AG’s Office to investigate potential campaign fraud case

Posted April 27, 2010, at 9:10 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The staff of the Maine Ethics Commission on Tuesday handed off to the Attorney General’s Office the potential fraud cases involving campaign workers for former gubernatorial candidate John Richardson.

Last week, Ethics Commission staff denied Richardson’s request for public campaign financing after identifying numerous instances in which campaign workers allegedly forged signatures and falsified documents.

Neither Richardson nor his senior campaign staff appeared to have knowledge about the potential fraud, according to the Ethics Commission report. However, Richardson withdrew from the race for the Democratic nomination on Monday, stating he believed dropping out was in the best interest of the party and Maine people.

The Attorney General’s Office was already aware of the potential violations because an assistant attorney general had helped Ethics Commission staff as part of their investigation of the Richardson application.

But Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Ethics Commission, which oversees Maine’s Clean Elections program, said the case was formally referred to Attorney General Janet Mills’ office on Tuesday for possible investigation.

The Attorney General’s Office typically does not comment on potential or ongoing investigations.

The list of possible Clean Election Act violations includes: forging voters’ signatures on money orders; campaign staff contributing the $5 on behalf of voters; collecting signatures from voters on the forms without collecting the $5 contribution; and circulators signing forms that they did not personally circulate.

Gubernatorial candidates seeking public funding through the Clean Elections Fund must collect 3,250 contributions of $5 or more from registered Maine voters — as well as raise $40,000 in seed money — in order to qualify.

Richardson fell fewer than 100 contributions short of the 3,250 after the Ethics Commission eliminated unconfirmed donations collected by the paid and volunteer campaign workers suspected of making false statements.

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