Emily Cain, Democratic candidate for Congress in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, is among lawmakers who have returned money donated by a Massachusetts law firm that allegedly has skirted campaign finance laws to funnel more than $1 million to Democratic political campaigns and committees through a “straw-donor scheme.”

The Boston Globe and the Center for Responsive Politics reported over the weekend that the Thornton Law Firm in Boston has been using the payback scheme to reimburse employees for donations made to Democratic political campaigns and committees since 2010 in an effort to get around campaign finance laws that limit how much one organization can contribute.

Since the story was published Sunday, several Democratic lawmakers around the country already have pledged to or have returned thousands of dollars received from Thornton, including presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Dan Gleick, press secretary for Cain, confirmed Wednesday that her campaign has returned $1,500 in donations from the law firm.

“Emily Cain takes clean elections seriously and we’ve already returned the donations in question,” Gleick said in an email. “As soon as the story broke and before being asked, we immediately returned all of the contributions we’d received from the firm, including contributions from the current fundraising period, which had not yet been reported.”

Cain is running a close race in Maine’s 2nd District against U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who faced a similar issue last month after investment bank Wells Fargo was exposed for scamming customers by setting up false bank accounts. Poliquin said he would give up a $2,000 donation from Wells Fargo and a campaign spokesman confirmed Wednesday that the money has been donated to the Travis Mills Foundation, a nonprofit group that works with wounded veterans.


Cain is one of more than 30 candidates who received money from the firm this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The center shows that Cain has received $2,500 this election cycle, although the Federal Election Commission shows only that she has received $500 as of Oct. 19. Gleick said the campaign also has $1,000 in additional money that has not yet had to be reported under campaign finance laws and that have been returned.

The Globe story describes lawmakers traveling to Boston for large fundraising events, after which they would receive thousands of dollars in donations; but Gleick said that was not the case with Cain and that her campaign’s donation came from a Thornton employee, Michael Lesser, who is not mentioned in the Globe story.

“We have no way of knowing if it even falls into that category,” Gleick said, “but we didn’t want money from a firm that would do that. We want to be as ethical as possible, and that wasn’t something we want to be a part of.”

Cain’s campaign also received $500 in donations from Thornton in 2014. That money has been spent, but Gleick said the campaign has given $500 to the Wounded Heroes Program of Maine to offset the donation.

More than 20 Democratic candidates so far have said they plan to return donations from Thornton, according to the Globe; although some, such as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have said they will await the outcome of a federal investigation into the allegations.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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