From left, Waldoboro Selectmen Clinton Collamore, Jann Minzy and Abden Simmons discuss the board’s decision to name Julie Keizer town manager on March 9, 2017. Credit: Alexander Violo / Lincoln County News

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine regulators noticed a troubling pattern in the summer that led to criminal charges against a lawmaker. Consequences came more than a month after he won his seat using allegedly ill-gotten taxpayer money to campaign.

Newly elected Rep. Clinton Collamore, D-Waldoboro, was indicted in December on 20 felony forgery charges and 13 misdemeanors after an investigation by Maine’s campaign finance watchdog found more than 30 signatures on the forms he used to qualify for the state’s Clean Election program were not genuine.

The indictment was made public in a Tuesday memo, shedding light on the small team of just two commission staffers tasked with reviewing 30,000 small-dollar contributions every two years. Some fraud is detected and audits of the program are routinely conducted after every two-year state campaign cycle, but Collamore initially slipped through those checks.

He got more than $14,000 in campaign funds under the Clean Election system, which allows candidates to submit rounds of $5 contributions in exchange for tranches of public campaign funding. He qualified for initial payments last April and won six more by the summer.

In April, Collamore submitted roughly 130 qualifying contributions, Jonathan Wayne, the ethics commission’s executive director, wrote in an email. Although the later review found that four of those signatures were inauthentic, he said no pattern was detected as the commission’s two registrars raced to process materials from other candidates.

These staffers are under “​​tremendous time pressure” at this point, Wayne said. The deadline for candidates to qualify for initial Clean Election funding is April 20 and once a candidate submits their contributions and the forms in which contributors attest to their payments, the commission has only three business days to decide whether or not to pay the candidate.

Collamore’s pattern of allegedly fraudulent signatures was not detected until the summer, when he had submitted more of them. Evidence documents attached to the indictment show images of the forms in question, where dozens of contributors’ names are written in the same type of print that Collamore used for his own name at the top of the forms.

The lawmaker appears to have deleted his campaign Facebook page between Tuesday and Wednesday after the news came out. But he was running an aggressive social media effort to bring in contributions, telling supporters early last year their help was “very important for the clean election process.” He beat Republican Lynn Madison by roughly 300 votes.

Commission staffers were able to catch another House candidate, Republican Matthew Toth of Sanford, who submitted at least 12 false signatures with at least three of those people never contributing to his campaign. Toth was denied funding in April, withdrew from the November election and was indicted on 13 felony charges and two misdemeanors last month.

The ethics commission routinely audits campaigns that take Clean Election funds, posting the results every two years. The latest one in 2020 mostly found minor errors and led the auditor to suggest policy clarification around early-campaign mileage reimbursements and changes in how unpaid obligations are reported by campaigns.

News of Collamore’s indictment led House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, to call for his resignation on Tuesday. He has referred questions to a lawyer, Richard Elliott of Boothbay Harbor, who did not return a phone call seeking comment on Wednesday. He had not resigned his seat by Wednesday evening, though Democrats removed him from a list of members.

But he did not come to a Wednesday orientation meeting of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, which he sits on. Before work started, Rep. Scott Landry, D-Farmington, the panel’s co-chair, turned Collamore’s nameplate around while discussing the case with others.

“I don’t think he’s showing up,” Landry said.

BDN writer David Marino contributed to this report.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...