AUGUSTA – Maine’s ethics commission fined an unsuccessful Republican Senate candidate from South Portland $1,750 Tuesday for six campaign finance violations dating back to last spring.

Joe Palmieri also must repay a total of $925.72 for public campaign money that he didn’t use and two overpayments that he made.

Palmieri, who narrowly lost the Senate District 7 race to Democrat Larry Bliss of South Portland in November’s election, told the five-member commission that an inexperienced campaign volunteer and his own first-time run for office led to the mistakes.

“There was never, ever any intention for me to take something that wasn’t mine,” he said. “Whatever we did wrong, I’m not disputing that at all.”

Palmieri reported seven expenditures totaling $850 last spring, but an ethics commission auditor found no evidence that any purchases were made, said Jonathan Wayne, the ethics commission’s executive director.

Palmieri said his deputy treasurer filled out the wrong form and reported expenditures instead of outstanding campaign debts. As a result, Palmieri received more than $850 in public campaign finance money that he should not have received, Wayne said.

Palmieri also failed to return all of his unspent campaign funds to the state by the mid-December deadline, and filed two reports late.

The audit also revealed that Palmieri overpaid a vendor by $25.75, and that he reimbursed his wife for mileage at 50 cents per mile when the state allows only 44 cents per mile.

The ethics commission voted 5-0 in favor of finding Palmieri in violation and agreed unanimously on the size of the fine.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Palmieri said he focused too much on the campaign and not enough on the accounting needed to comply with the state’s Clean Election Act. He brought his campaign checkbook to the meeting to pay back the money he owed to the state.

“These fines were for clerical errors,” he said. “Nobody stuck a penny in their pocket.”

The race between Palmieri and Bliss ended with a recount in which Bliss was declared the winner, 9,172 to 9,097. Earlier this month, Bliss resigned from his Senate seat to take a job in California.

A special election to fill the seat is scheduled May 10 between Republican Louis Maietta Jr. of South Portland and Rep. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth. Senate District 7 covers Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and part of Scarborough.

Also Tuesday, the commission voted to fine the Maine Republican Party $350 for filing a late campaign finance report.

The party was one day late filing an independent expenditure report for a mailing it sent in support of its nominee for the special House election March 1 in District 11, according to the commission.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: [email protected]