AUGUSTA (AP) – A legislative committee Tuesday voted unanimously to recommend confirmation of Bangor lawyer Michael Friedman for the fifth and potentially tie-breaking slot on Maine’s ethics commission.

The Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee’s recommendation goes to the state Senate, which will vote on final confirmation Sept. 11.

If confirmed, Friedman will fill a vacancy on the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices that’s existed for more than a year. He would become the only independent on a panel that now includes two Democrats and two Republicans.

Before the committee’s 13-0 vote Tuesday, Friedman said he’s had a long-standing interest in government, but “I have never been known in any political circles to my knowledge as a player.”

Friedman said he’s been a registered Democrat and Republican in the past, as well as an independent not registered in any party. But “I always took pride in my independence” and voted for the candidate he considered the best-qualified, he told the committee.

Friedman also said he observed the ethics commission as it reviewed a high-profile case relating to the financing of independent Barbara Merrill’s gubernatorial campaign recently.

“I thought there was an overwhelming sense of impartiality there,” he said. Friedman added that he considers the ethics commission’s work as Maine’s campaign activity watchdog agency important because Mainers “have always taken pride in clean elections,” one reason he believes the state has a consistent record of high voter turnout.

Friedman was nominated for the post by Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, who had chosen him from a list of three potential nominees that had been approved by all three political parties. Baldacci’s legal counsel, Tom Federle, told the committee that Friedman was “the right person at the right time” for the appointment.

He described the nominee as a well-respected attorney who “has proven himself adept at problem solving and bringing to consensus a divergent group of strong-minded individuals.”

Friedman encountered opposition during Tuesday’s hearing from Joseph Greenier of Stockton Springs, who said he foresees potential conflicts of interest because the law firm in which Friedman has served as managing partner has represented corporate clients. That, in effect, makes Friedman “a third Republican” on the commission, said Greenier.

Friedman is a University of Maine graduate and earned a law degree from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston.


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