John Richardson Officially Withdraws From Race

Told ya so.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Today, John Richardson held a news conference to announce his withdrawal from the Maine gubernatorial contest.  He also sent out his official campaign announcement to his supporters today, which essentially threw the offending collectors of clean election checks under the bus, while highlighting the work done by the rest of the campaign.

Pine Tree Politics is predominantly a political news commentary and analysis site.  I neither claim to be a pure journalist, nor do I want to be one.  My business is telling the story of Maine politics, adding what I fully admit to be rumor, buzz on the ground, and my interpretation of what is happening to provide a more full story of what is actually happening.

You will regularly find commentary, unsourced background, personal and anecdotal knowledge, straight out opinion and a digested analysis of events and what they mean from my personal perspective.

But, from time to time, you will also find hard news here.  It isn’t what I maintain this site to do, but when I am in a position to break something or report on a story that I am not seeing reported on, I will do so.  When I do so, I take it seriously.

I did not run with any of this Richardson information earlier based on a whim.  It wasn’t rumor, it wasn’t supposition, it wasn’t assumption – these were hard, real facts (which I made clear in the articles themselves).  I had no less than five separate sources for the information I reported – from Richardson being officially denied clean election funding by the Ethics Commission, to his desire to leave the race and avoid implications of fraud, to the details of who perpetrated the fraud (and how), to the eventual news that he was going to withdraw from the race this morning.

I was correct on all counts.  The only thing that was slighly off on was the Attorney General’s office beginning an official investigation – something that Janet Mills has denied to the Bangor Daily News.  Of course, she did admit that her office had been “helping” the Ethics Commission, and two investigators from the AG’s office were sent to “assist” and “look into” the facts of the case, and it is blatently obvious that her office is poking around this case – so that is nothing more than semantics at this point, and I stand by that report.

The point is that for all the complaints about the journalistic integrity of blogs, I had many many more (five) than the traditional reporting industry standard of two sources (and as somebody who has extensive experience dealing with traditional national media, I can tell you that many outlets run with only one source these days), and given that extensive sourcing and my reports being correct, I think it is pretty clear that we are capable of breaking news in a responsible manner with vetted sources and journalistic integrity.

Do many blogs print rumor as fact?  Do several have the ethics of the National Enquirer?  Do they often times not even bother sourcing anything, printing what they think is happening?

Yes, they do.  A lot.  And that is typically reflected in how seriously people take them.

But that doesn’t mean all blogs operate that way, and given what I have seen of the painstaking vetting of information from Mike Tipping at MainePolitics.net (with a decidedly progressive slant, compared to my decidedly libertarian/conservative slant) and the folks at Augusta Insider, the prominent blogs in Maine treat their subject matter very seriously, and do not abuse their status to rumormonger or paint inaccurate pictures based on flimsy information.

They (Tipping and AI) have both broken many stories themselves, and it is well past time that the capability to make and define legitimate news is recognized in the blogging community.

Traditional journalism and quality citizen journalism that is found in blogs do not have to be at odds – they can responsibly compliment and supplement each other in ways that I don’t think either has totally figured out just yet.  Being dismissive of either is a major mistake.

It (reporting) isn’t what I typically like to do – I much prefer political analysis – but when I do it, I take it seriously.

Since I’ve been right all weekend and this morning, I trust I’ve proven my point.

But if I haven’t, here is Richardson’s (very long) statement, wrapping this all up very nicely:

Dear Matthew,

Five and a half months ago, when I announced my candidacy for governor, I explained what I would do – how my experience and jobs plan would improve Maine’s economy.  That message brought a broad and diverse group together and I am humbled by all the support that I received.

I had the great fortune of working with hundreds of dedicated volunteers on this campaign.  Many of them had never participated in the political process before.  Our volunteers came from every part of Maine and all walks of life.  They were small business owners, working families, first responders, and seniors – and they all believed that our plan to create jobs would give our children and grandchildren the same opportunities that we have had.

I ran as a Clean Elections candidate when I served in the House of Representatives.  I believe in what the Clean Elections system represents – that Maine people should have the power to decide who their leaders will be – not special interests or those with personal wealth.  That is why I decided to run for governor as a Clean Elections candidate.

We collected the $40,000 in seed money from Maine voters and turned in more than 3,500 $5 contributions.  That should have been sufficient for us to qualify for public financing.

Late last week the Ethics Commission’s staff sent me their decision on our application.   The seed money contributions were found to be in order; however, they determined that we did not submit the sufficient number of $5 qualifying contributions.

This is, obviously, a tremendous disappointment.  Even more troubling is that the commission staff identified instances where three circulators did not follow the proper process for collecting contributions.   Because of those violations, the commission rejected all of the $5 qualifying contributions collected by these three circulators that could not be verified independently.

Every one of our circulators was given specific instructions from me or campaign staff as to how to collect contributions.  And everyone was told – and expected – to follow the letter of the law at all times.   When we discovered irregularities associated with two of the three circulators that the commission staff identified, we reported that information immediately to the Ethics Commission staff.

Evidently, these circulators cut corners on the forms they submitted.  Although I did not know that these short-cuts were being used when the forms were submitted, I am accountable and I accept the responsibility for those mistakes as the candidate.

I have given a great deal of thought over the past several days as to how we should proceed.  We are 80 contributions short.  We could appeal the staff decision, go back and get signed affidavits and restore some of the contributions that are in doubt.  Even though I believe we would exceed the minimum requirement, I do not believe that is the right thing to do.

The primary is just six weeks from tomorrow.  An appeal to the Ethics Commission and the time involved to further investigate the questionable forms – even if we were to prevail – wouldn’t leave any time for us to address the real issues in this race.  And that would not be a good use of public funds.

Another option would be to run a traditional campaign, but I never really gave that idea too much thought.  I have always believed in the Clean Elections process and this decision, while very painful, does not, and will not alter my faith in Clean Elections and my conviction about how important it is to our state.

For those reasons, I have decided, that for the good of the people of Maine and for the good of the democratic party, I am withdrawing from the race for governor.

This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.  Anyone who knows me knows I am not a quitter.  I am deeply disappointed by the commission’s decision, but I respect the process and I appreciate the fairness that our campaign has been shown by the staff.

I want to thank the other four democratic candidates for governor.  I have enjoyed my time on the campaign trail with them.  They are all great leaders in their own right and, regardless of the outcome in June, we will have an excellent standard bearer to help our party keep the Blaine house this November.

I want to thank everyone who made a seed contribution or $5 contribution to the campaign, all my friends, supporters, my campaign manager, and staff.  You all put so much of your time and energy into this campaign.  I am so humbled by your dedication and I will never forget that.  I want to thank all of the organizations that gave me with their endorsement.  And I especially want to thank my children, my parents and my wife, Stephanie, who has been, and continues to be, my best advisor and my best friend.

It’s often said that if you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost.   I know that’s not going to make any of us feel any better today, least of all me.  I know all of you are disappointed, as I am, about this outcome.   But I do know that my decision today is the right thing for our party and the right thing for the people of Maine.  That was always my motivation for entering the governor’s race and it will continue to be my motivation for public service.

Thanks again for your support!

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, a Hampden native, is a Republican political operative. He serves as the Director of Digital Strategy for the Republican Governors Association, and has previously worked for Senator Susan Collins and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.