Thursday, September 24, 2009

Maine: Portland camapign disclosures rematerialize

Earlier this year I broke the story that Maine municipalities had been systematically destroying the campaign finance disclosures for local candidates on the faulty advice of state officials. As a result, state legislators quickly changed the relevant law to ensure these records are retained -- and that the relationship between city officials and developers, unions, activists, and lobbyists can be again be traced over time. (The whole story can be read here.)

Unfortunately, many records were destroyed. In Maine's largest city -- Portland -- the city clerk's office reported they had destroyed all disclosures -- electronic or physical -- prior to 2006.

Or had they?

The city has quietly posted a gigantic PDF of the 2005 disclosures of city council candidates -- documents previously reported destroyed in response to a open records law request. The rediscovered records restore public access to the campaign donors of longtime councilor Cheryl Leeman (who ran uncontested in 2008), recently-elected councilor John Coyne (who ran for school board in 2005), and former mayors Ed Suslovic and Jim Cohen (who now sits on the Portland Charter Commission.) (Maine State Pier watchers: a preliminary review suggests no long-term relationship between Ocean Properties and any of these individuals.) I've added links to this PDF to my Ad Hoc Portland, Maine Campaign Disclosure Page, currently the most complete source for this class of documents.

So how were the 2005 disclosures misplaced and is there any chance others will resurface? City Clerk Linda Cohen (a champion, incidentally, of the legislation that fixed the original problem) said they had been previously overlooked in a drawer, but that no older ones have survived. "That's it," she said. "We don't have any older ones than that."

If you have access to reports prior to 2004 and would like to share them with the public, feel free to contact me.

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