Hearing held on bill to prevent corruption of Maine clean elections law

Rep. Valentino introduces legislation to prevent Clean Elections candidates from raising private money for PACs

By Ramona du Houx- March 28th, 2011 ·

State Rep. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, presented legislation Monday to limit the influence special interest money would have on legislative leadership races. The bill will prohibit a candidate who accepts money from the Clean Elections system for his or her personal campaign from raising private dollars for Political Action Committees (PAC) to support his or her election to lead their party in the legislature.

“The PACs – used by Democrats and Republicans alike – are not in the spirit of the clean elections law,” said Rep. Valentino, who testified before the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. “They are a back door entry for special interests and undermine the law that so many Mainers support.”

Maine voters passed the Maine Clean Election Act law as a citizen initiative in 1996. The law established a voluntary program of full public financing of political campaigns for candidates running for Governor, State Senator, and State Representative. After a candidate begins to receive Clean Elections funds from the State, he or she cannot accept private contributions to their personal campaigns. The current law permits candidates to set up PACs to support other campaigns.

During the public hearing, Rep. Valentino presented data from the state’s Ethics Commission web site showing that 34 candidates who had PACs during the 2008 election and the 2010 election received over $700,000 in Clean Election funds, while also soliciting $1,667,000 in money from private donors.

Valentino’s bill will also require greater clarity and transparency for the leadership PACs. During her testimony, she told the committee that “this shuffling of PAC money from one PAC to another makes it difficult to obtain transparency.”

Six people testified in support of the bill and no one testified against it.

Members of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee heard the bill and eight other proposals to change or limit the Maine Clean Election Act law. The committee will hold a work session and vote on the bill in the coming weeks.