A candidate for the Legislature faces a criminal charge after allegedly falsifying documents to show that he qualified for public campaign funding under Maine’s Clean Election Act.

Michael Hein, 42, of Augusta was charged with theft by deception after an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office. He is accused of using his own money to show that he had enough small donations to qualify for about $1,400 in public financing for his primary campaign and, if he won the nomination, another $3,900 for the general election.

The criminal charge is punishable by as much as 364 days in jail or a $2,000 fine.

An investigation by the state ethics commission showed that Hein falsified forms signifying that 67 donors had given him $5 each. House candidates need at least 60 individual $5 donations to qualify for Clean Election funding.

According to documents with the ethics commission, Hein submitted his paperwork two days before the qualifying deadline, showing that he had 67 small donations, 35 of which were cash donations.

Jonathan Wayne, the commission’s executive director, said that in a random sample, at least 13 people on Hein’s donor list told the commission’s staff that they had not given Hein $5 donations.

Wayne said the commission had been tipped off by someone who had been approached by Hein to sign the donation form. Hein allegedly told that person that they did not need to give a donation.

The staff called several other people who had signed the donation form and found that they, too, had been instructed by Hein not to give him any money, the report said.

Hein will not qualify for Clean Election funding. His name remains on the list of legislative candidates on the Secretary of State’s Office database. A spokeswoman for the office said she was unaware of any effort by Hein to abandon his run for the District 57 seat, which represents part of Augusta.

Hein was notified of the ethics findings on May 16. His court summons was issued the same day. Wayne said Hein contacted his office Wednesday to say he would not appeal the ethics report.

Hein could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Hein, a former employee of the Christian Civic League of Maine, is running in a Republican primary against Andrew Worcester.

Hein was fired from the Christian Civic League in 2010, two weeks after Carroll Conley Jr. became the group’s executive director. Conley said that Hein was unwilling to participate in the league’s new mission of having a respectful dialogue on issues such as abortion and homosexual rights.  

Hein filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission alleging that the Christian Civic League had illegally fired and tried to intimidate him. The commission voted unanimously in January to uphold Hein’s firing.

His campaign page on Facebook shows campaign posts after his summons date. His campaign recently distributed a flier thanking supporters for helping Hein qualify for Clean Election funding.

Hein is scheduled to appear in District Court in Augusta on June 6. The primary election will be held June 12.

Wayne said the ethics commission’s staff routinely surveys small donations for gubernatorial candidates who seek Clean Election funding. Such sampling is more rare for legislative candidates, he said, but the staff looks for warning signs, such as a candidate who claims that a large portion of the small donations came in cash.

State House Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

[email protected]