An unsuccessful candidate for the House District 101 seat was fined $2,750 Monday by the Maine Ethics Commission for misuse of Clean Elections funds.

Tom Bossie, of Casco, who last November was the Democrat candidate in the House race covering Naples and Casco, did not contest the ethic commission’s findings and agreed to pay the fine.

In a statement addressed to the commission, Bossie said, “To the Governor, Maine Ethics Commission and the citizens of the state of Maine, I have made the biggest mistake of my life and for that I apologize.” He could not be reached for comment.

Bossie was one of many candidates around Maine who accepted Clean Elections funding, a voluntary program of full public financing of political campaigns. An amount of $4,362 is initially given to help candidates kickstart their campaign. Depending on the amount their challenger raises in additional money, a Clean Elections candidate can also receive up to $8,724 in matching funds. They cannot accept private donations.

During the course of its several-month investigation into Bossie’s campaign expenditures, the ethics commission found Bossie spent Clean Elections money on such personal items as car and mortgage payments as well as restaurant purchases, expenditures that are not allowed under Maine law.

“These were very serious violations of the Maine Clean Elections Act. The commission has a duty to do a very thorough investigation and impose a just penalty, which it did in this case,” said Paul Lavin, assistant director of the ethics commission.

In its 60-page report, the ethics commission staff laid out the specifics of Bossie’s misuse of clean elections funds.

“Most troubling is the use of Maine Clean Elections Act funds for personal expenses, including restaurant and convenience store purchases, accommodations at a resort, and advertising to promote your business as a mortgage broker,” the report said.

Bossie’s bank records, which the commission subpoenaed in its investigation, indicated 95 expenditures totaling $2,867.06 that were not included in Bossie’s campaign finance reports. According to the commission’s findings, 25 percent of the expenditures were made at food and drinking establishments such as Bray’s Brew Pub in Naples and Cafa Sebago in Raymond. A majority of the personal expenditures were made after the Nov. 7 election.

While Bossie has repaid all the outstanding balances, the commission still fined Bossie because he used the Clean Elections money improperly saying, “Nevertheless, it appears Clean Elections funds were used – at least initially – for purposes that were not campaign-related and therefore violated (the act).”

The commission determined Bossie also used Clean Elections funds to purchase newspaper ads in The Bridgton News for his mortgage business.

According to the report, which Bossie didn’t dispute, on July 10, 2006, Bossie paid $288 for six campaign ads to run in six consecutive editions of The Bridgton News, at a cost of $48 per ad. Eight days later, Bossie changed the order to four campaign ads and four ads for his mortgage business. The commission determined a total of $96 in Clean Elections funds were used to pay for two business ads, which ran in the July 27 and Aug. 10 editions.

Bossie also spent $448 on housing three campaign workers at Point Sebago Resort during the Casco Days parade. The workers were to help build a float that Bossie used in the parade. Bossie said he used the $448 to feed and house the workers.

A commission auditor investigating the expenditure reviewed photos of the vehicle used in the parade and determined: “(The photos) showed a trailer displaying political signs for Democratic Party candidates, but does not include a vehicle which we would describe as a float. If you were referring to the trailer with signs of Democratic candidates, it is not apparent that the trailer involved building or decorating that would require accommodating workers at a resort.” Bossie did not dispute the commission’s findings and repaid the $448.

The commission also penalized Bossie for transferring Clean Elections money into his personal bank account in order to pay for his monthly car payment, a loan repayment and purchases at gas stations and convenience stores. Assistant Director Paul Lavin described Bossie’s use of the Clean Elections money as a sort of “bridge fund” which helped “tide him over, obviously not what the Clean Election fund was designed for.”

According to the commission’s report, “On two of these occasions (Aug. 8 and Sept. 20) the cash balance in your personal account at the time of these transfers was $9.42 and $4.19, which suggests that you transferred the money to fulfill scheduled personal obligations or to purchase other desired personal goods and services.”

Bossie was also fined because of his failure to return unspent campaign funds by the required deadline. The Commission was dismayed that Bossie only returned the money after receiving a dozen certified letters and phone calls and, finally, a referral of the matter to the attorney general’s office.

According to the report, Bossie was “required to return by Nov. 21 (two weeks after the general election) $2,866 in Clean Elections funds which (he) received but was not authorized to spend. (Bossie) returned this amount roughly two months late on Jan. 16, 2007. In addition, (he) was obligated to return any remaining unspent funds by Dec. 19, 2006, the reporting deadline for (his) final campaign finance report. (Bossie) returned those funds ($1,390) roughly two months late on Feb. 23, 2007… only after repeated requests by the Commission staff and only after the Commission staff scheduled this matter for referral to the Attorney General.”

In his defense, Bossie wrote a two-page letter to the commissioners and ethics commission staff. In it, Bossie said he would “not refute nor will I argue the findings of the commission, and I fully intend to comply with civil penalty recommended by the Commission.”

Bossie also said, “I realize that a crafty attorney could find mitigating reasons to counter some of the findings of the Commission. However it is my intention to accept the penalty of $2,750.”

In his letter, Bossie said mismanagement of funds cost him the election. “Please know that I am embarrassed by the fact that if I had kept better track of the accounting of this campaign and if I had spent the remainder of the funds ‘authorized to spend,’ I could have passed my opponent by sending an additional mailer which could have earned myself the seat in the House. So, I am humiliated on several fronts,” the letter said.

In an effort to explain the 95 personal items he purchased, Bossie said his “personal debit card and campaign debit card are virtually identical at a glance. It was easy to use both cards interchangeably.”

Rep. Rich Cebra, who defeated Bossie in November’s election, said he was stunned by Bossie’s explanations, but offered little comment except to say, “I think the ethics commission is fair and unbiased. It is a watchdog that keeps elections clean, and I think they’ve done their job here.”

Bossie’s decision not to contest the commission’s report made for a quick hearing on Monday. According to Lavin, “It was pretty cut and dried. There really wasn’t much for them to discuss,” he said.

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