AUGUSTA – Most in Maine’s business community have hailed the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) authored by Senator Susan Collins as a lifesaver for Maine’s business community. Speaker Sara Gideon, who is nearing her fourth full month of complete inaction in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, has sharply criticized the PPP, spending heavily on advertising attacking Collins over the program. Now, newly released data from the U.S. Small Business Administration has revealed that Gideon’s husband’s law firm took at least one million dollars from the federal government through the program.
A filing by Sara Gideon with the Maine Ethics Commission shows Gideon’s husband, Ben Gideon is an attorney at Berman & Simmons, a Portland based law firm. Berman & Simmons is a personal injury firm that boasts of being the best personal injury law firm in the state and lists many large personal injury verdicts in links on their website.
According to SBA data, Berman & Simmons qualified for a loan of between $1 million and $2 million through the PPP. The firm employs 18 lawyers, according to their website.
In a television ad, Gideon has accused Collins of authoring the PPP to benefit her donors and of tailoring the program to mostly benefit large corporations, but has never disclosed that her husband’s law firm was a beneficiary of the program.
Gideon also suggested that the program had only helped a small percentage of Maine’s small businesses, but a fact-check from the Washington Post said almost 80% of Maine small businesses with at least one employee had received loans from PPP. That Washington Post fact check gave Gideon “Three Pinocchios” and said Gideon’s attack ad was “highly misleading” in regard not just to the number of Maine small businesses receiving loans, but also the aforementioned suggestion that it was tailored to benefit certain businesses.
The PPP has preserved the jobs and paychecks of about 200,000 Mainers during the COVID-19 health and economic crisis.
Gideon has also recently come under increasing criticism for her refusal to bring the Maine Legislature back into session to address various issues, such as Maine’s continued crisis in the state unemployment system. That system has failed repeatedly, sometimes without adequate explanation from leadership at the Maine Department of Labor. Maine also could face serious budget consequences if projected budget shortfalls are not addressed.
The revelation of Gideon’s family receiving the benefit of a PPP loan while Gideon attacked Senator Susan Collins on the program reinforces the assertion many of Gideon’s opponents have made about Gideon, saying she often engages in blatant hypocrisy.
They point to various instances where Gideon has publicly stated, sometimes in paid ads, that she takes one position on an issue, but her political history or private actions show the opposite.
Gideon has been found guilty of violating state campaign finance and ethics laws at due to illegal activity conducted through that PAC and faces other investigations, which have been postponed due to COVID-19 and the lack of a quorum on the Maine Ethics Commission.
The intersection of Gideon’s role as Speaker of Maine House and her husband’s role as a prominent personal injury lawyer was explored in this Washington Examiner article that exposed how Gideon declined to support bills to fund Maine’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities just before her husband saw “an opportunity to take legal action against facilities with deadly outbreaks of the coronavirus.”
Gideon is also facing a barrage of criticism for her failure to act in response to reports, confirmed by The Bollard, a Portland-based magazine, that a Democrat legislator in her caucus had groomed at least three young women for sexual relationships before they graduated high school when he taught at Maine Girls’ Academy. The Democrat legislator in question was absent from the teaching job before the accusations became public. The school is now closed.
Despite taking no action on reports about a member of her caucus that were eventually confirmed by a lone journalist at a small monthly magazine, Gideon loudly criticized Senator Susan Collins’ vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Gideon’s attacks on Collins’ vote on Kavanaugh relied upon even less evidence than what was presented against a member of her own Democratic caucus.