The Maine GOP spins the Clinton Collamore allegations to generate unnecessary faux outrage.
Rep. Clinton Collamore, D-Waldoboro, speaks to reporters outside the Wiscasset courthouse on Feb. 16, 2023, alongside Richard Elliott, his attorney. Collamore said he would resign after pleading not guilty to signature fraud charges. Credit: Michael Shepherd / BDN

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Newspaper editors are typically on many mailing lists and receive a lot of press releases and emails. On occasion, these mass messages contain incorrect or misleading information. Individuals and organizations, unsurprisingly, do not always include the full picture when making an announcement to the media or the general public.

A fundraising email sent last Thursday by the Maine Republican Party, from new Chair Joel Stetkis, was particularly noteworthy. Strident and incomplete political messaging is nothing new, but this one really got our attention.

The email with the subject “Dem caught cheating Maine taxpayers” discusses former Maine Rep. Clinton Collamore, a Democrat from Waldoboro who said he would resign on Feb. 16 amid allegations that he defrauded the state’s system for publicly funding political campaigns.

Callamore is accused of submitting fraudulent signatures on forms used to qualify for the Maine Clean Election program, and received more than $14,000 in taxpayer money from the program. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

We wouldn’t expect the Maine GOP to rush to an embattled Democrat’s defense. Refreshingly, not even Democratic leadership did that in this case, with House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross calling for Collamore’s resignation on Jan. 24. But apparently calls for Collamore’s resignation, which he eventually heeded, were not enough for the Maine GOP.

“Imagine the media outrage if a Republican did this,” the Maine GOP email said.

First of all, a Republican also allegedly did this — or at least something similar. Former Republican House candidate Matthew Toth of Sanford was indicted in early December on multiple charges related to false signatures. There didn’t have to be calls for him to resign because he didn’t actually get elected (he withdrew from the race), but that shouldn’t make the allegations against him evaporate like they did from the Maine GOP email.

Additionally, we don’t have to imagine what media outrage would look like, because the media has already been outraged about Collamore’s case. There was all kinds of coverage about Collamore’s alleged crimes in the Maine media. Both the Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald editorial boards called on him to resign.

The BDN editorial board called on him to resign in late January. Collamore had recently failed to show up for a committee meeting.

“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,” we wrote on Jan. 28.

“Collamore is a state representative who is providing no representation. He is a legislator in name only – enough, apparently, for him to continue to draw a legislative salary, even if he’s not serving his constituents,” the Press Herald editorial board wrote on Feb. 14. “To state the obvious, Collamore should resign immediately.”

And yet, the Maine GOP email pretended like Collamore is the only one facing these accusations and acted as if the Maine media sat this one out. Neither is true. What’s more, the Maine GOP went on to use its incomplete explanation of the situation as a pitch for people to give it money.

The Maine GOP email wrongly implied that there hasn’t been strong media backlash, ignored the fact that a Republican candidate was accused of similar misdeeds and then tried to use a non-existent high road to solicit donations. It was a real trifecta of cynicism.

We don’t expect much from press releases or fundraising emails, but everyone should expect more than this.

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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...