AUGUSTA — The Maine Republican Party’s executive director said Thursday that a Democratic ethics complaint against the party is “completely without merit.”

Jason Savage denied any wrongdoing, saying that the state’s Republicans “are extremely diligent about reporting all expenditures in a timely manner.”

Democrats asked Maine’s ethics commission on Tuesday to investigate possible campaign finance violations by the Maine Republican Party and the Maine Examiner in their publication of “fake news stories” about Lewiston mayoral candidate Ben Chin before December’s runoff election.

The ethics complaint alleges that the Republicans violated state ethics and campaign finance laws by working secretly with the anonymous website to offer posts targeting Democrats without disclosing who was funding or operating the site.

More evidence emerged Thursday tying Savage to the Maine Examiner, including error logs on the site that name him.

The new information sheds more light on the connection between Savage and the secretive website that has been lending a hand to the Republican Party since its inception in September.

The Sun Journal reported Wednesday that Savage’s name appears in the metadata of some of the photographs on the Examiner’s website, the first solid indication that Savage might have unexplained connections with the online publication. Savage has not responded to requests for comment about the photos.

Error logs for the Maine Examiner show its account is hosted under a user named “jasonsavage207,” a moniker that matches accounts used by Savage.

The Maine People’s Alliance’s Maine Beacon reported Thursday that the error logs show Savage’s name.

In addition, the Beacon discovered “the design template for the website was downloaded from and installed on September 17,” the same date that someone with the username “jasonsavage207” last visited the site.

Together with the metadata from photographs on the Examiner’s site, the Beacon said the evidence “now seems overwhelming that the Maine Republican Party, and Savage specifically, is behind the website” that helped undermine Chin’s chances in a Dec. 12 runoff won by Republican Shane Bouchard.

Phil Bartlett, the Maine Democratic Party chairman, said Wednesday that the revelation about Savage’s photos illustrating Maine Examiner stories shows “the Maine GOP has stooped to a new low” and called for party leaders to “condemn this dishonest behavior and tell the people of Maine that their party should not be led by liars like Jason Savage.”

Though the Republicans have said almost nothing about the Maine Examiner since questions began swirling about it this month, the party’s communications director, Garrett Murch, did mention the publication in a Dec. 7 email and provided a link to one of its anonymously authored pieces.

Passing along a tip that the Examiner had a story about Chin’s unpaid parking tickets, Murch said Republican officials “haven’t confirmed this report, but you may want to, particularly given other things about Chin that have recently come to light questioning his respect for the city he wants to represent. This website’s stories on Chin’s emails have checked out thus far, after all.”

Maine Republicans are not denying a connection to the Maine Examiner. Instead, they’re defending the online paper’s reporting about Chin’s emails.

Republican state party Chair Demi Kouzounas said in a prepared statement Thursday that the Lewiston emails are not “false, distorted or fake,” a point that few have argued. Chin himself admitted they were real.

Kouzounas called the Democrats “desperate” and insisted they were “trying to get the Maine media to assist them” in calling the emails “fake news.”

The Boston Globe first noted the social media connections among Savage, Republicans and the Maine Examiner.

Under the First Amendment, Americans are free to write and publish whatever they like – though they may be subject to libel laws after the fact – but campaign finance laws in Maine require that people who fund political campaigns disclose their contributions and spending.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.