A Democratic State Representative and a former Republican candidate were both indicted in December for fraud related to Maine’s so-called “clean elections” program.
State Rep. Clinton Collamore (D-Waldoboro) was indicted on Dec. 15, on charges that he fraudulently obtained taxpayer funding for his campaign by forging petition signatures.
Republican candidate Matthew Toth was indicted on Dec. 5, though his efforts to fraudulently obtain taxpayer funding were unsuccessful.
The news broke Tuesday thanks to a public memo filed by Jonathan Wayne, longtime executive director of the non-partisan Commission of Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.
“The [Office of Attorney General] sought and obtained an indictment of Rep. Collamore on December 15, 2022,” Wayne wrote in the memo.
“The Commission staff is waiting to see the outcome of the criminal prosecution before recommending any enforcement action by the Commission,” he said.
Maine allows candidates for public office to obtain taxpayer funding to buy campaign materials and pay campaign staff through the “Maine Clean Elections Act.”
The name comes from the common but unsubstantiated belief that taxpayer funding for campaigns will reduce corruption in politics or mitigate the influence of outside spenders.
In practice, the MCEA has done little to stop the bipartisan practice of spending money on politics to buy favor with politicians.
For example, Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) ran in 2022 as a “clean elections” candidate, yet outside interests spent more than $750,000 boosting him and attacking his opponent.
Although the law has failed to accomplish its goal of purifying politics, it remains a fixture of state campaigns. To qualify for taxpayer funding, candidates must raise small dollar seed money contributions and obtain a certain number of signatures.
According to Wayne’s memo, an election official noticed similarities in signatures Collamore submitted to meet the petition requirement necessary for obtaining government money for his campaign.
Further investigation concluded that the signatures had been forged.
“Four contributors reviewed the forms Mr. Collamore had submitted to our office and confirmed that they did not sign the forms,” said Wayne.
Investigators did not catch Collamore early enough, and he was able to make off with $14,274 in taxpayer dollars — money he used to successfully win office.
The other candidate who allegedly attempt to defraud the MCEA program was Matthew Toth, a Republican from Sanford.
Unlike Collamore, Toth was caught early enough that the commission denied him the taxpayer funding. He later withdrew from the election.
The Attorney General’s office indicted him on Dec. 5.