AUGUSTA – The former campaign treasurer for independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler was fined $100 Thursday by the state ethics commission, for what was described as an “unintentional violation” of campaign finance law.

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, had recommended Robert C.S. Monks not be penalized for the violation, which involved the erroneous donation of $750 to Cutler’s campaign through a political action committee run by Monks.

Wayne said a staffer for the PAC had advised the commission about the donation and how to properly report it to the state. That indicated to Wayne that neither Monks nor Jonathan Crasnick, the staffer, knew the contribution violated state law.

Monks had previously donated $750 to Cutler’s campaign. The second donation, said Wayne, was an unintentional violation, but one that shouldn’t have happened.

The law limits individual contributions to $750; commissioners ruled Monks exceeded the limit because he was the only contributor to the political action committee that handled the second donation. The Cutler campaign returned the second donation after it was found to be in error.

The commission imposed the $100 fine against Monks over Wayne’s recommendation after receiving objections from a Republican activist and attorney who attended the commission’s public hearing on the matter in Augusta.

Dan Billings, who often represents Republicans before the commission, told members he believed Monks should be fined because he was Cutler’s campaign treasurer and should have known the contribution was improper.

Monks’ attorney, James T. Kilbreth, of Verrill Dana, told the commission the second contribution was “a mistake” and that he and Monks agreed with Wayne’s recommendation that there be no fine. “We think it’s appropriate to accept their view and go on,” he said.

But Billings told the commission he was “quite surprised” that Wayne did not recommend a fine. He said the state hands out information to all campaigns that clearly spells out the rules when it comes to contributions.

“I would expect someone in Mr. Monks’ position, as treasurer for a major candidate for governor, would familiarize himself with that,” he said. Billings is also a columnist for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.

Commission member Edward Youngblood said he could not go along with Wayne’s recommendation that there be no fine. “I always thought ‘I didn’t know’ wasn’t a great defense,” he said.

Four members of the commission — Chairman Walt McKee, Andre Duchette, Margaret Matheson and Youngblood — voted to impose a $100 fine. The commission could have set the fine as high as the amount of the improper contribution, $750.

The fifth member, Michael T. Healy, recused himself from the discussion and the vote because he is a lawyer with Verrill Dana, the law firm representing Monks.

Monks is a board member of and investor in MaineToday Media, which owns the Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. He served as Cutler’s campaign treasurer until July.

“I respect the commission’s decision,” Monks said in a statement released Thursday.


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