Democrats criticize Levesque's statement, 'I pay my bills'

Posted Oct. 15, 2010, at 8:56 p.m.

BANGOR — An official with the Maine Democratic Party has called congressional candidate Jason Levesque a hypocrite for espousing fiscal responsibility on the campaign trail considering his history of failing to keep his own financial house in order.

The Levesque campaign said four liens against Levesque’s Auburn residence were lifted years ago and that the disclosure of documents to the Bangor Daily News on Friday was an attempt by Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, Levesque’s opponent, to distract voters from important policy issues, including the national budget deficit.

Four documents provided anonymously to the BDN outline a total of $4,168.16 in previously unpaid debts by Levesque, which resulted in liens being placed on his property at 1 Chicoine Ave. in Auburn between 2004 and 2005. The documents’ authenticity was verified by the BDN by comparing them to records on the Androscoggin County Registry of Deeds’ website.

One of the liens was placed on Levesque’s property in February 2004 by Maine Revenue Services for nonpayment of income taxes in 2000. The $835 debt, which included penalties and fees, subsequently was paid and the lien was released in August 2005.

Another lien was levied by West Virginia Wesleyan College in November 2004 in the amount of $2,761 — principal on a student loan plus interest and attorney’s fees. There was no record of that lien being lifted, but a spokeswoman at the registry of deeds office said that might be the result of a fairly common paperwork error. Alicia Preston, a spokeswoman for Levesque, said this and all of the Republican candidate’s other debts have been paid.

Levesque’s property also was targeted by two liens from the Auburn Sewage District in June 2004 and January 2005, claiming a total of $572 in debt. Those liens were lifted in August 2004 and April 2005, respectively.

Arden Manning of the Maine Democratic Party contrasted those liens with statements made by Levesque during a debate between 2nd District candidates Thursday evening, hosted by the Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

“I counted three times during that debate when he said, ‘I pay my bills,’” Manning said. “That was one of the things he fell back on for a talking point. I think it’s a little hypocritical for Mr. Levesque to stand onstage and say he pays his bills while he plays the fiscal conservative.”

In response to a question from debate moderator Jennifer Rooks about a trade agreement with South Korea, Levesque said, “I pay bills every week for my company and my family, just like thousands of Mainers do. We understand what it means to keep a balanced budget.” Levesque again made reference to his personal finances later in the debate when he said, “I know about paying bills” and later, “It’s about living within our means. [Rep. Michaud] failed to do that. I won’t.”

Preston said there are currently no liens on Levesque’s property.

“Jason, like most people, has fallen behind on bills in the past, but he has caught himself up,” Preston said. “Most Mainers would understand that when times are tough, people fall behind. This has come up because Mike Michaud doesn’t have a record that he can defend.”

Preston accused the Michaud campaign of circulating the lien documents.

“We know it was Mike Michaud,” Preston said. “Members of his team said right in front of me [at Thursday’s debate] that they had these things. It’s so clear that what they’re doing is to try and distract voters from the issues that matter.”

Peter Chandler, a spokesman for Michaud, declined to comment about Levesque’s financial issues directly, other than to say that Michaud also has been accused of leaking information about Levesque’s driving record.

“I don’t know what [Preston] heard or didn’t hear,” Chandler said. “Public officials are held to a higher level of scrutiny. To accuse various campaigns of digging up dirt really detracts from discussions about the issues. We have focused on the issues in this campaign, and both television ads that we’ve run have been positive.”