Clinton Collamore is innocent until proven guilty. But his constituents also deserve active and effective representation.
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

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Far too often in politics, a party will close ranks around an embattled member regardless of how glaring their transgression or alleged transgression may be. Look no further than Republican U.S. Rep. George Santos of New York hanging on in Congress, despite having lied about pretty much everything.

Thankfully, Maine House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross is not following this shameful trend of making excuses and looking the other way. On the contrary, Talbot Ross has shown leadership by calling for the resignation of a member of her own party.

Rep. Clinton Collamore, a Democrat from Waldoboro, has been accused of submitting as many as 30 fraudulent signatures on forms used to qualify for the Maine Clean Election program. He was indicted in mid-December on 33 counts, which include 20 felony charges of aggravated forgery.

Under the Maine Clean Election Act, Maine House candidates who receive at least 60 checks of $5 from registered Maine voters in their district can qualify for public campaign funds. Maine Ethics Commission staff explained in a recent memo how they came to believe that Collamore was actually the one who signed some contributor forms.  

“The staff re-examined the forms and identified more than 30 contributors whose signatures did not seem genuine. Our opinion was that the candidate had signed for the contributors,” Ethics Commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne wrote in the Jan. 23 memo. “We attempted to interview some of them. Four contributors reviewed the forms Mr. Collamore had submitted to our office and confirmed that they did not sign the forms.”

Collamore is not alone in facing allegations of false clean election signatures. Republican Matthew Toth of Sanford also has been indicted on multiple charges related to false signatures. But Toth’s House candidacy was unsuccessful. So of these two recently accused individuals, Collamore is the only one serving — at least nominally — in the Legislature. He shouldn’t be for very long.

“In light of these allegations, the Speaker of the House is requesting Rep. Collamore’s immediate resignation,” Mary Erin Casale, a spokesperson for Talbot Ross’ office, said in a recent statement. “As this is an ongoing legal matter, there will be no further comment.”

Notably, Collamore did not attend a Wednesday orientation meeting for the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, despite being a member of that committee.

“I don’t think he’s showing up,” committee co-chair and fellow Democrat Scott Landry said.

As of midday Friday, the Maine House clerk had not received a resignation from Collamore. The Waldoboro lawmaker had told a Maine TV station earlier in the week that he would be consulting with this lawyer about next steps, and has referred multiple news outlets, including the Bangor Daily News, to that attorney.

While we wait to hear more from Collamore or his lawyer, we have advice for him. Collamore should resign, and give his district a chance to elect someone who will be present in representing them, and not shrouded in a scandal of alleged forgery involving publicly financed campaign funds.

Collamore is innocent until proven guilty, and he has a right to defend himself in court. But his constituents also deserve active and effective representation in Augusta.

Of course, no two cases or sets of allegations are the same. We should all be careful about false equivalencies. But we also need to be careful about allowing powerful people to escape consequences. Across the country, it is time to draw the line — as Talbot Ross has done — to make clear basic standards for elected officials. And when someone falls short of those standards, there should be consequences.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...