Report: GOP also engaged in questionable financing


AUGUSTA (AP) – Maine Republicans have used similar fundraising tactics as the state’s Democrats, whose activities involving out-of-state donors and races have come under scrutiny in recent weeks, a report Sunday said.

In a recent case involving the Maine Democratic Party, supporters of a candidate in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary in Rhode Island gave him money, and then contributed $12,000 to the Maine Democrats. The Maine Democrats then gave $10,000 to the same Rhode Island politician, Matt Brown.

The Blethen Maine Newspapers on Sunday cited a 2002 case in which the Maine Republican Party and its allies apparently used the same campaign-financing method.

Four years ago, the Arizona Republican Party gave the maximum allowed under law to congressional candidates in five states. Campaign finance records say the Arizona Republicans also contributed $78,400 to the Maine Republican Party, which donated the legal maximum to the same five candidates.

Party officials in Maine say nothing illegal was intended or committed. The Maine Democrats say the Rhode Island campaign money has been returned to avoid even an appearance of wrongdoing.

Soon after the Maine Democrats’ ties to Rhode Island candidate Matt Brown came under question, state party chairman Patrick Colwell of Bath resigned.

Dwayne Bickford, who was the executive director of the Maine GOP in 2002, said “there was no quid pro quo” in the Arizona case because the Arizona Republican Party did not earmark its Maine gift for the five congressional candidates who got money from the GOP in both Arizona and Maine.

But campaign experts say the two cases show how both major political parties may circumvent federal contribution limits legally in congressional races.

The transactions in both cases had the effect of twice adding to the war chests of political candidates, who received direct support from individual donors and then again from political parties.

“It’s not necessarily against the law,” said Marvin Druker, who teaches political science at Lewiston-Auburn College. “But it flies in the face of the intent.”

Massie Ritsch of the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics, said it’s difficult to say anything illegal was going on in the GOP transactions unless the contributions were “specifically earmarked for a particular campaign.”

Nathaniel Persily, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School who specializes in election laws, said it’s hard to prove coordination between parties in such cases. If there was no coordination, “then there’s not a problem,” he said.