Baldacci signs bill tightening use of Clean Election funds

Portland Press Herald
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Copyright © 2006 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

AUGUSTA - Emergency legislation prompted by a scandal over the misuse of public campaign funds has been signed into law by Gov. John Baldacci.

The governor Thursday signed a bill that tightens and clarifies restrictions on the use of Clean Election campaign funds by qualifying candidates.

The legislation, which took effect immediately, makes clear that candidates may not use any Clean Election money for anything other than campaign-related purposes.

The new law says candidates must deposit Maine Clean Election funds in a bank account, and keep vendor invoices and canceled checks or other proof of payments of $50 or more.

Rep. John Patrick, co-sponsor of the bill, said it was introduced in response to a state ethics commission probe that revealed widespread misuse of taxpayers' money in a pair of publicly funded legislative races in 2004.

The candidates were Julia St. James of Hartford in Senate District 14, and Sarah Trundy of Minot in House District 96. The campaign workers were Jessica Larlee of Minot and Daniel Rogers of the Lewiston area. St. James ran unsuccessfully under the unofficial Fourth Branch Party and Trundy, who also lost, ran as a Green party candidate.