Rally To Strengthen Maine Clean Elections Comes To State House 

As Governor LePage proposes to gut the Maine Clean Elections program, more than 50 people rallied at the State House to not only save it, but strengthen what they say is the only way to combat large amounts of anonymous dollars dictating Maine’s elections.”We are Maine people that stand up for Maine values,” said Maine Citizens for Clean Elections Executive Director Andrew Bossie. “Whether we’re Republican, Democrat, Green or Independent, Maine people have a shared interest in a government that is transparent, accountable, effective and truly representative. We are Mainers first.”The Maine Clean Elections Act was passed as a citizens initiative in 1996. It allotted roughly $2-million to publicly finance candidates who run for the House, Senate or Governor. Each candidate choosing to run clean must collect a certain number of $5 contributions in order to qualify.Candidates must collect a minimum of:* 60 qualifying contributions for House candidates* 175 qualifying contributions for Senate candidates* 3,250 qualifying contributions for Gubernatorial candidatesCandidates are encouraged to collect more than the minimum number of qualifying contributions in case some contributors are not registered to vote in the district or the state.Clean election candidates can also accept a small amount of private contributions or “seed money.”Seed money contributions must be collected only from individualsand cannot exceed $100 per contributor or a total of $500 for House candidates, $1,500 for Senate candidates, and $200,000 for candidates for gubernatorial candidates.After a candidate begins to receive MCEA funds from the State, he or she cannot accept private contributions, and almost all goods and services received must be paid for with MCEA funds.Once a candidate qualifies they get the public funds.House candidates in an uncontested race receive $486 for the primary and $1,299 for the general election.House candidates in a contested race get $1,429 for the primary and $3,937 for the general election.Senate candidates in an uncontested race receive $1,831 for the primary and $5,981 for the general election.Senate candidates in a contested race get $7,359 for the primary and $18,124 for the general election.Those running for governor using the clean elections program get $400,000 for the primary and an additional $600,000 for the general election.The Maine Clean Election Act has cost taxpayers more than $20 million since its inception.Governor Lepage has proposed taking a $4-million bite out of the program as part of his biennial budget, saying the state’s money “should go to Maine’s most vulnerable citizens, not the most vulnerable politicians.”Those at the rally have thrown their support behind three bills that would strengthen the clean elections program by allowing candidates to accept more in contributions by doubling the current seed money cap for participating Senate and House candidates, an upgrade deemed necessary despite the fact that 70% of the current legislature won their races using clean elections.”If you’re a newcomer, first time candidate, it does not provide the funding needed to get the name recognition to run against a long-term incumbent,” said Republican Senator Edward Youngblood of Brewer.Another measure would force more transparency among campaign contributors, allowing Mainers to see who’s paying for the ads that flood their televisions and radios.Lewiston Democrat Mike Carey says last year, more than $300 million in shadow money was spent nationally on campaigns that was not appropriately reported..”That secret campaign money is bad for democracy and we have to change it,” Carey said at Monday’s rally.The third proposal is a resolution put forth by Senator Dick Woodbury, an Independent from Cumberland, calling on the United States Congress to reverse the Citizens United Ruling.In the ruling, the Supreme Court said political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections. While corporations or unions may not give money directly to campaigns, they may seek to persuade the voting public through other means, including ads, especially where these ads were not broadcast.Public hearings on the bills are scheduled next Monday.