(It is worth noting that LL Bean goes to great lengths to distance itself from Linda Bean,
and that LL Bean probably employs more gays than the NGLTF. -Paula)
CUMBERLAND- Linda Bean Folkers, an LL Bean heiress and prominent Foreside conservative, says her former friend, the founder of an anti-gay political action committee, should "be honest" about Concerned Maine Families finances.
Founded by Carolyn Cosby of Portland, Concerned Maine Families is the organization hoping to persuade Maine voters to exclude homosexuals from protection under Maine's human rights statutes in a referendum this fall. In a telephone interview with The Forecaster this week from her summer residence in Tenants Harbor and a subsequently faxed letter to the state Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, Folkers detailed her disavowal of Cosby's assertions to the state's political watchdog panel that Folkers has been a major contributor to Cosby's organization. "Carolyn has been caught up in [a] continuing series of misjudgments and untruths in this matter," Folkers wrote to the ethics commission.
Forecaster's efforts to reach Cosby by telephone tills week were unsuccessful. According to records Concerned Maine Families has recently provided to the watchdog panel, the PAC received two contributions of $250 each from Folkers last August 4. (On the same date, the anti-gay group also listed a $25 payment for membership dues from Folkers' husband, Donald, plus $75 more from him as a campaign contribution.)
And on March 31, according to a recent Concerned Maine Families campaign finance report, the PAC received an additional $3,500 contribution from Folkers, described in the report as "Paid Attorney Bruce Fein's consulting fees and advanced $500 toward future expenses."
The reference was to a Virginia lawyer the anti-gay PAC hired to research the statutory and constitutional strengths of the state law proposed by Concerned Maine Families' referendum. Last week, responding to Folkers' complaint that her contributions never topped $250, the ethics commission questioned Cosby about her challenged receipt of an additional $3,750 from Folkers. The panel told her it would not insist on a full review of Concerned Maine Families' finances if Cosby provides a letter from Folkers detailing her financial relationship to the anti-gay PAC.
This week, Folkers said Cosby has not asked her for such a letter. But Folkers told The Forecaster that although "the ethics commission never asked me" about the disputed contribution, "I never paid it, and I would be happy to give the commission an affidavit to that effect."
In her subsequently faxed letter, Folkers flatly told the ethics commission Wednesday that "I did not pay Mr. Fein's bill, either directly or through another organization. The best evidence of this is that Mr. Fein's then-outstanding bill of $3,000 remains unpaid even today to the best of my present knowledge."
Folkers, a frequent contributor to ultraconservative causes and organizations, is a former Republican congressional candidate who serves on the national boards of the Christian Coalition and the Eagle Forum. She tried but failed to get both organizations to help finance Concerned Maine Families' anti-gay referendum - and that was the extent, Folkers said, of her support for Cosby's campaign.
Folkers said the Virginia lawyer provided the Eagle Forum with a copy of the research he had been hired by Concerned Maine Families to undertake, and submitted separate bills for the work to both organizations. The Eagle Forum paid; Concerned Maine Families has not.
Correspondence Cosby provided to the ethics Commission last week includes the bill Fein submitted to Concerned Maine Families, a total of $3,500 for research work. His undated invoice notes two $250 partial payments in 1993 and 1994. A separate invoice, dated last August, also billed the St. Louis-based Eagle Forum Education and Defense Fund for another $3,500.
And in a letter to Cosby last April, Fein wrote that the Eagle Forum had paid his bill soon after he had submitted it, "without any hint that the EFEDF either supported, opposed, was neutral or held any other posture towards the Maine [referendum] initiative."
Cosby told the ethics committee she had assumed that the money the Eagle Forum had paid to Fein was to cover his bill to Concerned Maine Families - an assumption buttressed by a letter she had received from Folkers.
In part, Folkers' December 1994 letter said that "You had incurred debt with your Virginia attorney and I was able to secure outside funding to pay him."
But this week, Folkers explained to The Forecaster after discussing the matter with Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly that "Fein sent two bills. One he submitted to CMF, and one he submitted to Eagle Forum which was paid.
"The Eagle Forum purchased his research to examine it, and then decided not to support the referendum. If the Ethics Committee looks at CMF records, they would show no payments ever received from the Eagle Forum.
"And even if Eagle Forum had decided to pay CMF's legal bill, Carolyn should not have attributed the payment to me."
Folkers recalled that in conversations with Cosby last year, "She said she was having trouble paying her legal bill," so "I contacted Phyllis Shlafly. She said she'd consider it. She looked at it and decided not to send a check to CMF - and neither did I. The Eagle Forum never received a bill from CMF or the attorney [for his CMF work], and never paid it. ... He billed Carolyn as a separate matter."
Folkers also disavowed Cosby's claim that she had previously made a $500 contribution to the anti-gay referendum campaign.
"I only gave $250, last July," Folkers said. But in reading a newspaper's political column she learned that she had supposedly made a $500 contribution, and accordingly, "I wrote to the ethics commission to say that's untrue also; I sent a photocopy of my $250 check."
Folkers did indeed send her old friend another $250 check, she told The Forecaster - "but that was not to CMF. It was a personal gift for things like nylons and makeup. Later, she asked me to say I gave CMF the full $500, but I said no."
In her faxed letter to the ethics commission, Folkers said that "Mrs. Cosby solicited me to get behind her referendum in a much bigger way. She advanced her belief that it had the potential of rising all the way through the courts to be ruled on by the U. S. Supreme Court ... She estimated she needed to raise over a half-million dollars."
(The undisputed contributions of $350 from Folkers and her husband still make them comparatively major supporters in comparison to others in the area. According to Concerned Maine Families' campaign finance reports this year, Falmouth contributors include Ruth L. Spaulding, $100, Janice J. Stultz, $100, Howard Reich Jr., $100, and Edgar R.C. Ward, $100. Yarmouth contributors include a Lt. Harbeck, $115; John B. Nelson, $25, Jean G. Knight, $150, and Robert H. Whitney, $65.)
Folkers and Cosby, both long active in ultra-conservative circles, have known each other - and at times worked in political causes together - since 1988, Folkers said, and they used to be friends. But now, she said, "I would say we have an estranged relationship over this."
Folkers' letter to the ethics commission says "Mrs. Cosby has estranged herself from me by falsely alleging that I made large and current donation to CMF and not being able to correct it forthrightly and accurately, compounding it by asking me to confirm a $500 donation in the summer of 1994 when I only made a $250 donation.
"I have asked only that her disclosure report be corrected, but Carolyn has been caught up in [a] continuing series of misjudgments and untruths in this matter and does not seem to be able to say, simply, that she made reporting mistakes and referse (sic) them with clarity and move on."
"Carolyn needs to be honest with the ethics commission," Folkers told The Forecaster, "and let them look at her books, to clear the air on this. What is she afraid of?"