LEWISTON – Peter Cianchette, former Republican gubernatorial candidate and Maine chairman for the Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election campaign, has been nominated by President Bush for a position on the IRS Oversight Board.

But issues from his 2002 campaign and role as a Bush advocate in 2004 could haunt him through his confirmation.

“I’m a small business person and can well represent the needs of the small business community on the board,” Cianchette said. “The president and people in the administration are well aware of my interest in serving the public.”

During his four years in the Maine House of Representatives, Cianchette served on the Taxation Committee.

“I worked hard on tax administration and tax policy,” said Cianchette, who found out about the nomination on Tuesday but had been aware that he was under consideration for sometime.

In April, Cianchette was fined $12,000 by the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices because his 2002 gubernatorial campaign received more than $68,000 in illegal contributions from the Cianbro Corp., a company with close ties to his family. The legal limit for contributions is $500. He lost that race to Democrat John Baldacci.

Reached while on vacation Wednesday, Cianchette said he doesn’t expect his run-in with the ethics commission to play any part in his confirmation.

“That matter was completely resolved months ago,” Cianchette said. The fine, he continued, is being paid according to terms worked out with the ethics commission.

Cianchette’s nomination will be considered first by the U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee.

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who ran unsuccessfully against Bush in 2004 but carried Maine, sits on the Finance Committee and will have a hand in considering Cianchette’s nomination.

David Wade, communications director for Kerry, gave a preview Wednesday of what Cianchette can expect in Washington.

“Obviously, this nomination has the smell of political patronage, pay-to-play and back room back-scratching among Republican political elites,” Wade said. “Will the Finance Committee and American taxpayers have a hard time swallowing a nominee for the IRS Oversight Board with such a questionable history? Yes. Clearly Peter Cianchette’s got some explaining to do.”

During the presidential campaign, Cianchette was often a spokesman for the president in Maine and was consistently critical of Kerry, saying that the candidate was “out of the mainstream, out of touch with kitchen-table issues important to Maine people.”

Cianchette would not speculate if the role he played in 2004 would affect his reception before the Finance Committee.

While Cianchette will have to face Kerry, he also has a friend on the Finance Committee.

“The nomination of Peter Cianchette to serve on the IRS Oversight Board is a reflection of his unparalleled intellect and integrity that the people of Maine have come to know so well,” Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, who also sits on the committee, said in a prepared statement.

Snowe promised to push the panel to “expeditiously” consider the nomination and said she would discuss Cianchette’s qualifications with the committee’s chairman.

Members of the Oversight Board are nominated by the president and must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. It has nine members, including the secretary of the treasury and the IRS commissioner and acts similarly to a corporate board of directors by providing the IRS with long-term guidance and direction, according to the IRS Web site.

White House spokesman Alex Conant said Cianchette’s experience in the Legislature working on tax issues and 20 years as a businessman were important to his nomination.

“He will help the IRS better meet the needs of taxpayers, and we look forward to a speedy Senate confirmation,” Conant said.

In addition to being president of The Cianchette Group, a political consulting firm in South Portland, Cianchette is also a Republican National Committeeman and a member of U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s re-election leadership team. He is a founding partner in CHK Capital Partners, a private equity firm that invests in Maine companies.

Cianchette’s nomination was announced, along with five others, in a White House statement released Aug. 29.

No date has been set for the confirmation hearings, Ferrier said. The Senate will return to Washington next week.


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