AUGUSTA — The group advocating for campaign finance reform has asked the Maine Ethics Commission to investigate the reelection committee of Gov. Paul LePage.

The complaint filed Friday by the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections centers on contributions to LePage’s reelection committee that exceed the state’s $3,000 private donation limit to gubernatorial campaigns. Bill Logan, the treasurer for the campaign, told the Press Herald Thursday that the donations were likely a reporting error and that the campaign would remedy the mistake within 10 days.

The latest campaign finance report by the campaign has multiple donations from three companies that combine to exceed the maximum limit, Cianbro, Inc. ($4,500), FairPoint Communications ($3,500) and Maine Beer & Wine Wholesalers ($4,500).

Sandy Thompson, with the Maine Ethics Commission, said the donations appear to be routine reporting errors. However, Thompson said the campaign had not taken steps to fix them.

“These appear to be typical mistakes, but one would hope that they would be corrected quickly,” Thompson said.

According to an email provided by the ethics commission, the campaign was first notified of the contributions Jan. 16, the day after the filing deadline. Thompson said she had at least two phone conversations with Logan since then.

The ethics commission emailed another inquiry to the campaign on Thursday following an inquiry by the Press Herald.

Logan could not explain why the campaign hadn’t addressed the issue when asked by the Press Herald about it on Thursday. However, Logan was confident the contributions were reporting errors. He cited two errors the campaign made last year on a similar issue and noted that it was remedied quickly.

Andrew Bossie, the executive director for the Maine Citizens for Maine Clean Elections, said Friday that disclosure rules should be enforced.

“The integrity of our political campaigns rests on the twin pillars of a strong public funding system and effective limits on the private funding side,” Bossie said. “As we push for measures to strengthen Clean Elections and enhance disclosure, we must also insist on accountability and compliance with the rules that are in place today.”

The Maine Citizens for Clean Elections is the lead advocacy group for the Maine Clean Elections Act, the law that provides public money to state candidates. LePage has been a persistent opponent of the clean election program, calling it “welfare for politicians.”

Jonathan Wayne, with the ethics commission, told the Press Herald Thursday that ethics staff would review information provided by the campaign. The commission has discretion to impose a fine that can equal the amount that exceeds the maximum donation limit.

Thompson said the errors were fairly common for gubernatorial campaigns. Campaigns can receive a maximum of $1,500 for a primary election and $1,500 for a general election. Thompson said campaigns can make mistakes when allocating the contributions by duplicating an entry to make it appear as though there are more contributions than there really are.

All three of the contributions flagged by the ethics commission in January showed $1,500 donations that occurred on the same day.

Steve Mistler — 620-7016
[email protected]
Twitter: @stevemistler

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