AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage has complied with a court order that he release about $1.4 million in public campaign funding that he had held up by refusing to sign routine financial orders.

The move means about 120 candidates for the Legislature and one for governor will be getting money soon to help run their campaigns under the Maine Clean Election Act. The candidate with the most at stake is independent State Treasurer Terry Hayes, who is running for governor. Hayes is eligible for an additional $259,000 in funding, based on $5 qualifying contributions by citizen donors. Under the court order, LePage had until 5 p.m. Tuesday to make the funding available.

Hayes said she was pleased the funds would be released but said she didn’t expect them to be transferred to her campaign Tuesday.

“We really don’t know how long it is going to take for the funds to be transferred into the account,” Hayes said. “It’s a sad state of affairs.”

Hayes said her campaign had slowed its spending down while it waits for funds, but not having the money could have a bigger impact on smaller campaigns for State House seats, she said.

An official with the Maine Ethics Commission said Tuesday evening that the payments to candidates have now been processed and they should be receiving their funds within the next few days.


Seven clean election candidates, including Hayes, and the group Maine Citizens for Clean Elections sued LePage in June because he refused to release the funds, which would come from unspent money from the 2016 election cycle. LePage has issued similar financial orders three times in the past.

During a court hearing in July, a lawyer for Maine Citizens for Clean Elections said that only about $100,000 of the funds would go to candidates in LePage’s Republican Party, while close to 10 times that amount was owed to Democratic and unenrolled candidates.

Attorneys for LePage argued in court that the governor has discretion on signing financial orders.

Slowing down the process is a decision by LePage to change the way funds are distributed. He is requiring the state’s Commission on Governmental Ethics and Campaign Practices to make the payments to the candidates’ campaigns instead of having his administration, which controls the state’s checkbook, process the payments.

LePage’s press secretary, Julie Rabinowitz, said employees at the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which previously processed the electronic transfer of clean election funds, were working with staff at the ethics commission to train them on processing the payments on Tuesday.

“The (court) order required DAFS to make the funds available, which is not the same as actually cutting the checks,” Rabinowitz wrote in an email. “DAFS has made the funds available. The next step is to make the funds accessible for processing by the Commission.”


Rabinowitz said the training and the issuing of the funds were taking place simultaneously.

“In short, DAFS is assisting in making sure the funds get transferred to the individual accounts today,” Rabinowitz wrote. She noted that going forward it would be the responsibility of the ethics commission to issue the funds to candidates.

LePage’s finance commissioner, Alec Porteous, told the commission staff in a separate letter that DAFS would no longer process the payments or provide other services to the commission. “These include financial, budget and personnel support for the Maine Ethics Commission except to the extent specifically required by statute,” Porteous wrote.

Paul Lavin, deputy director of the ethics commission, confirmed that DAFS was working to train his staff but said they were not advised of the change until late Monday.

Lavin later said an additional two employees from DAFS were dispatched to help with the payments.

“At approximately 5:30 p.m., the supplemental payments to candidates that were the subject of the Superior Court order were completely processed and candidates should be receiving the payments over the next several days,” Lavin said in an email Tuesday evening.


Earlier Tuesday, John Brautigam, an attorney for Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, expressed frustration with the process. As the 5 p.m. deadline approached, he said the administration agreed to make the funds available Monday but was still not in compliance with the order issued by Superior Court Justice William Stokes last week.

LePage’s move doesn’t resolve another dispute over clean election funds at the Legislature. Partisan gridlock over a typographical error in the state’s current two-year budget law has held up an additional $4 million in funds.

In a tweet Tuesday, Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, expressed satisfaction that LePage would release some of the funding owed to clean election candidates, but she pointed to the other unresolved issue around the program, which was created by a citizens initiative and approved by Maine voters on two occasions.

“Finally,” Gideon tweeted. “But remember this only solves half the issue regarding MCEA funding.”

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

Twitter: thisdog

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