AUGUSTA, Maine — A Maine House candidate from Augusta pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that he encouraged 13 people to falsely claim they made personal contributions to qualify him for Maine Clean Election Act funding.
Michael Hein, who’s running as a Republican for the House District 57 seat, submitted his plea in Augusta District Court in response to a charge of attempted theft by deception. His case has been referred for a jury trial.
Hein faces Andrew Worcester in a Republican primary contest next week for the district that covers the western portion of Augusta.
Hein declined comment Wednesday and referred questions to his attorney, who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment late Wednesday afternoon.
Hein’s attempted theft charge stems from his efforts 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, the Maine Ethics Commission and detectives from the state attorney general’s office said Hein encouraged at least 13 of the 67 voters he listed as contributors to sign the required paperwork without actually making contributions.
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.
The commission denied Hein public funding for his campaign.
According to the Maine Ethics Commission, Hein indicated to commission staff that some of the voters he approached for contributions didn’t have the means to contribute.
The attempted theft 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 is a former employee of the Christian Civic League, where he worked from June 2006 until he was fired in August 2010. He alleged in a complaint filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission that the firing was retaliation for telling the Department of Labor that the group had an illegal working relationship with a staff writer.
The rights panel cleared the league of any wrongdoing in Hein’s firing.