Head Of Maine Senate Faces Ethics Complaint

On September 6, the Wednesday after Labor Day, a member of the Maine House of Representatives, John Andrews (R-Paris), filed a formal complaint with the Maine Attorney General and Ethics Commission alleging that one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers, Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook), either failed to live in his district as is required by law or that he supplied false information to obtain a taxpayer-backed mortgage intended to help low-income homebuyers. In his complaint, Representative Andrews suggests Senator Jackson either committed fraud when applying for a taxpayer-backed loan or he violated the state constitutional requirement that legislators live in their district.

On September 1, one week prior to the filing of Andrews’ complaint, the Maine Wire, a non-profit news service, reported that “mortgage records, insurance records, and court documents” suggest that Senate President Jackson “may have supplied false information to mortgage companies, insurance companies, the State Legislature, and the Maine Ethics Commission.” In response to Representative Andrews’ allegations, Senate President Jackson’s staff has denied any wrongdoing.

“There is no reason to believe that President Jackson is not in compliance with the Maine Constitution, the Ethics Commission or Election Law,” Christine Kirby, communications director for Senator Jackson, said in a statement. In his filed complaint, however, Representative Andrews cited legal documents and courts records that, contrary to Kirby’s statement, provide reason to believe that Jackson was either not in compliance with the terms of the government-backed loan he applied for, or he was in violation of the constitutional requirement that state legislators primarily live in the district they represent.

“If he kept his primary address in Allagash, then he has violated the terms of his FHA mortgage contract,” Steve Robinson, editor-in-chief of the Maine Wire, wrote on September 1. “If he changed his primary address to Augusta, then he has violated his constitutional obligation to reside in his district.”

Of the two potential infractions, submitting a fraudulent mortgage application or living outside of one’s district, recent history suggests the accusation of living out-of-district could be harder to overcome electorally. During the 2022 midterm elections, two state senate candidates running in different parts of North Carolina were accused of living outside of the districts for which they were running. Both of those candidates, one Republican and one Democrat, went on to lose in the November general election.

Contradictory Claims About Powerful Politician’s Primary Residence

In 2019 Senate President Jackson applied for and received a Federal Housing Authority-backed loan on a second home that he purchased in Augusta, a little over two miles away from the state capitol. Senator Jackson, however, claims that Allagash is and has always remained his primary residence. Had Jackson’s FHA loan application stated that the Augusta home is not his primary residence, as the Senate President publicly claims is the case, then Maine’s top state senator would’ve been ineligible for the taxpayer-subsidized loan he received.

Jackson’s spokeswoman recently stated that the Senator’s primary residence “is the address on his license, where he votes, where he receives his homestead property tax exemption and where he clearly intends to make his home.”

Falsely claiming a second home as a primary residence in order to receive a taxpayer-subsidized loan is an infraction that the FBI appears to take seriously based on recent history in Maine. For example Merton Weed Jr., a 50 year old resident of Norway, Maine, was charged earlier this year with loan fraud on an FHA application that included false information. Many are now curious to see if Senate President Jackson will get the same level of scrutiny for what appears to be a confirmed inaccuracy on his FHA loan application.

“No one is above the law in Maine, not even the Senator in the highest elected legislative seat in the state,” Representative Andrews said. “My hope is that these serious issues are addressed legally by the Attorney General, US Attorney and by the Ethics Commision. Maine politics needs more transparency and more accountability – not less.”

Senate President Jackson’s staff did not respond to a request for further comment from this author. When asked by this author whether she or other Democrats in the Maine Legislature are concerned that the Senate President may have fraudulently obtained a taxpayer-backed loan or is in violation of legislative residency requirements, Senator Mattie Daughtry (D) did not respond.

The Portland Press-Herald reported on the allegations against Jackson for the first time in a September 8 article that featured the Senate President’s initial response. Senator Jackson says his FHA loan application incorrectly listed the Augusta house purchased in 2019 as his primary residence. Senate President Jackson, however, claims he’s not responsible for the false information included in his loan application, blaming the error on his mortgage broker.

“I paid him a lot of money,” Jackson told the Press-Herald about his broker. “He filled out the forms and me and my wife signed them.” Senate President Jackson added that he “never really read” the loan application forms and suggested that any error is the fault of his broker.

The broker that Jackson is blaming, however, denies wrongdoing. In a phone interview with the Maine Wire, Senator Jackson’s mortgage broker said that he and his firm have always complied with the law. “I mean, he’s a Senator,” Jackson’s broker told the Maine Wire. “You’d think he would read forms and understand them.”

“We follow the FHA guidelines very closely,” Jackson’s broker added. “We didn’t commit any crimes. We underwrite guidelines, they read the applications and fill them out.”

Now that a formal complaint has been filed by Representative Andrews, the Ethics Commission will look into the matter and report its findings later this fall. A hearing on the matter will take place at the Maine Ethics Commission’s October 25 meeting. The commission’s executive director will then make a decision on whether to conduct a full investigation.

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