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Poet Shel Silverstein once noted that, “Some kind of help is the kind of help we all can do without.” While candidates targeted by independent ads are often the loudest critics of them, sometimes the intended beneficiaries are not enamored with them either.

A reader in Maine wrote to alert us to one such situation, in a Maine statehouse race, where the National Organization for Marriage is paying for flyers criticizing a Democratic incumbent who backed a state bill to expand civil marriage to same-sex couples.

State Representative Jeff McCabe, a Democrat, last year voted for a bill, titled “An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom.” The bill was enacted and signed by the governor, but was overturned by referendum in November 2009. The National Organization for Marriage, which opposed the bill, has sent flyers to voters in McCabe’s Skowhegan, Maine, district reminding them that the Democrat voted for the bill and noting that his Republican opponent opposed it.

The text of the mailing says, “Now it’s time to let Jeffrey McCabe know we don’t agree with his decision to back same-sex ‘marriage.’” It encourages voters to e-mail McCabe “and tell him he stands on the wrong side” of the issue. The flyer also notes that Republican challenger Brian Hale, a local pastor, “supports traditional marriage” and suggests voters e-mail Hale to “thank him for standing for traditional marriage & securing a strong Maine future.”

But both McCabe and Hale are crying foul.

In a telephone interview with the Center, conducted while tending to his chickens, McCabe said Maine voters want transparency. “Here’s a political group that hides behind religion and feels they don’t need to disclose, which I feel is wrong,” he said.

Hale could not be reached for comment, but told a local newspaper that he had nothing to do with the ads and finds them “tasteless.” The Republican added that the ads might actually hurt his own candidacy, calling it “an incidence of friendly fire — someone thought they were helping me and they’re not. I’m running as a fiscal conservative — that’s what I’m going around talking to people about. I’m not running an anti-gay campaign.”

A National Organization for Marriage spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Because the flyer does not expressly advocate for or against either candidate and was not sent out within 35 days of the election, it is not considered campaign spending under Maine law and thus does not fall under state disclosure rules. The National Organization for Marriage, which does not disclose its donors, is challenging Maine’s campaign disclosure rules in a lawsuit unrelated to the McCabe-Hale political contest.

Last week, You Report: Election 2010 reported that the National Organization for Marriage is spending big in California to defeat U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

[See the flyer here]

Ad Title: “In May 2009, the Maine legislature approved homosexual ‘marriage’”

Paid for By: National Organization for Marriage

Disclaimer: None

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