Maine governor has paid about half of inaugural bills
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The inaugural committee for Maine’s governor has told state ethics commissioners that it has paid about half the billed costs for her inauguration as officials consider whether late donations violated state law.
Gov. Janet Mills’ campaign told state ethics staff that her nearly $200,000 inaugural bill at the Augusta Civic Center was about $63,000 higher than originally quoted. The inaugural committee has paid $100,000 to the center, inaugural committee attorney Michael Carey told commissioners this month, according to a letter released Wednesday.
Mills, a Democract, is the first governor to disclose transitional and inaugural donations under a 2015 state law approved by voters. She was elected in November and then, according to the law, had until Jan. 31 to fundraise for her inauguration.
The inaugural and transition committees reported raising over $400,000 by that deadline.
But the inaugural committee say it raised an additional $13,000 in donations since February.
Ethics commissioners could discuss next week whether those later donations violate state law because they came after the deadline. If they do, Mills’ committee could be fined a maximum civil penalty of $10,000.
The inaugural committee is arguing against a fine. Carey has said Mills’ committee went beyond the law’s requirements, despite “ambiguities and generalities” in the text and a lack of regulations laying out how a governor should comply.
“The shortfall resulted from the convergence of the short time remaining and fundraisers’ personal and schedule issues,” Carey wrote in the July 19 letter to the ethics commission.
Carey said most of the money initially raised by the inaugural committee was donated by lobbyists. The committee complied with a state law prohibiting donations from lobbyists during the legislative session and raised just $2,545 during from February to June.
Mills’ committee has raised $10,500 since lawmakers adjourned four weeks ago, according to Carey, who said the committee could see another $40,000 in pledged donations.
Jonathan Wayne, the executive director of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Elections Practices, laid out arguments for and against a fine in a memo released Wednesday.
He said while there a “factual basis to find that violation occurred,” the ethics commissioner should also consider the “small degree of public harm in this case.”
Meanwhile, Wayne’s staff is recommending lawmakers update the “unrealistic” law, noting that invoices come in late or not in line with what was anticipated.
He said the staff believes the current law should be “amended to recognize that unforeseen complications can arise, and a committee may need beyond mid-February to wind up its affairs.”