AUGUSTA, Maine — A Maine House candidate from Augusta is facing a criminal charge after allegedly encouraging 13 people to falsely claim they made personal contributions to qualify him for Maine Clean Election Act funding.
Michael Hein, a Republican candidate for House District 57 and a former employee of the Christian Civic League of Maine, faces one count of attempted theft by deception and is due in Augusta District Court on June 6.
Hein had to collect qualifying contributions of at least $5 each from 60 or more registered voters in his district in order to qualify for public campaign financing. Instead of collecting the required contributions, Hein encouraged at least 13 of the 67 voters he listed as contributors to sign the required paperwork without actually making contributions, according to a letter the Maine Ethics Commission sent to Hein on May 16.
Ethics Commission staff started investigating after a voter told the commission that Hein had asked for a signature acknowledging a contribution and told the voter that no personal contribution was necessary.
Ethics Commission staff also noticed a larger-than-normal percentage of Hein’s qualifying contributions were made in cash, rather than by check or through the Ethics Commission website, said Jonathan Wayne, the commission’s executive director.
Interviews by Ethics Commission staff and detectives from the Maine attorney general’s office turned up at least 13 examples of voters who signed documents acknowledging they had made qualifying contributions without actually contributing funds.
The Maine Ethics Commission denied Hein public campaign funding in the letter dated May 16, the same day Hein was issued a criminal summons charging attempted theft by deception. Hein’s criminal charge, a Class D crime, is punishable by up to 364 days in jail or a $2,000 fine, according to the Maine attorney general’s office.
Hein had until Wednesday to appeal the commission’s decision to deny him campaign funding. Hein decided against filing an appeal, Wayne said.
Hein worked as an administrative staffer for the Christian Civic League from June 2006 until he was fired in August 2010. He filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission claiming that he was retaliated against as a whistle-blower for telling the Department of Labor that the group had an illegal working relationship with a staff writer.
The league said Hein was fired because of deep philosophical differences between him and the new leadership of the league and because of his unwillingness to change. The rights panel cleared the league of any wrongdoing in Hein’s firing.
Hein wasn’t available for an interview with the Bangor Daily News on Thursday. According to the letter he was sent by the Maine Ethics Commission, he indicated in a meeting with commission staff that some of the voters he approached for contributions didn’t have the means to contribute.
Wayne said Ethics Commission staff routinely interview those listed as contributors to gubernatorial candidates seeking public campaign funding. But that process is less common for legislative candidates, he said, unless commission staff have reasons to be suspicious, such as high numbers of cash donations.
Hein, now a customer service representative for the state’s Dirigo Health program, is facing Andrew Worcester in the June 12 primary for the Republican nomination for the House seat. He would have qualified for $1,429 in public funding for the primary campaign and $3,937 for the general election.
Hein’s most recent campaign finance report on file with the Ethics Commission, from April 18, shows he had 60 cents on hand after raising $360 largely from himself and his wife and spending $359.40. His campaign owed $225 to an Augusta printing business.
The House District 57 seat is currently held by Maeghan Maloney, a Democrat who is a candidate for re-election to the House seat while also running for Kennebec County district attorney.
The district covers the western portion of Augusta.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.