Maine State Capitol Photo by Ramona du HouxBy Ramona du HouxAbout 200 Mainers gathered at the State House today to rally in support of Question 1 on November’s ballot. Question 1 will ensure politicians are accountable to the people of Maine and not to wealthy special interests.
“I don’t think anyone will be shocked when I say that politics in Maine and across the countrytoday are extremely divisive and partisan,” said Republican State Senator Roger Katz, who spoke at the event. “Yet here we are, Republicans, Democrats, Greens and independents united together in support of an initiative that will elevate the voice of everyday Mainers in our political system, shine a light on big spending in our elections and strengthen our Democracy. The time for campaign finance reform is now and that’s why Question 1 on this November’s ballot is so important.”
A broad, grassroots coalition made up of tens of thousands of Mainers and more than 30 organizations committed to both limiting the influence of big money in politics and increasing transparency and accountability in Maine elections has formed the Mainers for Accountable Elections coalition. The coalition will lead this year’s efforts in support of Question 1.
“We are pipefitters and teachers, small business owners and environmentalists, Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Mainers from all walks of life and all geographic regions are here today because we want a government that works for – and is accountable to – everyday voters and not one bought and paid for by wealthy special interests,” said Maine Citizens for Clean Elections (MCCE) Executive Director Andy Bossie.
MCCE organized the citizen-led effort that collected 80,000 signatures to place Question 1 on the ballot this November.
Question 1 will:
Increase transparency and disclosure by requiring special interest groups to list their top three donors on all political ads so that voters know right away who is paying for them.
Increase accountability by toughening penalties and fines for candidates and special interest groups that break our campaign finance laws. Right now, Maine’s penalties are so small they are merely a cost of doing business. This referendum increases penalties and fines to up to 100% of what the wrongdoer illegally spent on the election.
Limit the influence of big money and special interests in our political system by restoring Maine’s Clean Elections Act so candidates in Maine can run for office without having to depend on contributions from ultra-wealthy donors. This will ensure that politicians are accountable to the people and not just to big spenders.
One of the speakers at the rally was Marilyn Canavan of Waterville. Canavan is a former lawmaker and the former executive director of the Maine Commission of Government Ethics and Election Practices. She spoke to the importance of this referendum, particularly when it comes to increasing fines and penalties for those who break Maine’s election laws.
“The largest fine that Maine has ever levied against a violator of our campaign finance laws was just 2.5 percent of what the violator spent illegally. That’s a better rate than my mortgage and it’s certainly not a deterrent from breaking the law,” Canavan said. “This referendum will allow the state to fine campaign finance violators up to 100 percent of what they spend illegally. It will send a clear message to out-of-state groups and special interests trying to skirt Maine campaign finance laws and buy our elections.”
Suzanne Kelly, a small business owner from Bangor, spoke at the rally. She urged Mainers to work together to pass Question 1 so that Mainers have a voice in our political process.
“Small businesses. Everyday citizens. It is imperative that we work together to ensure that this initiative is passed. Let's get the referee back on the court and tighten up the rules so that all Mainers can get into the game. No elbows, shoves, or big money allowed. What we want is transparency, accountability, and democracy. A government that is truly of, by, and for Maine people,” said Kelly.
Complete list of organizations that have signed up in support for Question 1:
American Civil Liberties Union of Maine
Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church
Brennan Center for Justice
Democracy for America
End Citizens United
Environmental Health Strategy Center
Food & Water Watch
Free Speech for People
League of Women Voters
Maine Center for Economic Policy
Maine Citizens for Clean Elections Action
Maine Conservation Alliance
Maine Conservation Voters
Maine Council of Churches
Maine Education Association
Maine Equal Justice Partners
Maine People’s Alliance
Maine Small Business Coalition
Maine State Building and Construction Trades
Maine Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Network
Maine Women’s Lobby
NAACP – Maine Chapter
Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine
People for the American way
Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 716
Sierra Club of Maine