LEWISTON – A former Green Independent candidate for the state House of Representatives says that she was duped into running by a Republican seeking the same seat.

In an Aug. 14 letter to the state ethics commission, Anne Jenness describes being recruited to run in House District 121 in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth for the November general election by three people who concocted a “scam to assist them in their quests for political gain.”

According to Jenness, Mike Mowles, himself a candidate at the time in the district, convinced her to run for office, provided the organizational support for her to qualify for the ballot and gave her two $7,000 loans so she could pay off creditors and maintain her residency in the district.

Mowles was assisted, Jenness wrote, by Ben Chipman, a member of the Board of Directors for the state’s Green Independent Party, and state Rep. Kevin Glynn, who is term-limited in the House and is running for the state Senate in District 7.

In Jenness’ letter, she says that Mowles drove her around the district to gather signatures for her campaign and the campaign of Green Independent Keith Louis, who’s running for the state Senate against Glynn in District 7.

In exchange for running, Jenness says that Mowles promised to help her refinance her house in Cape Elizabeth despite the fact that she was in serious financial trouble. Jenness wrote that without the refinancing, she would be forced to sell her house and move to Boston.

Mowles is the vice president of Cape Mortgage Co. in Cape Elizabeth. He lost the Republican primary in June to Jennifer Duddy, who will face Democrat Cynthia Dill in November.

Jenness says that Mowles used the promise of the new mortgage and the $14,000 in loans as leverage to keep her in the race after she had decided to withdraw.

According to Jenness’ letter, she was enticed to run in early March and eventually did withdraw from the race in May.

“I believe that I was duped by these three people who all simply wanted me to get on the Green Party ballot for the primary on June 13,” Jenness wrote. “I believe that there was never going to be refinancing for me and that this was all a scam to assist them in their quests for political gain.”

The Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices confirmed receiving the letter Monday.

Jonathan Wayne, the commission’s executive director, said he had spoken with Jenness on two occasions and that the letter could be presented to the commission’s board on Aug. 23.

Messages left for Mowles, Glynn and Louis at their homes and businesses were not returned Monday.

Chipman: No collusion

Chipman, however, denied any role in recruiting Jenness to run and said there was no collusion between the Green Independent Party and Mowles or Glynn to run third-party candidates for office.

“She went out and collected her own signatures and got on the ballot,” Chipman said Monday. “We learned of her running after she was on the ballot.”

Chipman said he did not know Jenness well, and that the only time he met with her was to solicit a $5 contribution to help Louis qualify as a Maine Clean Election candidate and receive public financing for his state Senate campaign.

“Once we learned she was running, I did call her,” Chipman said. “I called all of our candidates to see if they were going to try to qualify for clean elections. … I called her to see if she would help Keith Louis qualify.”

“I never met with her before she qualified for the ballot,” Chipman said.

Chipman said he was not on the board for the Green Independents at the time and was only elected to the post at the state party convention in May.

“There was no collusion,” Chipman said. “Not that I’m aware of. We see both parties as opposed to what we’re trying to do.”

“The truth will come out,” Jenness said Monday night. “And I’ll be glad when it does. I’m just a nobody and they’ll say I’m crazy. … But I feel good about having a voice for the first time.”

Jenness said she suffers from depression and thinks she was recruited to run because she was in debt and vulnerable.

Similar allegations

On May 10, Wayne, the executive director of the ethics commission, sent a memo to the commission members and their lawyer outlining a similar allegation involving some of the same players.

According to the memo, first-time candidate Steven Haskell was running against Glynn in the Republican primary in Senate District 7.

On April 11, Haskell dropped out of the race and called the ethics commission, saying that he felt “taken advantage of” by Glynn and Mowles.

“Because Haskell withdrew, Glynn received just less than $1,927. Had Haskell stayed in the race, Glynn would have received roughly $7,746 (a difference of $5,819),” the memo stated.

Glynn qualified for public financing for his campaign. Candidates in contested races receive more money than candidates running unopposed.

In the general election, Glynn is challenging incumbent state Sen. Lynn Bromley, D-South Portland, with Louis also on the ballot.

The conventional political wisdom is that Green Independents appeal to voters who might otherwise support Democrats.

According to the ethics memo, Mowles, who is on the town council in Cape Elizabeth, has been described as a “good friend” and “advocate for” Glynn.

In the memo, Wayne recounts what Haskell told him. Haskell said that Glynn suggested he run for the state Senate and provided him with the nominating petitions and declaration of intent forms to qualify as a Maine Clean Election candidate. Glynn, Haskell said, also provided him with a list of registered Republicans in South Portland.

According to the memo, between Feb. 19 and March 15, Mowles circulated nominating petitions for Haskell and collected more than half of the amount necessary for him to make the ballot.

“Steve Haskell describes himself as bi-polar, and subject to mood swings,” Wayne wrote in the memo. “He has lost two jobs recently. He has never run for office before, and did not express to me a convincing rationale for his Senate campaign. Given these limitations, it raises the question why party activists like Glynn and Mowles would view Haskell as a viable candidate for the Maine Senate.”

In the memo, Wayne recorded the responses of both Glynn and Mowles.

Glynn said, according to Wayne, that he did not ask Mowles to help Haskell and that Mowles was just doing his job as town Republican chair by helping him collect signatures.

When he met with Haskell, Glynn said he suggested Haskell consider a number of positions. He also said that at that time, he had not decided to run for the state Senate.

Mowles told Wayne that Haskell was “absolutely not a ‘put-up candidate.'” Mowles also said that he carried petitions for a number of legislative, county and gubernatorial candidates.

Based on the evidence collected, Wayne wrote in the memo that it’s difficult to conclude whether Haskell’s candidacy was self-motivated, whether there was a conscious or unspoken intention by Glynn and Mowles to create or maintain an opposed primary election against Glynn or if the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

“It certainly is true that Haskell enjoyed running and put some effort into his own campaign,” Wayne wrote. “It is also true, however: that Haskell insists Glynn suggested the office of Senate alone to him; that Mowles (a supporter of Glynn) was instrumental in Haskell qualifying as a candidate; that Haskell apparently did not have the skills or community support to qualify as a candidate through his own efforts; and that Glynn helped his opponent, Haskell, by providing him with Commission candidate forms and filing them with the Commission, providing him with petition papers … giving him a voter list, and offering to file his petitions with the Secretary of State.”

Memo: Not illegal

Wayne concludes that he has serious concerns about the situation, but is hesitant to put this matter on the agenda for the commission because there did not appear to be a violation of election law and because Glynn received the smaller amount of primary funds as an uncontested candidate.

“In any event, after the general election I will bring up the issue with you in a general way to ask whether you would like to propose a statutory prohibition on recruiting opponent candidates for the purposes of receiving additional MCEA funds,” Wayne wrote.

Both Mowles and Glynn faced ethics complaints earlier this year. The ethics commission found that Mowles had violated Maine law by distributing “unauthorized campaign materials during the primary.” The Maine Civil Liberties Union is suing over the decision.

Glynn was accused of inappropriately sending constituent mail to voters outside his House district but within the Senate district he hopes to represent. No action was taken by the commission.

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