All that you paid for

Tax dollars
By AL DIAMON  |  June 29, 2011

I've got some deals for you.

For just under $5000 of your tax money, I can fix you up with Fred Wintle, a Republican state representative from Garland who is banned by court order from showing up at the State House because he allegedly threatened an innocent bystander with a gun. That five grand equals the amount Wintle received from the Maine Clean Election Fund to pay for his last campaign.

For a bit more than $54,000 in cash extracted from the public to cover the purchases of lawn signs and brochures, I can get you Larry Bliss of South Portland, a Democratic state senator who quit in the middle of this legislative session to take a job out of state. And for an extra $19,000 in cash generously supplied by the taxpayers, I can cover the cost of his replacement, Democrat Cynthia Dill of Cape Elizabeth, who'd already been paid nearly $4000 so she could buy a laptop computer to help her win her state House seat.

It'll cost you a mere $5100, in the form of a Clean Election check, to fund Emily Cain of Orono, a Democratic legislator and the House minority leader. Cain didn't really need that money, because she also operates her own political action committee, backed by over $60,000 in private donations, much of it from large corporations and prominent lobbyists.

Or you could spend $20,000 of your hard-earned dough on GOP state Senator Jonathan Courtney of Springvale, the Senate majority leader. That generous public support allowed Courtney to use the more than $26,000 he raised for his PAC to enhance his own standing with his fellow pols.

Every election year, the state shells out more than $3 million to fund legislative campaigns. It's money well spent.

If you happen to be a legislator.

Or somebody challenging a legislator. Because a lot of that cash also went to people who ran hopeless campaigns driven by nothing more than easy access to abundant funding. For instance:

• Peter Doyle was a Republican state Senate candidate in Portland, who got beaten by more than three to one, but still qualified for over $22,000 of your taxes.

• Thomas Gruber, a late (and reportedly reluctant) replacement as the Democratic House candidate in Cumberland, eased the pain of losing two to one by spending nearly $8500 worth of publicly supplied loot.

• Democrat Evan Sposato got fewer than a thousand votes in losing a House seat in Clinton, Detroit, and Pittsfield, but mitigated the damage with a $3350 gift from all of you.

Then there are the candidates who didn't face any opposition, but still needed a few bucks for their campaigns. Which is why Democratic state Representative John Martin of Eagle Lake, a former House speaker, received almost $1900 from the Clean Election spigot. Republican Robert Nutting of Oakland, the current speaker, required $4400 from the taxpayers to fend off a challenge from nobody.

When it comes to budget-busting wastes of the state's limited resources, only the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, the Maine Department of Education, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, and the Maine Turnpike Authority rival the Maine Clean Election Fund for squandering public money.

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  Topics: Talking Politics , Taxes, Stacey Fitts, elections,  More more >
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