AUGUSTA — A losing Republican candidate in the June 12 primary for the Legislature pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge of willful violation of the Maine Clean Election Act and was sentenced to seven days in jail.

The conviction and sentence of Michael Hein, 42, marks the first time someone has been found guilty of willfully violating Maine’s clean election law, according to Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin.

Hein originally was charged with attempted theft by deception, but that charge was dismissed in exchange for the plea in Kennebec County Superior Court.

Robbin said Hein tried to qualify for public financing under the Clean Election Act and needed qualifying contributions of $5 each from 60 registered voters in House District 57, which is part of Augusta. Hein admitted that he broke the law by paying for those contributions out of his own wallet.

During a meeting in May with the state ethics commission staff, Hein said he paid the donations because some of the people he approached “did not have the personal means to make a $5 contribution,” according to court documents.

“Mr. Hein covered $5 contributions for 15 of those contributors,” Robbin told Justice Michaela Murphy in court Tuesday. “Had he qualified, he would have received about $3,900” for use in the general election in November.

Robbin said the charge of willful violation of the Clean Election Act best reflects what happened and Hein’s desire to avoid having a theft-by-deception conviction on his record.

Hein, who had no previous criminal record, is to report to jail July 10 to begin serving the seven-day sentence. The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor was six months in jail.

Hein lost the GOP primary election for House District 57 to Andrew Worcester, who later withdrew his name from the race.

Maine’s ethics commission earlier had said it found that Hein falsified forms signifying that donors had given him $5 contributions in his effort to qualify for Clean Election money.

Hein previously had said he was not guilty of the charge of theft by deception. He was represented by attorney David Geller, who declined to comment further on the case.

In a letter to the editor published in the Kennebec Journal in April, Hein extolled the virtues of the state’s Clean Election Act, saying it “promotes true democracy in Maine’s legislative races.”

“For more than a decade now, Maine voters, regardless of political party affiliation, have been able to support their own local House and Senate candidates who participate in Clean Elections with a $5 contribution,” Hein wrote. “With enough of these contributions, Clean Elections candidates qualify to receive public funding help for their campaigns. Very often, this is the only way for a candidate of modest financial means to be able to run an effective, local campaign.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

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