Four workers in Richardson's campaign face charges

Posted Sept. 14, 2010, at 8 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Four campaign workers for former gubernatorial candidate John Richardson have been charged with falsifying documents during the Democrat’s effort to qualify for Maine’s public campaign financing program last spring.

The Maine Attorney General’s Office alleges that the four individuals knowingly submitted false documentation to the Maine Ethics Commission as they worked to gather $5 donations as part of Richardson’s bid to receive public financing.

The four individuals are: Joseph Pickering, 54, of South Portland; Denise Altvater, 51, of Perry; Lori Levesque, 46, of Fort Kent; and William Moore, 46, of Brunswick.

Richardson, a former House speaker and economic development commissioner, withdrew from the Democratic primary race in April after he failed to qualify for financing through the Clean Election Fund.

The Maine Ethics Commission discovered the potentially fraudulent activity while doing routine, random verification checks of the documentation submitted by the campaign.

Richardson fell short of the minimum number of small donations needed to qualify after the signatures and donations gathered by the campaign workers were eliminated.

Neither Richardson nor his senior campaign staff have been implicated in the potential fraud and are not named in the criminal complaints filed by the Attorney General’s Office. Richardson could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

The charges against the four are misdemeanor offenses punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

The campaign workers had been accused of a number of offenses, ranging from contributing the $5 donation on behalf of voters, forging signatures or falsely claiming that the contributions were received and forms signed in his or her presence.

Leanne Robbin, an assistant attorney general, said the state takes the potential violations seriously because of the amount of money available to publicly financed candidates.

Qualified gubernatorial candidates can received up to $400,000 in Clean Election funding for the primary, $600,000 for the general election and up to $800,000 in matching funds to help them keep pace with their opponents financially. In return, the candidates agree to forgo donations from private individuals or special interest groups.

Maine voters approved the Maine Clean Election Act in a referendum in 1996.

“There are reasons the Legislature has put a number of hurdles in place for candidates to qualify for Clean Elections funding,” Robbin said. She declined to comment on whether any additional charges could be forthcoming from the case.

Pickering faces 16 counts of unsworn falsification for his campaign activities in Brunswick while Levesque faces eight counts for her campaign work in Fort Kent. Moore faces six counts for activities in Brunswick while Altvater faces three counts of unsworn falsification for her campaign work in Pleasant Point.

Several of the defendants are well-known in their communities.

Altvater has been honored repeatedly in Maine and nationally for her work on behalf of Native American communities as director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Wabanaki Youth Program. Altvater also serves on the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission and the Maine State Prison’s Board of Visitors.

She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Pickering owns an advertising agency while Moore is active in the Brunswick community.

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Ethics Commission, which administers the state’s public campaign finance system, declined to comment on the charges on Tuesday.

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