AUGUSTA – One day before he was scheduled to appear in front of the state ethics commission, a former Lewiston candidate paid back money he owed to taxpayers for months, according to Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

Returning the $845 to the Clean Election Fund on Tuesday meant Christopher McCarthy, of 10 Fairlawn Ave., Lewiston, avoided possible action by the Attorney General’s Office, Wayne said.

Like hundreds of others running for the Legislature last year, McCarthy qualified as a Clean Election candidate in his bid for a seat in the House of Representatives. An unenrolled candidate running against incumbent Rep. Lillian O’Brien, D-Lewiston, McCarthy qualified for $4,031 from taxpayers to campaign for office. He filed for office on June 1 and received the check on June 7, Wayne said.

It was McCarthy’s responsibility to file two campaign finance reports, due by Oct. 27 and Dec. 14, itemizing how he spent the Maine Clean Election money. Instead, McCarthy filed a single report on Jan. 12 after commission staff sent him multiple letters warning him that his case could be referred to the attorney general for criminal prosecution. His January report showed he spent all but $845 on his campaign.

Until Tuesday, McCarthy ignored repeated communication from the state asking him to return the money, Wayne said.

Calls to McCarthy on Monday and Tuesday from the Sun Journal were not returned.

While late filings of campaign reports are not uncommon, not returning unspent taxpayer money to the fund is, Wayne said. McCarthy was the only candidate in last year’s election who failed to return “a significant amount of money.” The Maine Clean Election Act says money not spent on campaigns must be returned to taxpayers.

Because McCarthy repaid the money in person Tuesday, a recommended $1,000 fine against him was dropped, Wayne said. When the ethics commission meets Wednesday, McCarthy also plans to ask the ethics panel to reduce a $3,967 fine against him for filing late campaign reports, Wayne said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.