July 02, 2020

Losing candidates risk court action Alleged misuse of public funds at issue

AUGUSTA – Five losers in November’s legislative races are in hot water with the state ethics commission for allegedly misusing or failing to account for more than $16,000 in campaign money they received from the state’s Clean Election fund.

The three Republicans and two Democrats failed to meet the Dec. 19 deadline for refunding the money or filing reports detailing how they spent it, according to the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

The case of Democrat Thomas Bossie of Casco, in which $4,080 is at issue, was referred last month to the Attorney General’s Office for possible legal action. The commission is expected to take similar action Feb. 27 against the other four candidates unless they pay up by then.

The other candidates, and the amounts at issue, are Democrat Arthur Clement of Clinton, $5,988.29; Republican Debra Reagan of Sanford, $4,518; Republican Paul Nixon of South Portland, $1,762; and Republican David Hughes of Lewiston, $140.73.

The commission said it sent the candidates repeated reminders that the refunds of money they got from the taxpayer-financed Clean Election Fund were overdue.

“The state election law requires candidates to return unspent campaign funds” after the election, said Jonathan Wayne, the commission’s executive director. “If the candidates chose not to spend it, they should return it to the state so it can be used by other candidates in other races.”

Bossie said he failed to report $2,690 in legitimate campaign expenses on time because of delays with invoices. He said he is submitting the necessary documents and will return the unspent balance of $1,389 by Tuesday.

Nixon admitted that he owes the fund $1,762, but plans to wait “until the last minute” to repay it because the commission did not give him all the money it should have.

Hughes, Clement and Reagan could not be reached immediately for comment.

Of the more than 300 legislative candidates using public financing in last year’s general election, 279 were supposed to return unspent funds.

All but 19 returned all of their unspent funds and some of the 19 have returned at least part of what they owe, Wayne said.

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