U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin reportedly is giving away $2,000 he received from Wells Fargo as a campaign donation after the 2nd District Republican condemned the bank last week for scamming customers, a move that Democrats are criticizing as a political stunt with nearly a month left until the election.

Michael Byerly, Poliquin’s press secretary, confirmed Tuesday that Poliquin will be giving away the donation but said details have yet to be worked out and he couldn’t say where the money will be going.

Meanwhile, Poliquin’s Democratic opponent in the 2nd District race, Emily Cain, and Maine Democrats called for Poliquin to return other “donations from shady sources,” such as Zoe Cruz, a former co-president of Morgan Stanley who was fired after overseeing $3.7 billion in subprime mortgage-related losses; and Advance America, a payday lender that has that has paid millions to settle allegations of illegal lending practices.

“If Congressman Poliquin is returning money derived from unethical behavior, then he owes taxpayers the tens of thousands of dollars he skimmed from his property taxes,” said Dan Gleick, a Cain spokesman, referring to Poliquin’s enrolling of his own property in a state tax program aimed at promoting sustainable forestry. “Poliquin’s pattern is to collect the maximum personal benefit — no matter who else gets hurt — and then to sneak out the back door. Mainers need a leader they can trust to be on their side, not his own.”

Byerly, meanwhile, criticized Cain for connections to “Wall Street-backed super-PACs” such as the House Majority PAC, a Democratic group that has funded political attack ads against Poliquin, and wondered whether she would reject them.

“If I had to guess, it’s highly unlikely,” he said.

Last week, Poliquin, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, told Wells Fargo Chairman and CEO John G. Stumpf in a committee hearing that “you ought to be ashamed of yourself” for allegedly opening millions of unauthorized accounts to meet sales goals.

“The years-long fraud that has been uncovered at Wells Fargo is absolutely appalling and unacceptable,” Poliquin said in a news release. “It’s critical that those responsible at the bank are held accountable for the damage they may have caused for millions of Americans.”

Cain’s campaign followed the hearing with a release Friday that highlighted the $2,000 donation from Wells Fargo to Poliquin’s campaign in June and alleged that it was a reward for attacks Poliquin has made on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency that is now fining Wells Fargo $185 million for scamming customers.

In a separate release, the Maine Democratic party also criticized Poliquin for late tax payments on his own properties in Maine.

“Bruce Poliquin’s sudden interest in finally holding Wells Fargo accountable is a sharp reversal from his consistent history of cozying up to Wall Street at the expense of working Mainers,” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett in the release. “Conveniently, this most recent flip-flop comes 40 days before an election.”

Meanwhile, Rick Bennett, chairman of the Maine GOP, said in a release Tuesday that Democrats need to do more to hold their own candidates accountable and were wrong to criticize Poliquin. “What we have seen from Maine Democrats tells us just how cynical and jaded they are when it comes to doing the right thing,” Bennett said. “This situation has shone a bright light on how they project their own behavior on others.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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