The Maine Republican Party and the campaign of U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, the Democratic candidate for governor, are battling over advertisements that both say contain false claims.

On Monday, Republican Party Chairman Richard Bennett called on television stations to stop running an ad highlighting Michaud’s work on requiring U.S. military members to wear U.S.-made athletic footwear, because it uses a headline from a newspaper it claims doesn’t exist.

The Michaud campaign defended the ad and reiterated calls for TV stations to pull an ad from the Republican Governors Association, which claims Michaud supports giving welfare to illegal immigrants. The Democrat’s campaign called that claim false, and questioned the sources purporting to back it up.

The back-and-forth highlights the role of television advertising — both positive and negative — in Maine’s tight gubernatorial race pitting Republican Gov. Paul LePage against the six-term congressman and independent candidate Eliot Cutler.

“Campaigns still overwhelmingly drop their money into TV,” said Mark Brewer, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maine Orono. “That tells you that TV is still a dominant player in influencing voter choice and moving public opinion.”

Michaud’s ad features the headline “House Passes Michaud Amendment Requiring 100% Made-in-USA Uniforms” under a “State News Services” banner styled to resemble the front page of a newspaper. However, that organization, which is actually called “States News Service,” appears to be an online aggregation of news releases issued by members of Congress.

During a media conference Monday at Republican headquarters in Augusta, Bennett didn’t dispute facts stated in the ad, but said Michaud was essentially “padding his resume” by citing his own release as a source.

“It’s a simple rule my son in his junior year of high school understands, you cannot cite yourself as a source,” Bennett said. “Yet after 34 years in politics, Mr. Michaud broke that rule.”

Bennett said it wasn’t the first time Michaud’s ads have faced criticism.

Last summer, Michaud had to revise an ad that claimed Maine had lost jobs, when in fact it had added jobs. The ad was based on information from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline news service, whose data was later corrected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 2012, Michaud exaggerated upgrades that Republican Kevin Raye, the former state Senate president, made to a small kitchen area of his office by using an unrelated stock photo of a large, shiny kitchen with an island.

Michaud campaign spokesperson Lizzy Reinholt said the claims in Michaud’s recent ad were accurate. The campaign used the image of a fictitious newspaper banner because “the headline was the simplest and most straight-forward,” she said.

Reinholt criticized a TV ad by the RGA that claims Michaud supports giving welfare to illegal immigrants. A letter was sent last Wednesday to TV stations, asking them to pull the ad, she said.

In the letter, Philip Saucier, an attorney for the Michaud campaign at the Portland law firm Bernstein Shur, said the ad made three false claims: Michaud did not say he supports welfare for illegal immigrants in the article cited by the ad; the cost estimate of $1 million “does not stand up to scrutiny,” because it includes costs for asylum- and refugee-seekers who are here legally; and a claim that Maine would be more attractive to illegal immigrants isn’t sourced.

Steve Carter, station manager of WCSH in Portland, said the Federal Communications Commission prohibits stations from censoring political ads that are paid for and authorized by candidates. Those rules don’t apply to ads purchased by outside groups, but Carter said the station has reviewed the complaint about the RGA ad and will not take it down.

Station managers at WGME and WMTW in Portland did not respond to requests for comment.

James Melcher, a political science professor at the University of Maine Farmington, doesn’t believe the ad criticized by the Republican party should be pulled, because many ads use fake mastheads. He said Republicans could be making a tactical decision to criticize Michaud, since the RGA ad has come under fire by Michaud’s campaign and a recent Portland Press Herald editorial.

“This could be an attempt to deflect attention from that, trying to make people say ‘Look, the Michaud campaign is just as misleading,'” Melcher said. “But I really don’t think this critique will stick.”

Brewer, however, believes that if the Republican criticism is true, the Michaud campaign ought to edit the ad.”

“I think it makes perfectly good sense for the Republicans to do this, given that it’s not the first time Michaud kind of stepped in this stuff,” Brewer said.

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