AUGUSTA — As many as 58 state lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, may have violated a state law requiring disclosure of income changes for themselves and their spouses, according to a newly released memo from the executive director of Maine’s ethics commission.

The memo from Jonathan Wayne follows allegations against Rep. Ryan Tipping, D-Orono, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Taxation Committee. Earlier this month, Republican lawmakers and the Maine Republican Party said Tipping violated the law because of his failure to immediately disclose $9,000 in payments he received from a political action committee for work he did to help pass a ballot question that increased taxes on Maine’s highest-income households.

Republicans had called for Tipping to be removed from his leadership of the Taxation Committee because of his political work on behalf of the referendum. The failure to meet deadlines for reporting the income prompted House Assistant Minority Leader Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, to call for an investigation of Tipping.

Tipping had checked with state ethics officials before taking the job with the referendum campaign, and he has maintained that the work did not violate any ethics rules against conflicts of interest. He included the additional income in his annual financial report, but did not file interim reports as required.

The 30-day reporting requirement is the result of a law change that took effect in 2012.

According to the law, “Legislators are required to update their statement of sources of incomes within 30 days of a substantial change in income, reportable liabilities or positions of the Legislator or an immediate family member (except dependent children) that occurs in the current calendar year.”

Those changes include a new employer or source of income that has paid the lawmaker $2,000 or more; a new liability of $3,000 or more; a new contract or other arrangement involving a state agency for the lease or sale of goods and services valued at more than $10,000; or a new position with a PAC, ballot question committee, political party committee or nonprofit or for-profit organization.

The requirements for the reports are detailed in the instructions on the actual reports that lawmakers file with the commission as well. The law does not require lawmakers to disclose the actual amounts they or family members were paid.

In his memo to State House leaders, Wayne said that many lawmakers appear to be unaware of the law requiring them to report a change in income of more than $2,000 within 30 days of the change. He said the ethics commission staff identified more than 50 lawmakers whose income reports for 2016 and 2015 indicate there was a change in income that had not been reported as required.

However, Wayne said the staff has not investigated the circumstances of each case and could not say that all, or even most, of the lawmakers failed to comply with the law.

“We have done no fact-finding beyond our comparison of the statements (for 2015 and 2016). It is premature to conclude that any of the Legislators is non-compliant,” Wayne wrote in an email.

Wayne refused to release the list, saying “the public could come to conclusions about Legislators’ compliance based on incomplete information.” He did not immediately cite an exemption to the state’s open records law that would make the record confidential.

Wayne’s memo laid out new procedures to make lawmakers more aware of the rule and to lead to more timely reporting.

House Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, said Tuesday that the memo shows the Republican Party’s attack against Tipping was hypocritical.

However, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, said that because Tipping’s income came from a PAC that was trying to influence tax policy, which is in the jurisdiction of the committee Tipping chairs, it isn’t a fair comparison to look at other lawmakers who may have overlooked the law.

“I think that people have to follow the law,” Fredette said. “If people aren’t aware of it, then we need to make sure they are doing it.”

Fredette said there is a “substantive” difference between failing to disclose a job at a grocery store or a trucking company and failing to disclosure employment by a PAC.

“It’s different than taking a job for one of the major PACs operating a referendum question on an issue related to what you might be working on, it’s just different,” Fredette said.

A spokesman for House Republicans, Rob Poindexter, said the issue for Tipping is that the disclosure came only after he was appointed co-chairman of the Taxation Committee. “Whether it was intentional or not, who knows?” Poindexter said.

Meanwhile, a review of income disclosure filings showed that at least three Senate Republicans filed updated disclosure forms that were put online Tuesday. The disclosures appear to be for new income or retirement income that was collected by a spouse in 2015 and 2016, but it’s not clear if Wayne’s memo prompted the overdue reports.

Sen. Scott Cyrway, R-Benton, filed an update for a job his wife started with the U.S. Postal Service in January 2015. The update is more than two years late, under the law. Also updating disclosures for retirement income received by their spouses in 2016 were Sens. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville and Ron Collins, R-Wells.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

[email protected]

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