As has been reported widely last week, John Richardson is in hot water over his clean election funding. The problem focuses on the irregularities with the qualifying checks used by Richardson to qualify for the several hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state to use for his campaign for Governor. It has been described to me as a trifecta of problems: bad checks, bad names and bad volunteers.
Given the rumors I was hearing prior to the deadline to submit the checks that Richardson was having a very difficult time dragging himself across the finish line, this isn’t surprising, and has the potential to blow up into a massive scandal. It has all the elements – potential fraud/thuggery (which, from Richardson, hardly shocks me), illegally obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money (a better argument against gubernatorial candidates getting clean funding, I’ve not seen), a potential cover up, and of course, a political angle which makes the entire thing even more juicy.
Now, at this point we are still very thin on facts and Richardson hasn’t been disqualified, charged with anything, or indeed been accused of anything illegal, so we can only speculate – and when it comes to accusations of impropriety like this, we shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves.
But the buzz is indeed building, and I am receiving reports from multiple sources that John Richardson is looking for a way out of the race, and potentially save himself from a heap of trouble.
The most recent intelligence on the ground says that Richardson had a meeting with his supporters on Wednesday night to get feedback on, and discuss the possibility of his getting out of the race. The consensus amongst his people was that he should stay in and fight if he was not guilty of anything improper, but that if he did something wrong, he should get out of the race.
I also have heard that as of yesterday, Richardson was telling close advisers of his that he wants out of the race. The buzz around Augusta is that he is going to call an end to his campaign, and is simply looking for his best exit strategy.
Another Democratic campaign I spoke to believes that Richardson is attempting to cut a deal with Attorney General Janet Mills that would allow him to avoid any charges of fraud if he were to walk away from the gubernatorial race. While that is just a rumor and completely unsubstantiated, I sincerely hope Mills doesn’t engage with such a quid-pro-quo. If Richardson is indeed guilty (and based on what I’ve heard about this, I believe he is), he needs to have the book thrown at him.
We are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds being funneled to a gubernatorial candidate in an race where four clean elections candidates are running and sapping millions from the state during a nightmare economy and horrific budget situation. That fraud would be employed to obtain those taxpayer funds is grotesque, and if fraud did indeed exist, I sincerely hope they go after him hard.
Pine Tree Politics will continue to follow these developments as they unfold.
MAJOR UPDATE:. I have just received reliable word that Richardson has been officially denied clean election funding by the ethics committee and that the Attorney General’s office has been contacted, and that this matter has been moved from “review” to “official investigation”.
I also have gotten the distinct impression that AG Mills is very unlikely to engage in any deal making. I personally doubt it as well.