attacked Collins over. 

Collins’ points were partially accurate, and we rated it Half True

Now Gideon returns fire in an ad that charges that Collins has a conflict of interest and "pushed for policies that benefited her husband’s lobbying business."

But the ad is misleading in that two actions Collins’ conflicts were general in nature and did not target her future husband’s business — or even lobbying firms — specifically. And for the record, Collins took these actions before she was married. 

Even the news article on which the ad sources its information provides context that could undermine the severity of Gideon’s attack.

The race

Collins has been a senator since 1997. Gideon has served in Maine’s state House since 2013 and as its speaker since 2016. 

Many news accounts say the race could help decide whether Republicans, who control 53 seats in the Senate, keep their majority.

The Cook Political Report has rated the race a tossup. It is one of 18 pivotal House and Senate contests up for election on Nov. 3 that PolitiFact is tracking.

The ad

Gideon’s ad relies on a Sept. 1 news article in the Huffington Post, showing quotes from the story while a narrator voices the nearly identical claim that Collins "pushed for policies that benefited her husband’s lobbying business."

According to the article, Collins began dating Thomas Daffron, formerly the chief operating officer of Jefferson Consulting Group, a lobbying and consulting firm, in 2010 and married him in 2012. 

Daffron last registered as a lobbyist in 2006 and retired from the firm in 2016, according to Collins’ campaign.

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Two actions Collins took in 2011 "could have directly benefited her future husband’s business," the Huffington Post article says. 

Repealing 3% withholding tax on government contractors: 

This needs context. Collins voted to repeal a 3% withholding tax on government contractors. But the repeal — approved 95-0 in the Senate — was not specific to Daffron’s firm, nor even specific to lobbyists. And the tax, which was estimated to collect $11.2 billion over 10 years, had never actually been implemented. 

The tax had been signed into law by President George W. Bush to encourage government contractors to fully pay their taxes. Small businesses argued the tax would make small firms less able to compete for government contracts "due to the anticipated cash flow issues" and higher costs. The tax was widely criticized by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers who said it placed an unfair burden on a majority of government contractors who paid taxes on time, and it was never even implemented before being repealed, the Associated Press reported.

Leading effort to stop Obama administration rule on contractors’ financial disclosures: 

Collins did lead a push to stop President Barack Obama’s administration from implementing a rule requiring federal contractors to disclose their political giving, including introducing a bill to ban such a rule. The administration abandoned the effort.

Collins’ campaign said Collins sent a bipartisan letter to the administration saying the rule would create "the appearance that this type of information could become a factor in the award of federal contracts."

Indeed, the article that Gideon relies on says that attacks such as those on Collins’ two actions in 2011 show "Democrats are prepared to turn even relatively routine, bipartisan elements of Collins’ four terms in the Senate into fodder for attack ads."

Our ruling

Gideon claimed Collins "pushed for policies that benefited her husband’s lobbying business."

Neither piece of evidence cited in the ad proves Collins acted to benefit the business directly.

Two actions taken by Collins, prior to marrying her husband, were bipartisan and broad. While her future husband’s lobbying firm, Jefferson Consulting Group, could have been affected by the measures, there is no evidence Collins acted specifically to benefit him. The vote to repeal a withholding tax received broad bipartisan Senate support and resulted in a 95-0 vote. Her push against an Obama initiative involving financial disclosures was on the grounds that such a rule could unduly influence federal contract awards. Neither action was directed specifically at helping her husband’s firm, nor were they even directed at lobbyists, but rather federal contractors generally.

We rate the statement Mostly False.


This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here for more.

Our Sources

YouTube, Sara Gideon ad, Sept. 16, 2020 

Email, Sara Gideon campaign spokeswoman Maeve Coyle, Sept. 28, 2020

Email, Susan Collins campaign spokesman Kevin Kelley, Sept. 25, 2020

Huffington Post, "Democrats Take Aim At Susan Collins’ Lobbyist Husband As Maine Race Heats Up," Sept. 1, 2020

Los Angeles Times, "Obama order could make corporate political spending public," May 8, 2011

Associated Press, "AP Fact Check: No proof Sen. Collins voted to help husband," Sept. 21, 2020

Congress.gov, "S.1100 - Keeping Politics Out of Federal Contracting Act of 2011," accessed Oct. 2, 2020

Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, "Senate Moves on 3% Withholding Tax Repeal Today," Nov. 7, 2011

Bangor Daily News, "Ad Watch: Ads linking Susan Collins’ votes to husband cite broad, bipartisan actions," Sept. 15, 2020

Government Executive, "Repeal of 3 percent contractor tax withholding gathers steam," Oct. 24, 2011

U.S. Senate, repeal vote, Nov. 10, 2011

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Claim that Maine Sen. Susan Collins acted to help her husband’s firm falls short

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