Portland Press Herald: AZ and Maine Clean Elections: Real Campaign Compliance Teeth

By Steve Mistler, Portland Press Herald

A candidate for the Maine Legislature is facing a criminal charge after allegedly falsifying documents to show that he qualified for public funding under the Maine Clean Election Act.

Michael Hein, 42, of Augusta, was summonsed on a charge of theft by deception after an investigation by the Maine Attorney General’s Office. Hein is accused of using his own money to meet the small donation threshold that would have allowed him to receive approximately $1,400 in Clean Elections for his primary campaign, and if he won that, another $3,900 for the general election.

Hein’s criminal charge is punishable by up to 364 days in jail or a $2,000 fine.

An investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission staff had found that Hein falsified forms signifying that donors had given him $5.

House candidates must obtain 60 individual $5 donations to qualify for Clean Elections funding.

According to documents with the Ethics Commission, Hein submitted his paperwork two days before the qualifying deadline, showing that he had obtained 67 small donations, 35 of which were cash donations.

Jonathan Wayne, the executive director of the commission, said that staff found at least 13 donors who claimed they did not give Hein a $5 donation.

Wayne said the commission had been tipped off by someone who had been approached by Hein to sign the donation form. Hein allegedly told that person that they did not need to give a donation.

Staff called several other people who had signed the donation form and found that they too had been instructed by Hein not to give him any money.

Hein will not qualify for Clean Elections funding, but it remains to be seen if he’ll withdraw from the race. His name still appears on the list of candidates on the Secretary of State database. A spokeswoman for the agency said she was unaware of any efforts by Hein to abandon his bid for the District 57 seat.

Hein was notified of the Ethics findings May 16. His court summons was issued the same day. Wayne said Hein contacted his office on Wednesday to say he would not appeal the Ethics report.

Hein, a former employee of the Christian Civic League of Maine, is running a primary challenge against fellow Republican Andrew Worcester. Hein was fired from CCLM in 2010, two weeks after Carroll Conley Jr. became the group's executive director. Conley claimed that Hein was unwilling to participate in the league's new mission of having a respectful dialog on issues such as abortion and homosexual rights.

Hein filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission alleging that CCLM illegally fired and tried to intimidate him. The commission voted unanimously in January to uphold Hein's dismissal.

His campaign page on Facebook shows campaign posts after his summons date. His campaign recently distributed a flyer thanking supporters for helping Hein qualify for Clean Elections funding.

Hein could not be immediately reached for comment.

Hein is scheduled to appear in District Court in Augusta on June 6. The primary is June 12.

Wayne said that Ethics staff routinely survey small donations for gubernatorial candidates seeking Clean Elections funding. He said that such sampling is more rare for legislative candidates, but staff look for warning signs, such as a candidate who claims that a large portion of their small donations were in cash.

The original article can be viewed here.