[Hpn] Are political pros preying on the vulnerable?

William Charles Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Sun, 20 Aug 2006 09:24:56 -0400


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http://www.sunjournal.com/opinion/20060820125.php

Are political pros preying on the vulnerable?

By David Farmer, Staff Writer

Sunday, August 20,2006=20

A handful of cases suggest that candidates could recruit their own =
competition for money and electoral gain

LEWISTON - While the most recent allegations of questionable candidate =
recruitment involved politicians from southern Maine, Lewiston and its =
surrounding communities have not been immune to the practice.

On Monday, a former Green Independent candidate from Cape Elizabeth =
wrote to the state's ethics commission, saying that she had been =
manipulated into running for public office by two Republicans, =
themselves candidates for election at the time, and an activist for the =
Green Independent Party, who were all working together.

The accused denied the allegations quickly and without reservation.

And, while the potential practice of recruiting one's own opponent or =
"fragile" candidates in other races in order to attract more public =
funding for a campaign or to pull support from another campaign does not =
appear to violate state law, it does raise numerous ethical questions.

In January, the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices =
handed down the biggest fines in the history of the Maine Clean Election =
Act to a quartet of political players who had misused public campaign =
financing in a way similar to what was alleged Monday.

The ethics commission found that two candidates and two political =
consultants had misused taxpayer money and failed to maintain proper =
campaign records.

Evidence was also uncovered that suggested a conspiracy to recruit =
unqualified and marginal candidates, including at least one man who was =
described as homeless and living under a bridge.

Candidates and consultants

The scheme appears to have been designed to draw money from the state's =
Clean Election Fund and to put electoral obstacles into the path of =
political opponents and to utilize candidates that would not be able to =
mount legitimate campaigns or be credible witnesses in any public =
proceedings.

Independent state Senate candidate Julia St. James of Hartford, who is a =
self-described weed farmer and Wiccan, was fined $13,000 and ordered to =
repay $11,088 in clean election money she had received. Green =
Independent candidate Sarah Trundy of Minot was fined $500 for failing =
to keep records of how she spend clean election money and ordered to =
repay almost $3,000 of her clean election money.

Political consultant Daniel Rogers of Auburn was fined $17,500 and =
consultant Jessica Larlee was fined $15,500.

During the investigation of the Trundy and St. James campaigns, it was =
discovered that Rogers was involved in a campaign dirty trick in =
Biddeford in which a fake organization was created for the sole purpose =
of tricking voters about a candidate's position on gay marriage.

It was also discovered that, in addition to recruiting St. James and =
Trundy as candidates, Rogers and Larlee also attempted to recruit a =
third, Major Isaac Pike, who was described by police at the time as a =
transient and as having a criminal record that included assault and =
weapons convictions.

During testimony before the ethics commission, Larlee said that Pike's =
recruitment was a ploy meant to distract Democrats during the election. =
Rogers, however, said he was a legitimate candidate.

While the ethics commission stopped short of declaring Trundy and St. =
James "sham" candidates, it found much to be concerned about. Trundy =
played only a small role in her own campaign, the commission said, and =
St. James' was beleaguered by problems and inappropriate activity.

The commission found that Larlee had taken advantage of Trundy by =
convincing her to run.

Common thread

According to several people involved in the investigation and with =
knowledge of the candidates, both Trundy and St. James could fairly be =
described a vulnerable to manipulation, and certainly the description is =
appropriate for Pike.

It's could also fit for two candidates in southern Maine.

On Monday, Anne Jenness filed a complaint with the ethics commission =
alleging that Republicans Mike Mowles, himself a candidate, state Rep. =
Kevin Glynn and Green Independent Ben Chipman duped her into running for =
the state House of Representatives.

Mowles and Chipman denied any unethical conduct and said that Jenness' =
accusations were wrong and filled with half-truths.

Jenness, who described herself as suffering from depression, surviving =
on disability payments and deeply in debt, was the second person from =
that area to complain of questionable recruitment.

Jonathan Wayne, the executive director of the ethics commission, =
describe a similar allegation to his board in a May 10 memo.

According to that report, first-time candidate Steven Haskell told Wayne =
that he felt "taken advantage of" by Glynn and Mowles, who had recruited =
him to run against Glynn in a Republican primary and done much of the =
work on his campaign. Haskell's candidacy would have meant more public =
money for Glynn's campaign.

Haskell eventually dropped out of the race and Glynn did not receive =
additional campaign funding.

"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."

Wayne concluded in the memo that he has serious concerns about the =
situation, but was hesitant to put this matter on the agenda for the =
commission because there did not appear to be a violation of election =
law.

Play it again

In a second memo to the ethics commission board, this one dated May 19, =
Wayne describes a fourth example of questionable candidate recruitment =
from the 2004 election, this time involving Stavros Mendros, a Lewiston =
City Councilor and two-term Republican member of the House of =
Representatives.

In 2004, Mendros was running for the state Senate against Democratic =
incumbent Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston.

During the primary campaign seeking the Republican nomination, Mendros =
faced a write-in campaign by Yvette Silva. He petitioned the ethics =
commission to receive additional clean election funding for his =
campaign, arguing that he was in a contested primary and that Silva was =
a serious candidate. The commission agreed and Mendros received an =
additional $4,973 for his primary campaign.

After the election, Wayne wrote that he became concerned about the =
situation and conducted an interview in November 2005 with Silva. When =
he explained to Silva that her candidacy resulted in extra money for =
Mendros, she responded, "This sounds like I've been used."

Silva, who served six years on the city's school committee, had =
supported Mendros in the past.

Silva had decided to run a traditional campaign in the primary. Mendros, =
Wayne wrote, encouraged her to run but did not initiate the campaign. He =
did, however, help her fill out the paperwork to get on the ballot and =
he helped with her petitions. When Silva failed to qualify for the =
ballot, Mendros encouraged her to run as a write-in candidate.

While running against Mendros, Silva relied upon him for many campaign =
functions, Wayne wrote. Mendros "took care of" having about 100 =
brochures printed and helped Silva fill out her campaign finance =
reports, which included activity that Silva said she hadn't done.

"In her heart, she intended to run. Mendros may not have planned what =
happened, but he could have manipulated events," Wayne wrote in the =
memo.

Reached Wednesday at her home, Silva said that now she didn't feel the =
same way as she had when she spoke to Wayne in 2005.

"I don't see anything wrong with it," Silva said. "Eventually, it comes =
down to the voters anyway. My intention was to beat him out, but it =
didn't work out that way."

Silva received five votes in the primary and raised only $280 for her =
campaign.

Silva said that when it became necessary for her to take care of her =
parents, who were in declining health, she couldn't continue her =
campaign and needed help.

"I would have helped him, too, if he had asked," Silva said of Mendros.

"If the law allows for it, then he can do it," Silva said. "If there's =
something wrong with it, the law needs to be changed."

Messages left for Mendros were not returned.

Back to 2006

Jay Taylor was briefly a candidate for the state Senate this year, =
seeking the Republican nomination to face Rotundo this fall.

Taylor listed as his residence 617 Main St., Apt. 4, in Lewiston, the =
same address where Mendros is registered to vote and which Daniel Rogers =
listed as his address during ethics commission proceedings. On his =
original paperwork, Taylor, who is a professional petition worker, =
listed Mendros as his treasurer. He then changed his treasurer to Paul =
Madore, a Lewiston political operative who runs the conservative =
Grassroots Coalition and is a professional signature gatherer.

Taylor declared his intentions to run as a Clean Election candidate, but =
did not submit qualifying contributions. He withdrew from the race and =
was replaced with a new candidate, Larry Poulin.

Taylor dropped out of the race on July 5.

His explanation at the time to the Sun Journal was cryptic: "It was a =
judgment call on my part," he said. "If I wanted to maintain my =
employment, I needed to leave the race."

Taylor did not return a message left on his cell phone.

Limited problem

In the packet of information provided to the ethics commission for its =
Aug. 23 meeting, Executive Director Wayne recommended that the =
commission take no action on the Jenness complaint of Aug. 14, but he =
did discuss two potential problems that the questionable recruitment of =
candidates could create.

According to Wayne, the recruitment of opponents, particularly in party =
primaries, could increase the cost of the Maine Clean Election Act. The =
practice could also lead to a lack of confidence in the system.

"While no laws or rules appear to have been broken," Wayne wrote in =
connection with the Haskell and Jenness situations, "this type of =
activity might strike many as unethical - particularly because of the =
fragility of some of the particular candidates recruited. If there is a =
perception that such activity is permitted and may even be advantageous =
to candidates, that could discourage others from adhering to high =
ethical standards and potentially weaken the public's confidence in the =
electoral system."

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<DIV><STRONG><FONT face=3DVerdana color=3D#316597><A=20
href=3D"http://www.sunjournal.com/opinion/20060820125.php">http://www.sun=
journal.com/opinion/20060820125.php</A></FONT></STRONG></DIV>
<DIV><STRONG><FONT face=3DVerdana =
color=3D#316597></FONT></STRONG>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><STRONG><FONT face=3DVerdana color=3D#316597>Are political pros =
preying on the=20
vulnerable?<BR><BR></FONT><SPAN class=3Dbyline1>By David=20
Farmer</SPAN></STRONG><FONT face=3D"Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, =
sans-serif"=20
size=3D1>,</FONT> <SPAN class=3Dbyline2>Staff Writer</SPAN></DIV>
<DIV><SPAN class=3Dbyline2></SPAN><BR><SPAN class=3Dstyle8><FONT =
face=3DVerdana=20
color=3D#666666 size=3D1>Sunday, August 20,2006</FONT></SPAN> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DVerdana color=3D#666666 size=3D1></FONT><BR><SPAN =
class=3DNutgraph>A=20
handful of cases suggest that candidates could recruit their own =
competition for=20
money and electoral gain<BR></DIV></SPAN>
<P class=3DStoryText12>LEWISTON - While the most recent allegations of=20
questionable candidate recruitment involved politicians from southern =
Maine,=20
Lewiston and its surrounding communities have not been immune to the=20
practice.<BR><BR>On Monday, a former Green Independent candidate from =
Cape=20
Elizabeth wrote to the state's ethics commission, saying that she had =
been=20
manipulated into running for public office by two Republicans, =
themselves=20
candidates for election at the time, and an activist for the Green =
Independent=20
Party, who were all working together.<BR><BR>The accused denied the =
allegations=20
quickly and without reservation.<BR><BR>And, while the potential =
practice of=20
recruiting one's own opponent or "fragile" candidates in other races in =
order to=20
attract more public funding for a campaign or to pull support from =
another=20
campaign does not appear to violate state law, it does raise numerous =
ethical=20
questions.<BR><BR>In January, the Commission on Governmental Ethics and =
Election=20
Practices handed down the biggest fines in the history of the Maine =
Clean=20
Election Act to a quartet of political players who had misused public =
campaign=20
financing in a way similar to what was alleged Monday.<BR><BR>The ethics =

commission found that two candidates and two political consultants had =
misused=20
taxpayer money and failed to maintain proper campaign =
records.<BR><BR>Evidence=20
was also uncovered that suggested a conspiracy to recruit unqualified =
and=20
marginal candidates, including at least one man who was described as =
homeless=20
and living under a bridge.</P>
<DIV><SPAN class=3DSubhead>Candidates and consultants<BR></DIV></SPAN>
<P class=3DStoryText12>The scheme appears to have been designed to draw =
money from=20
the state's Clean Election Fund and to put electoral obstacles into the =
path of=20
political opponents and to utilize candidates that would not be able to =
mount=20
legitimate campaigns or be credible witnesses in any public=20
proceedings.<BR><BR>Independent state Senate candidate Julia St. James =
of=20
Hartford, who is a self-described weed farmer and Wiccan, was fined =
$13,000 and=20
ordered to repay $11,088 in clean election money she had received. Green =

Independent candidate Sarah Trundy of Minot was fined $500 for failing =
to keep=20
records of how she spend clean election money and ordered to repay =
almost $3,000=20
of her clean election money.<BR><BR>Political consultant Daniel Rogers =
of Auburn=20
was fined $17,500 and consultant Jessica Larlee was fined =
$15,500.<BR><BR>During=20
the investigation of the Trundy and St. James campaigns, it was =
discovered that=20
Rogers was involved in a campaign dirty trick in Biddeford in which a =
fake=20
organization was created for the sole purpose of tricking voters about a =

candidate's position on gay marriage.<BR><BR>It was also discovered =
that, in=20
addition to recruiting St. James and Trundy as candidates, Rogers and =
Larlee=20
also attempted to recruit a third, Major Isaac Pike, who was described =
by police=20
at the time as a transient and as having a criminal record that included =
assault=20
and weapons convictions.<BR><BR>During testimony before the ethics =
commission,=20
Larlee said that Pike's recruitment was a ploy meant to distract =
Democrats=20
during the election. Rogers, however, said he was a legitimate=20
candidate.<BR><BR>While the ethics commission stopped short of declaring =
Trundy=20
and St. James "sham" candidates, it found much to be concerned about. =
Trundy=20
played only a small role in her own campaign, the commission said, and =
St.=20
James' was beleaguered by problems and inappropriate =
activity.<BR><BR>The=20
commission found that Larlee had taken advantage of Trundy by convincing =
her to=20
run.</P>
<DIV><SPAN class=3DSubhead>Common thread<BR></DIV></SPAN>
<P class=3DStoryText12>According to several people involved in the =
investigation=20
and with knowledge of the candidates, both Trundy and St. James could =
fairly be=20
described a vulnerable to manipulation, and certainly the description is =

appropriate for Pike.<BR><BR>It's could also fit for two candidates in =
southern=20
Maine.<BR><BR>On Monday, Anne Jenness filed a complaint with the ethics=20
commission alleging that Republicans Mike Mowles, himself a candidate, =
state=20
Rep. Kevin Glynn and Green Independent Ben Chipman duped her into =
running for=20
the state House of Representatives.<BR><BR>Mowles and Chipman denied any =

unethical conduct and said that Jenness' accusations were wrong and =
filled with=20
half-truths.<BR><BR>Jenness, who described herself as suffering from =
depression,=20
surviving on disability payments and deeply in debt, was the second =
person from=20
that area to complain of questionable recruitment.<BR><BR>Jonathan =
Wayne, the=20
executive director of the ethics commission, describe a similar =
allegation to=20
his board in a May 10 memo.<BR><BR>According to that report, first-time=20
candidate Steven Haskell told Wayne that he felt "taken advantage of" by =
Glynn=20
and Mowles, who had recruited him to run against Glynn in a Republican =
primary=20
and done much of the work on his campaign. Haskell's candidacy would =
have meant=20
more public money for Glynn's campaign.<BR><BR>Haskell eventually =
dropped out of=20
the race and Glynn did not receive additional campaign =
funding.<BR><BR>"Steve=20
Haskell describes himself as bi-polar, and subject to mood swings," =
Wayne wrote=20
in the memo. "He has lost two jobs recently. He has never run for office =
before,=20
and did not express to me a convincing rationale for his Senate =
campaign. Given=20
these limitations, it raises the question why party activists like Glynn =
and=20
Mowles would view Haskell as a viable candidate for the Maine=20
Senate."<BR><BR>Wayne concluded in the memo that he has serious concerns =
about=20
the situation, but was hesitant to put this matter on the agenda for the =

commission because there did not appear to be a violation of election =
law.</P>
<DIV><SPAN class=3DSubhead>Play it again<BR></DIV></SPAN>
<P class=3DStoryText12>In a second memo to the ethics commission board, =
this one=20
dated May 19, Wayne describes a fourth example of questionable candidate =

recruitment from the 2004 election, this time involving Stavros Mendros, =
a=20
Lewiston City Councilor and two-term Republican member of the House of=20
Representatives.<BR><BR>In 2004, Mendros was running for the state =
Senate=20
against Democratic incumbent Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston.<BR><BR>During =
the=20
primary campaign seeking the Republican nomination, Mendros faced a =
write-in=20
campaign by Yvette Silva. He petitioned the ethics commission to receive =

additional clean election funding for his campaign, arguing that he was =
in a=20
contested primary and that Silva was a serious candidate. The commission =
agreed=20
and Mendros received an additional $4,973 for his primary =
campaign.<BR><BR>After=20
the election, Wayne wrote that he became concerned about the situation =
and=20
conducted an interview in November 2005 with Silva. When he explained to =
Silva=20
that her candidacy resulted in extra money for Mendros, she responded, =
"This=20
sounds like I've been used."<BR><BR>Silva, who served six years on the =
city's=20
school committee, had supported Mendros in the past.<BR><BR>Silva had =
decided to=20
run a traditional campaign in the primary. Mendros, Wayne wrote, =
encouraged her=20
to run but did not initiate the campaign. He did, however, help her fill =
out the=20
paperwork to get on the ballot and he helped with her petitions. When =
Silva=20
failed to qualify for the ballot, Mendros encouraged her to run as a =
write-in=20
candidate.<BR><BR>While running against Mendros, Silva relied upon him =
for many=20
campaign functions, Wayne wrote. Mendros "took care of" having about 100 =

brochures printed and helped Silva fill out her campaign finance =
reports, which=20
included activity that Silva said she hadn't done.<BR><BR>"In her heart, =
she=20
intended to run. Mendros may not have planned what happened, but he =
could have=20
manipulated events," Wayne wrote in the memo.<BR><BR>Reached Wednesday =
at her=20
home, Silva said that now she didn't feel the same way as she had when =
she spoke=20
to Wayne in 2005.<BR><BR>"I don't see anything wrong with it," Silva =
said.=20
"Eventually, it comes down to the voters anyway. My intention was to =
beat him=20
out, but it didn't work out that way."<BR><BR>Silva received five votes =
in the=20
primary and raised only $280 for her campaign.<BR><BR>Silva said that =
when it=20
became necessary for her to take care of her parents, who were in =
declining=20
health, she couldn't continue her campaign and needed help.<BR><BR>"I =
would have=20
helped him, too, if he had asked," Silva said of Mendros.<BR><BR>"If the =
law=20
allows for it, then he can do it," Silva said. "If there's something =
wrong with=20
it, the law needs to be changed."<BR><BR>Messages left for Mendros were =
not=20
returned.</P>
<DIV><SPAN class=3DSubhead>Back to 2006<BR></DIV></SPAN>
<P class=3DStoryText12>Jay Taylor was briefly a candidate for the state =
Senate=20
this year, seeking the Republican nomination to face Rotundo this=20
fall.<BR><BR>Taylor listed as his residence 617 Main St., Apt. 4, in =
Lewiston,=20
the same address where Mendros is registered to vote and which Daniel =
Rogers=20
listed as his address during ethics commission proceedings. On his =
original=20
paperwork, Taylor, who is a professional petition worker, listed Mendros =
as his=20
treasurer. He then changed his treasurer to Paul Madore, a Lewiston =
political=20
operative who runs the conservative Grassroots Coalition and is a =
professional=20
signature gatherer.<BR><BR>Taylor declared his intentions to run as a =
Clean=20
Election candidate, but did not submit qualifying contributions. He =
withdrew=20
from the race and was replaced with a new candidate, Larry =
Poulin.<BR><BR>Taylor=20
dropped out of the race on July 5.<BR><BR>His explanation at the time to =
the Sun=20
Journal was cryptic: "It was a judgment call on my part," he said. "If I =
wanted=20
to maintain my employment, I needed to leave the race."<BR><BR>Taylor =
did not=20
return a message left on his cell phone.</P>
<DIV><SPAN class=3DSubhead>Limited problem<BR></DIV></SPAN>
<P class=3DStoryText12>In the packet of information provided to the =
ethics=20
commission for its Aug. 23 meeting, Executive Director Wayne recommended =
that=20
the commission take no action on the Jenness complaint of Aug. 14, but =
he did=20
discuss two potential problems that the questionable recruitment of =
candidates=20
could create.<BR><BR>According to Wayne, the recruitment of opponents,=20
particularly in party primaries, could increase the cost of the Maine =
Clean=20
Election Act. The practice could also lead to a lack of confidence in =
the=20
system.<BR><BR>"While no laws or rules appear to have been broken," =
Wayne wrote=20
in connection with the Haskell and Jenness situations, "this type of =
activity=20
might strike many as unethical - particularly because of the fragility =
of some=20
of the particular candidates recruited. If there is a perception that =
such=20
activity is permitted and may even be advantageous to candidates, that =
could=20
discourage others from adhering to high ethical standards and =
potentially weaken=20
the public's confidence in the electoral system."</P></BODY></HTML>

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