Taxpayer funding of elections has become a flashpoint in Maine. Multiple lawmakers have been tripped up by the rules regarding election funding and the use of tax money to pay for campaigns under “clean” elections laws.
Now a new analysis of taxpayer-funded campaigns and expenditures has turned up a new series of questionable expenses – all from John Martin, one of the most famous and longest serving Democratic politicians in Maine.
In March of 2012, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting released a report revealing that Representative John Martin D-Eagle Lake was co-owner of the Bald Eagle convenience store in his hometown of Eagle Lake.
Lost upon many at the time, and curiously unreported by the Maine media or special interest groups such as Maine Citizens for Clean Elections in their numerous reports is the fact that over the past decade, Martin’s election campaigns, each funded with Maine “Clean” Elections taxpayer dollars, have given more than $8,500 to Martin’s own business.
Page 34 of the MCEA Candidate handbook states that a MCEA campaign:
“may not pay MCEA funds to a member of the candidate’s immediate family or household, or to a business entity in which the candidate, or an immediate family or household member holds a significant proprietary or financial interest.”
Yet, the following reports, pulled from the Maine State Ethics Commission website clearly show Martin’s “Clean” elections campaigns spending more than $8,500 over the past decade, with the most recent expenditure being May 25, 2012 – two months after Martin’s co-ownership of the business became broadly known by the public.
Even more curious is the large, flat sums that were occasionally, but often in tight chronological groupings, spent by Martin’s campaign:
Chronological Listing of Martin Campaign
Taxpayer-funded Election Payments to Bald Eagle
MPBP also notes that:
“Something about these reports smells fishy,” said Jason Savage, executive director of MPBP. “From the large flat sums and lack of disclosure to the sudden changes from not coding expenditures, to coding for fuel and travel and then changes to coding for food, rent and meetings, this is not the type of information that would give the public confidence.”
Savage also challenged so-called “clean” elections supporters and groups around the state, “While you’re attacking reforms that were brought about because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and criticizing private people and businesses for what they do with their own money, who is minding the shop and keeping an eye on what “clean” elections candidates are doing with our money?”
Bouncing between the House and Senate, John Martin has held power in one way or another in Augusta since the 1970s. He was the longest serving Democratic Speaker of the House in Maine history. In the early 1990s he was forced to resign as Maine’s House Speaker. Martin’s “top aide” was caught stuffing ballot boxes in election recounts. Despite that history, Democrats chose him to be a power broker as a lead Democrat on Maine’s Appropriations Committee where he makes decisions regarding taxpayer dollars.