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Can Bruce Poliquin's ad featuring lobsterman Billy Bob Faulkingham leave out the fact he is a politician?

The ad markets Faulkingham as a lobsterman without mentioning his political ties and upcoming election, as the representative criticizes incumbent Rep. Jared Golden.

PORTLAND, Maine — If you watch NEWS CENTER Maine's newscasts, you probably already saw the ad.

A lobsterman from Winter Harbor pulls up in his boat and makes a pitch to vote against incumbent U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine. 

The ad is produced by Bruce Poliquin for Congress. Poliquin is the republican candidate running against Golden in November.

But the ad features more than just the CD-2 race. The lobsterman, who garnishes the most airtime, is also running for office as an incumbent in the Maine House of Representatives.

Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham is a Republican representing Winter Harbor. 

"There is the Jared Golden you see on TV, and then there is the Jared Golden you see voting in Congress," Faulkingham said.

The ad only addresses Faulkingham as "Billy Bob" but does not disclose the fact that he is a politician and running for reelection.

A viewer asked NEWS CENTER Maine if this is allowed:

    • Isn't Billy Bob actually Billy Bob Faulkingham, a Republican Maine House of Representatives member? If so, should Billy Bob have disclosed that fact?

According to the Federal Elections Commission, the appearance of Faulkingham in the Poliquin ad does not break federal elections rules.

But according to the Maine Ethics Commission, withholding that information may have prevented the Poliquin campaign from breaking state-level campaign finance laws.

"In this case, it is possible that Rep. Faulkingham’s full name and status as an official were not identified in the ad in order to comply with restrictions in state or federal campaign finance law," the commission said in a statement.

Those restrictions include the limitations for contributions to state-level candidates.

With the expenditures made to broadcast the Poliquin ad featuring Faulkingham, it may have exceeded the individual donation limit that Faulkingham could collect unless the ad did not name Faulkingham as a politician, that is.

By excluding the fact that Faulkingham is both a lobsterman and a politician, the Poliquin for Congress team was able to comply with state laws.

"This preserves the fact that Billy Bob is speaking as a lobsterman and not related to his personal campaign," Poliquin Campaign Spokesperson Brent Littlefield said over the phone.

For political analysts, the consensus is that it's not illegal, but may be misleading.

"It's not illegal, and it's not unethical. But it is dumb," Ethan Strimling, former Portland mayor, and political analyst said. "I always try to say more disclosure is better. Don't try to sneak something by a reporter. In this ad, it may have helped them to say this is a Republican state legislator in a Republican district."

But for the Poliquin team, including Faulkingham by withholding his political affiliation may have been the only choice.

Faulkingham was contacted by NEWS CENTER Maine for this story. The representative detailed his extensive history as a lobsterman but never answered questions related to his political involvement.

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