AUGUSTA, Maine — A former Maine House candidate from Augusta will spend seven days in jail after pleading guilty Tuesday to a charge that he encouraged 15 people to falsely claim they made personal contributions to qualify him for Maine Clean Election Act funding.
Michael Hein, 42, pleaded guilty in Kennebec County Superior Court to one count of willfully violating the Maine Clean Election Act. He will report for his jail sentence in a week, according to the Maine attorney general’s office.
Hein was a Republican candidate for House District 57, which covers northwestern Augusta. He lost in the June 12 primary to Andrew Worcester, who since has withdrawn from the race.
Last month, Hein pleaded not guilty in Augusta District Court to a related attempted theft charge. A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said the attempted theft charge was dropped and that Hein pleaded guilty to the willful violation charge on Tuesday as part of a plea agreement.
“The requirement that candidates gather a specific number of qualifying contributions ensures that they have sufficient support to warrant the disbursement of public funds,” Attorney General William Schneider said in a statement. “Misrepresentations about qualifying contributions, whatever the amount, undermine the system of Clean Elections.”
Neither Hein nor his attorney, David Geller, responded to requests for comment Tuesday.
Hein’s criminal 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 funds.
Instead of collecting the required contributions, the Maine Ethics Commission and detectives from the state attorney general’s office said Hein encouraged at least 15 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.
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.