AUGUSTA — The Maine ethics commission voted Friday to launch an investigation into a now-defunct Portland company that donated $150,000 to the Maine Democratic Party in 2018.

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, said the creation of Alpine Initiatives LLC four days before it made the large donation was suspicious given there is no public evidence the company conducted any other business before it was dissolved just 14 months later in 2019.

Wayne said if the company’s only purpose was to donate funds to the party Maine law required it to registere as a political action committee and disclose who donated money to it.

“Between the close timing of when it was created and the contribution it’s made, the fact that we have tried to research it and can’t see that it conducted any commercial activity that would generate that kind of income that we know of, and the fact that it dissolved about a year later, all those factors to us suggests someone gave $150,000 to the LLC for purposes of making that contribution,” Wayne said. “We don’t know that for a fact, but if it did, Alpine Initiatives LLC should have registered with our commission as a PAC and filed campaign finance reports.”

“That way the public would be informed as to what were the original source of the funds,” Wayne said. The five-member ethics commission voted unanimously to launch an investigation.

Timothy Norton, a Portland attorney who was listed as the registered agent for the company, did not immediately respond to a message from the Portland Press Herald. The company’s certificate of cancellation, on file with the Maine secretary of state’s Bureau of Corporations, lists Ian C. Grady as the company’s sole member and manager.

Grady appears to be an attorney, and he lists a Los Angeles address on the filing. A message left for Grady also went unreturned Friday.

A profile of Grady on a website for Heartwired, which appears to be a political strategy organization, identifies him as a senior strategist and notes Grady is a “communications, digital, and political consultant with more than a decade of experience working in LGBTQ and progressive politics.”

In 2012, it appears Grady served as the communications director for EqualityMaine, the state’s leading advocate for the LGBTQ community.

Maine law does not limit the amount a company can donate to a party committee, but any company that sets up a “separate or segregated fund” to initiate or influence a campaign must register as a PAC. It is also illegal to make a contribution in the name of another entity or to knowingly accept a contribution in the name of another.

The Maine Democratic Party filed a campaign finance report in December 2018 listing the contribution from Alpine Initiatives, which gave a Portland post office box as its address. The donation came just eight days before the general election that year, which featured races for the governor’s office as well as for all 186 seats in the Maine Legislature. Democrats won majorities in both the state House and Senate that year and captured the governor’s office, electing Gov. Janet Mills.

Had the ethics commission staff been able to establish Alpine Initiatives was an actual company, the large donation to the party would not have raised any concerns because it would have been allowed under the law, Wayne said.


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