This afternoon, I spoke at length with a person who is close to and has spoken about this issue (the Richardson investigation) with Attorney General Janet Mills, and here is the breakdown of what has taken place.
The Ethics Commission has found that John Richardson is ineligible to receive clean election funding due to fraud in the qualifying checks. An unspecified number of the checks were in actuality fake – seemingly from people who do not actually exist.
On Thursday, the Attorney General’s office dispatched two investigators to dig into the irregularities, and identify any potential criminal activity.
What they found was that four specific indivuals (out of roughly 170 total people) who had been charged by the Richardson campaign with collecting signatures are responsible for the fraud.
The investigation did not find any evidence of illegal, criminal, or improper behavior from Richardson himself. In other words, they could not find any evidence that he orchestrated this attempted fraud, and as of right now they are operating under the presumption that these four individuals were themselves singularly responsible for the fraud.
This does seem entirely possible – when signature/check collectors are paid on a “per signature” or “per check” basis (as they basically all are), there always exists the possibility of an overzealous collector padding their totals to earn more. Given the reported difficulty Richardson was having with getting the requisite checks, there also exists the possibility that the collectors were trying to drag the campaign across the finish line by defrauding the system, in addition to padding their own collection totals.
In other words, this didn’t have to be directed by Richardson for it to happen.
At this point, I am told that Richardson still has the option to appeal the ruling that he is now ineligible, but that sources close to the committee and the Attorney General’s office believe “he should probably just drop it – he won’t get anywhere”.
So, while none of this has been directly confirmed “from the horses mouth” and is from sources with direct contact with the Attorney General, I am more than confident in the sources of this information to run with it at this time.
If true (which I am certain it is), this appears to be the effective end of the John Richardson for Governor campaign. Expect some kind of announcement soon that the campaign is over.
And while I have your attention…
I recently heard tale of a sneering political reporter from one of Maine’s largest daily newspapers complaining about blogs, and how “blogs never break news, they are worthless”. Putting aside the roughly ten or so rather significant stories that I have personally broken in the last year or so (not to mention the stories broken from other quality blogs like Maine Politics and Augusta Insider), I just want to point out that none of the traditional media are really chasing down this story.
Well, I have been for the last two days, and broke my previous Richardson story on my blackberry while playing golf with my three year old son here in Washington, DC.
So, this one is for you, Mr. smug political reporter who complains about the death of “real news sources” while allowing yourself to be scooped by a volunteer reporter/commentator who is 700 miles away from this story.