A former Senate candidate from Washington County is once again facing possible sanctions from the Maine Ethics Commission over allegations that he used public campaign funds to purchase items for personal use.
Staff with the ethics commission are recommending that Dana Kadey of Princeton repay $2,546 in Maine Clean Election Act funds that he used to buy camping equipment, tools and other items during his 2006 campaign for Senate District 29.
Staff are also recommending Kadey be fined $500 for the violation. The commission will discuss the issue Thursday.
Kadey has been ordered to repay the commission twice before for purchases during his 2006 and 2008 campaigns that included a fiberglass cap for his pickup truck, a rack for the top of the cap and a GPS device.
Kadey paid back the commission but defended those and other purchases as necessary to his campaign due to the size of his district and a serious medical condition that requires him to stop frequently and rest — in this case, on a mattress in the back of the truck.
He received roughly 8 percent of the vote in the 2008 election, won by incumbent Sen. Kevin Raye, R-Perry.
Last August, Kadey was ordered to repay $2,076 to the commission for the GPS device, the truck cap with roof rack and a portable cooler he purchased during his 2008 campaign. Following that ruling, the commission instructed staff to audit Kadey’s 2006 campaign as well.
In the latest audit of Kadey’s 2006 campaign, commission staff are questioning the legitimacy of using campaign funds to purchase more than $1,300 in camping equipment and a $464 infrared camera used by hunters. Kadey also apparently used campaign funds to purchase a different Thule rack for his truck.
Kadey declined to comment when contacted Saturday evening, claiming his statements would be misrepresented. But in explanations filed with the commission, Kadey said the camera was used to attempt to catch someone who was stealing his campaign signs.
The candidate wrote that he purchased the camping equipment — including a $269 backpack and a water purifier — as part of a two-week hike he undertook through the district carrying a 28-pound rock to highlight the “heavy tax burden” on Mainers.
Kadey wrote that he would have gladly purchased the truck cap and other items with his own money. But because the items were purchased for his campaign, Maine Clean Election Act rules prohibit such “in-kind” purchases, even by the candidate.
“That would give my campaign an extra couple of thousand dollars with which I could purchase more radio spots,” Kadey wrote to the commission. “I purchased those items with MCEA funds because if I had purchased them with my own funds I would have been in violation of the MCEA regulations.”
In their recommendation to the commission, however, staff wrote that the pattern of purchases in 2006 and 2008 “demonstrates a serious lack of diligence required of MCEA candidates in accepting and using public funds.”
Staff wrote that Kadey made “a conspicuously large number of purchases which were primarily personal in nature and which had little relationship to his campaign.”
“One or two of these purchases alone might be excusable as isolated bad judgment,” the staff recommendation reads. “Taken as a whole, however, they suggest a candidate who neglected his responsibility to understand the requirements of the program, or worse, attempted to take advantage of a generous public funding program.”
Maine clean election laws prohibit candidates from using public funds to purchase items that could later be used personally. Any personal items that must be purchased for the campaign have to be sold afterward at fair market value and the commission reimbursed.
In defense of his campaign expenditures, Kadey supplied the commission with copies of correspondences in which he repeatedly asked commission staff for guidance and clarification on MCEA rules.