Measure would correct drafting error that has put voter-approved system in jeopardy
By Ramona du Houx
House Republicans again voted against a needed fix to a drafting error that has put Maine’s voter-approved clean elections system in jeopardy.
The vote was 68-47, largely along party lines, fell short of the two-thirds necessary for enactment.
“It’s sad that House Republicans believe the only way they can win the election is by playing dirty, DC-style politics and blocking Maine citizens’ Clean Elections contributions from being released,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, who is also running for Congress in the US House of Representatives in the 2nd District. “It’s clear they believe gutting the Clean Elections system will give them a fundraising advantage so they can be free to raise money from corporations and the special interests that fund their campaigns. Fortunately for the people of Maine, as has been proven time and time again, money isn’t everything in politics.”
The fix was offered as an amendment to LD 1912 by Rep. Louie Luchini, D-Ellsworth, House chair of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. As amended, the bill would fix the drafting error, as well as prohibit campaign fundraising, including collecting Clean Elections Fund contributions, at polling places.
Last year’s budget agreement, LD 390, included funding for the Maine Clean Election Fund and received near-unanimous support on enactment. Despite the appropriation, a drafting error in the measure inadvertently prevents the Maine Ethics Commission from dispersing clean elections funds to qualifying candidates after July 1.
Candidates who run under the Clean Elections Act must demonstrate community support by collecting five-dollar donations to the Maine Clean Elections Fund. After candidates begin to receive clean elections funding, they cannot accept private contributions. More than 45,000 individuals have made qualifying contributions to Clean Elections candidates this election cycle with the expectation that the law would be followed as the Legislature intended.
Regardless of the outcome of efforts to fix the drafting error, the state has an obligation and a duty to not only political candidates, but to citizens, to ensure this program is administered effectively.
The Maine Clean Election Act was created by a citizen-led effort in 1996 to curb the influence of special interests in state government. The law was strengthened by a second citizen initiative in 2015.
Lawmakers will return to the State House in the coming days to address clean elections funding as well as pending proposals on transportation bond funding, tax conformity and other outstanding issues.