Maine voters backed Clean Elections, but will legislators listen?

At a State House press conference yesterday, advocates for Maine’s Clean Elections system of public campaign financing urged lawmakers to respect the will of the voters as demonstrated in last November’s referendum election and fully implement and fund a strengthening of the state’s Clean Election Act.

“The voters have spoken. By a wide margin Democrats, Republicans, Greens and independents said loud and clear that they want a strong Clean Elections system, transparency and government accountability,” said Andrew Bossie, the Executive Director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections. “Now it’s time for Maine’s elected leaders to listen and act by fully implementing and funding Clean Elections as the voters intended.”

Yesterday also marked the sixth anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision, which opened the floodgates for big money in politics.

Despite the clear referendum result, there are still opportunities for legislators opposed to Clean Elections to weaken the system, especially given a part of the law which mandates legislators review and close inneffective corporate tax loopholes in order to fully fund the program.

According to Maine People’s Alliance political director Ben Chin, the funding is most likely secure, because the new law is clearly written and because there’s a projected General Fund surplus for the year, but legislators could still attempt to avoid closing the required corporate tax loopholes or find other ways to throw a wrench in the works.

“The critical point here is we don’t want any games to be played by conservative legislators on appropriations or elsewhere, blocking corporate tax loopholes from being closed and using that as a pretext to deny the clean elections fund the money that it needs to function the way the voters want it to function this year,” said Chin on a recent episode of the Beacon Podcast.

Advocates pointed to candidate filings as evidence that the strengthened public campaign financing system is already working.

“Already, Maine is seeing an increased number of candidates running in 2016 using Clean Elections,” said Ann Luther, a board member of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections. “According to recent filings, more than 60 percent of declared House candidates and 80 percent of declared Senate candidates are choosing to run using our strengthened Clean Elections system and free themselves to represent the people they are running to serve – not wealthy special interests, corporations and lobbyists.”

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