Mills inaugural committee fined for late fundraising

HALLOWELL, Maine (AP) — The Maine Ethics Commission on Wednesday fined the inaugural committee of Gov. Janet Mills $2,000 for continuing to collect donations past a deadline to settle up a bill with the city of Augusta.

The committee paid off its more than $60,000 expense to the Augusta Civic Center more than 10 months after fundraising was supposed to end. It was necessary because the costs of the inauguration were higher than expected.

The Democratic governor was the first to take office under a campaign finance law, approved by voters in 2015, which established disclosure requirements for the transition teams.

In other action, Democratic Senate candidate Betsy Sweet, meanwhile, agreed to repay more than $8,000 in taxpayer money used to fund her 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

Sweet was faulted after an audit revealed she was reimbursed from the state’s Clean Election program for purchases made before she qualified for the program in April 2018.

Some of those expenses were for renting campaign space in her home, vehicle travel and other expenses, the Bangor Daily News reported. Commission auditors also found Sweet was reimbursed for $1,950 in phone bills for five different lines, but only one of them was used solely for campaign purposes.

Frank O’Hara, Sweet’s gubernatorial campaign treasurer, described the errors as “an honest mistake.”

Sweet is one of four Democrats running in 2020 for the party’s nomination to face U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican.