Dems allege Kaplan violated ethics rules

ELLSWORTH — The House Democratic Campaign Committee filed a complaint with the Maine Ethics Commission on Oct. 27 alleging campaign finance violations by candidate Michelle Kaplan. Kaplan, a Republican from Ellsworth, is challenging Democratic incumbent Nicole Grohoski in the race to represent District 132 in the Maine House.

Kaplan denies any wrongdoing and said she made an error when filling out a campaign finance form. She said she is working to correct the mistake.

“I think this is a case where the accounting was well-intentioned reporting but not in conformance,” said Maine Ethics Commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne. “Many candidates come up with their own conception of how our forms work.”

The complaint filed by the House Democratic Campaign Committee states that Kaplan reported no financial activity on July 6 “despite numerous campaign expenditures” and, on Sept. 30, reported a receipt for $10,000 with no record of contributions for the amount. The complaint also cites three late filings of required campaign finance reports. The filing dates cited ranged from one to 10 days after the deadline.

Kaplan’s “lack of timely and accurate filing, and disregard of the campaign reporting and public disclosure laws, have created an advantage for her” over her opponent “and a disservice to the public,” the complaint states.

In an email to The American, Kaplan said she had apparently entered personal contributions on the wrong line and was in touch with the commission.

“I am working closely with them to amend the report,” she said.

The $10,000 receipt was “what she thought she might potentially spend,” Wayne said, noting Kaplan was self-funding her campaign. “However, to the best of my knowledge, she hasn’t spent nearly that amount.”

For the no-activity report for a period when social media ads ran, Wayne said “there was a rationale” based on the lag time between when the ads ran and when Kaplan was billed and paid for them.

And late filing of finance reports is not uncommon, Wayne said. When that occurs, an “automatic penalty process” kicks in, usually for an amount low in the hundreds of dollars.

With only a few days before the Nov. 3 election, Kaplan had a challenging week. In addition to the campaign finance complaint, a photo she posted of herself attending Donald Trump’s Oct. 25 appearance in Levant, showing her and other state Republicans without face coverings, elicited strong responses across social media and complaints to her employer, Mount Desert Island Hospital.  

On Tuesday at a virtual Town Hall Series, without naming any individual personnel, MDI Hospital President and CEO Arthur Blank said that hospital staff are to abide by CDC guidelines at all times and said that there could be consequences to employees who are believed to violate state or local protocols.

“First, the employee has to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Second, the employee is to take mandatory COVID health and safety classes and third, depending on the extent of the transgression, the employee may be disciplined,” said Blank.

When contacted on Tuesday by MDI blogger Lincoln Millstein with the Quietside Journal, Kaplan said she would quarantine for 14 days.

Anne Berleant

Anne Berleant

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Anne Berleant covers news and features in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking local trails, reading or watching professional tennis. Email her at [email protected]

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