Charlie Webster: “It’s not dignified” to investigate Farnham on campaign finance

Maine Republican Party Chair Charlie Webster

In 2011, Charlie Webster was known for calling for investigations of students and others who, he said, shouldn’t be voting.

He said Democrats bus in voters and “cheat.”

Webster asked his former legislative seat mate, Secretary of State Charlie Summers, to investigate students who paid out-of-state tuition but voted in the state. The U.S. Supreme Court has said students have the right to vote where they go to school, but Webster wanted an investigation anyway.

(Summers found no wrongdoing, although he did send dunning letters to some students, along with forms to have them unenroll as voters, if their cars were not registered in Maine. This is not a requirement to vote in Maine.)

When featured in a Doonsbury comic on efforts to limit voting, Webster said he didn’t know anything about it and reported, “I don’t even read the newspapers.”

Now Webster thinks people shouldn’t rush into investigations.

Senator Nichi Farnham is facing questions because her name is listed as an officer of a Republican organization that will be spending tens of thousands of dollars on her behalf. That $73,000 ad buy is quite a large amount for a Maine state senate race.

The problem is that, because she is a Clean Elections candidate, Farnham cannot be involved with groups that are spending money for her candidacy. As Mike Tipping wrote, “This could easily be one of the most significant violations of Maine campaign finance law ever seen.”

So, what does Webster say?

Let’s be honest, Nichi Farnham is a class person.

She’s not involved in any of the decision making. It’s just unfortunate that [Democrats] would do that. It’s not dignified. She’s not someone who would do anything that wasn’t above board, and it’s just unfortunate that this is what politics comes down to sometimes. I mean the Democrats know she wouldn’t have been involved in this, and it’s unfortunate that they would make such a claim.

I know Nichi Farnham myself and think she’s a lovely person. However, I don’t know how much she knew about this campaign finance situation – and neither do people asking questions.

At the same time, it is striking to see that, according to Mr. Webster, “it’s not dignified” to check into this, but presumably it was dignified and appropriate to launch the investigations he spearheaded.

And, at the same time Webster decries Democrats looking at publicly available documents on campaign finance, Maine Republicans have criticized a Democratic candidates for her World of Warcraft hobby.

So now some Republicans, who were critical of Webster’s handling of the Republican caucuses and state convention, including him calling Ron Paul supporters “wing nuts,” see this turn by Republicans as problematic for their political chances.

“Libertarian Republican” Chris Dixon says:

The Maine Republican Party hasn’t been one for welcoming young individuals this year, notably doing everything in it’s power to shut out Ron Paul supporters, or “wing nuts”, in Chairman Charlie Webster’s words. The Paul Republicans have been dominantly young individuals who joined politics and the GOP enthusiastically, but have been turned away after a series of events. The lack of leadership of Webster and his overall abrasiveness has been hurting the big tent appeal.

Now Charlie Webster has another issue on his hands. The man who helped disrupt and delay the State Convention was given a role as Communications Director, and has adopted a style of pulling the trigger before properly loading the ammunition. Sorensen hits the wrong targets and especially now, will give negative publicity to his party.

Maybe it’s time for Maine Republicans to take a deep breath and, without calling people good or bad names, or going after people’s recreational pursuits, just focus.

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.