Ethics Commission Botches Maine GOP Financial Reports

In my previous Undercover Porcupine article “Why Is Indebted Maine GOP Paying Their Own Chairman For Consulting?“, I discussed details of Maine Ethics Commission’s financial reports on the Maine Republican Party. These details were widely scrutinized by liberals and even this libertarian blogger, for the point that the party was in the red.

It was apparently incorrect.

So what good is government transparency if the government can’t even get it right?

Christopher Cousins of BDN wrote an article detailing this issue. In “We’ve got more cash than expenditures’ — Maine GOP says ethics panel’s website falsely creates impression of debt“, the inaccuracies of the reporting by the Ethics Commission are discussed.

Maine Republican Party treasurer Benjamin Lombard clarified the party is not in the red and said they are actively working to resolve the matter. Maine Ethics Commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne added that because of the new reporting system, some online numbers are incorrect.

This is unfortunate for a number of reasons.

First, an entity, in this case the Maine Republican Party, takes unwarranted criticism for financial records. The initial report showed the party was $190,000 in debt and the amended report cut that by $50,000. According to Lombard and other party officials, that is incorrect and they indeed actually have cash on hand.

Second, it raises questions regarding the accuracy of government transparency. How can the Ethics Commission be trusted to offer transparent and accurate information with these errors?

In the end, the blame for the backlash over the financial record doesn’t belong with the critics, such as myself. We were going off the numbers on the website. The Ethics Commission inaccurately reported figures.

Lombard told Cousins that the Federal filings are more accurate. These filings paint a significantly different picture, showing the Maine Republican Party has cash on-hand amounting to $53,076.

The backlash here was unwarranted, because of an Ethics Commission mistake. More government failures in a political climate growing increasingly distrusting of government itself. While the concept of the Ethics Commission is transparency, this could be counted as another case of good idea gone bad.

It may become fixed, it may not. We will see with time. But when we are in an election year with high tensions as the political parties going to war, any added tension is just going to be fuel on the fire. It’s best not to provide fuel with false information.

To be fair, if the roles were reversed, the conservative warriors of Twitter would likely be striking at the Maine Democratic Party, and rightly so. Poor party operations is an issue, because these are the people competing to run our lives. It wouldn’t be the fault of these conservative twitter soldiers that information turned out false in the end.

Hopefully the Ethics Commission can fix the issue at hand and ensure this doesn’t happen again. If there’s one thing every side can agree on, Maine politics already has more than enough tension.