AUGUSTA, Maine — A political committee representing Hydro-Quebec in a campaign to rescue the proposed Central Maine Power corridor from a referendum challenge was fined nearly $35,000 after admitting a late financial disclosure.
The committee representing Hydro-Quebec was formed in November to oppose a potential referendum on a proposed hydropower corridor that would cut through western Maine. But financial disclosures showed that it spent nearly $100,000 prior to registering with the Maine Ethics Commission, a violation of state campaign finance laws.
The committee has paid the fine in full, the Maine Ethics Commission confirmed on Wednesday. The penalty was calculated under a formula set by state statute. It is the largest campaign finance fine since 2017, when backers of a failed casino referendum were initially fined $500,000 over late reports, though the penalty was later reduced to $100,000.
In a Wednesday statement, Hydro-Quebec said it was “unfamiliar with certain procedures” when it created the committee and would comply with reporting and disclosure rules in the future. The complaint against Hydro-Quebec was filed by Rep. Kent Ackley, I-Monmouth, on Jan. 10.
Hydro-Quebec is one of several committees formed to address a potential ballot question on the $1 billion corridor that would bring its power from Canada to the New England energy grid. Central Maine Power poured $2.3 million into its own committee opposing the referendum during the last quarter of 2019.
Supporters of a referendum have until Feb. 3 to collect enough signatures to get on the November ballot. One of the groups supporting the referendum, a nonprofit called Stop the Corridor, is facing its own campaign finance complaint after giving nearly $50,000 in in-kind contributions to another committee registered with the state.