Here's the full letter sent from the Maine Ethics Commission staff to John Richardson detailing the investigation and subsequent rejection of his application for MCEA funding:
Richardson is officially out. His full announcement, sent moments ago by email, is below the jump.
Highlights include the fact that Richardson says the campaign discovered some of the irregularities and reported them to the commission staff themselves and that the disqualified contributions left them 80 short.
Richardson says he never considered switching to private financing (not that he would have had time) and that "this decision, while very painful, does not, and will not alter my faith in Clean Elections and my conviction about how important it is to our state." Read more »
Richardson To Shutter Campaign
John Richardson has scheduled an 11am press conference in Brunswick today and all signs point to him using it to end his campaign for the Blaine House.
The Bangor Daily News and Mal Leary today confirmed that Richardson failed to qualify for Clean Elections funding due to fraudulent contributions. Their article gives some interesting details about the process and investigation.
Richardson's exit will bring the Democratic field down to four candidates and ensure the sufficiency of the Clean Elections fund.
Some questions will remain after today's announcement, such as whether employees of Richardson's campaign will face prosecution and who close to the Attorney General leaked information about the investigation to blogger Matt Gagnon.
The Ethics Commission meets this Thursday in Augusta.
A Change at the Top for Mitchell
A press release from the Mitchell campaign last week was signed by a new campaign manager, Jeremy Kennedy.
According to former campaign manager Marc Malon, the switch was long scheduled:
This was the plan for a while; I managed the campaign through the end of the qualifying period, then we had the opportunity to bring on someone with more experience (Jeremy Kennedy) for the final push in the primary. I'm still working for the campaign as hard as ever, focusing more intently on York County, my home (I live in Biddeford) which I believe will play a crucial role.
Kennedy has recently worked as a Regional Field Organizer for the Human Rights Campaign and for No on 1.
Independents on the Ballot
Eliot Cutler has submitted the 4,000 signatures necessary to make the November ballot, as has Shawn Moody, owner of Moody's Collision Centers. Moody has not yet filed his candidate registration forms and his signature campaign flew almost entirely under the radar.
Matthew Gagnon claims to have a source close to the Attorney General who says that John Richardson has been denied clean elections funding and that some of his signature gatherers are being investigated for fraud.
Gagnon also has a bit of a chip on his shoulder for "a sneering political reporter from one of Maine’s largest daily newspapers."
The situation is a bit muddled, but according to A.J. Higgins' late-breaking report yesterday, the Ethics Commission is questioning a number of Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Richardson's qualifying contributions and is giving him some finite amount of time to take steps to prove their legitimacy.
No other coverage of this that I've seen as yet. If Richardson fails to qualify his campaign is essentially dead in the water. Even the current delay in receiving a clean elections disbursement is likely detrimental to his chances in June.
The race to the Blaine House is heating up. Here's some gubernatorial errata from today:
Today at 5pm is the deadline to qualify for clean elections funding by submitting 3,250 $5 contributions and proof of $40,000 raised in seed money. Mills, Mitchell and McGowan have all said they've already met the requirements, leaving John Richardson as the odd man out. Watch for a release from his campaign today.
Speaking of Richardson, the campaign can't have been helped by the story in Maine newspapers yesterday penned by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting about a patronage appointment within the DECD.
Also, the candidate's son, also named John Richardson, writes in to answer the button question: "Dad's been using that style since his first campaign signs in the late 90's. I'm not sure if he was choosing to invoke an emotional connection to Brennan, knowing him, I'm guessing he just liked the color scheme."
Unity of One:
Rosa Scarcelli sent out a release earlier this week asking her Democratic competitors to join her in a unity press conference ahead of Obama's visit today. According to spokesperson Dennis Bailey, none of them responded. "We'll do it anyway," says Bailey. "Unity of one."
Not Too Offended:
Matt Jacobson sent out a letter yesterday attacking Maine's clean election system in general and fellow Republican candidate Peter Mills specifically for running a publicly-funded campaign.
"I'm offended, and I know that you are too," wrote Jacobson.
I asked Jacobson campaign manager Bill Becker if his candidate's disapproval extended to the Republican legislative candidates running clean and if he would also be publicly asking them to refrain from using the clean elections system (71% of Republicans ran clean in 2008).
"I expect a higher standard of leadership from gubernatorial candidates. While I would hope the financial circumstances we are experiencing would inspire all candidates to raise their own money, people aspiring to Maine's highest office have an obligation to lead and set an example. Maine's four "Clean Elections" gubernatorial candidates may well receive more than $2.4M in taxpayer dollars - just in the primary. For that amount of money, the state could certainly fund greater priorities than to buy bumper stickers and lawn signs.
"As Governor, I would have line-item vetoeed that expense this year."
Thanks to Libby Mitchell campaign manager Marc Malon and Pat McGowan campaign manager Brandon Maheu, who both photographed their own collections, I now have a good visual record of more than two decades of Joe Brennan campaign paraphernalia. Click the image below to enlarge.
Here's Richardson's logo (his buttons are similar, with the first and last name stacked above a shorter swoosh). There's definitely some similarity with certain Brennan designs.
Other campaigns should take note; Maheu and Malon have obviously been studying how to win Democratic primaries.
At Down East this week, I share some thoughts on gubernatorial candidates' campaign material and make an offer: anyone candidate for governor or congress who sends me a campaign button gets a write-up on the blog. The same goes for candidates for state legislature or other local offices who send a sticker.
I've had a lot of reaction to the piece so far. Several campaigns are sending over materials and the Poliquin campaign would like it noted that their design has dark blue text, not black.
Al Diamon also points out that John Richardson's design may actually be an attempt to evoke Joe Brennan's logo from his successful 1978 run for governor. Now that I look, it also seems to share some similarities with former Governor Jock McKernan's campaign logo. I don't have a good image of either of these designs, so if anyone has an old Brennan or McKernan button or bumper sticker they can take a photo of, please send me a note.
Newly minted gubernatorial candidate John Richardson's morning rally in Brunswick:
The former Maine House Speaker announced today that he intends to seek the Blaine House and will be resigning from his position as Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development to do so. Governor Baldacci has announced that Richardson will be replaced by Deputy Commissioner Thaxter Trafton.
Richardson's campaign has the beginnings of a website up at www.johnrichardsonformaine.com. He will run as a clean elections candidate.
And speaking of succession, Augusta Rep. Patsy Crockett has announced her intention to run for the State Senate seat being vacated by Senate President and gubernatorial candidate Libby Mitchell. Mitchell has endorsed her bid.