Feds: Maine GOP improperly reported finances

Posted March 01, 2013, at 6:49 p.m.
Last modified March 01, 2013, at 8:56 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — The Federal Election Commission has determined that the Maine Republican Party misstated its financial activity, improperly disclosed debts and obligations, and failed or improperly disclosed expenditures from 2007 through 2008.

The amount of money involved in the party’s insufficient reporting is more than $700,000, according to a final audit report released this week by the FEC. In the report, the FEC indicated it was not pursuing any enforcement action against the Maine GOP but that it may do so “at a later time.”

During the period covered by the audit, from Jan. 1, 2007, through Dec. 31, 2008, Philip Roy served as treasurer of the state GOP. A Fairfield resident, Roy left that position in January 2010. He now serves as an elected commissioner in Somerset County and works in Ellsworth as the chief financial officer for Hancock County.

Roy has come under scrutiny for how he handled the party’s finances while serving as its treasurer, in particular his use of party money to help fund the purchase a camper for himself in August 2009. Roy has since paid the money back.

Contacted Thursday, Roy declined to comment about the FEC’s final report.

Maine Republican Party officials have not responded to multiple requests for comment left this week at their offices in Augusta.

Jim Melcher, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maine at Farmington, said Friday that he has not read the FEC’s report, but that he suspects the type of reporting offenses it lists are not that significant. Political parties in Maine tend to be staffed with volunteers, he said, and turnover among that staff can contribute to noncompliance of FEC’s financial reporting rules.

“My hunch would be it’s not that severe,” Melcher said of the party’s insufficient reporting.

He added that he believes the Maine GOP has bigger controversies to contend with, such as party divisions that came to a head during last year’s election cycle.

According to the FEC website, there were more than a dozen other state or county political organizations in the country that also had their 2007-2008 fiscal activities audited, most of which were found to have committed similar financial reporting offenses.

According to the FEC audit, the Maine GOP overstated receipts, disbursements and cash-on-hand by more than $138,000 and understated other receipts and disbursements by more than $51,000 during the audit period. The party improperly disclosed debts and obligations of more than $103,000, failed to disclose $19,000 in disbursements, improperly disclosed nearly $532,000 in payments, and improperly disclosed independent expenditures of more than $56,000, the FEC indicated.

Since being informed of the reporting deficiencies, the Maine GOP has filed amended reports and provided the FEC with additional information that have largely corrected the deficiencies and complied with FEC staff recommendations, according to the audit report. In one case, an issue with the party’s accounting software prevented it from disclosing all documentation that FEC auditors had sought on its independent expenditures, the audit report indicated.

According to the audit report, prior to the audit being conducted, the Maine GOP informed the commission that $48,000 had been embezzled from the party from 2005 to 2008 by Constance Wilkins, an Embden woman who worked for a Waterville accounting firm that did the GOP’s bookkeeping. Of the money that was insufficiently reported in financial statements to the FEC in 2007 and 2008, more than $20,000 of it was associated with Wilkins’ embezzlement, the audit report indicates. Wilkins pleaded guilty in 2009 to theft and forgery charges and was sentenced to six months in prison.

An official in the FEC press office said Wednesday that federal audits of state political parties are not routine. She said that while it is possible the embezzlement prompted the audit, the information about why the FEC audited the party was not available.

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