Lawmakers Consider Changes to Maine’s Clean Election Law
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Lawmakers in Maine are considering legislation to allow candidates seeking county level offices to receive taxpayer funds under the Maine Clean Election Act.
The landmark 1996 law was the first in the nation to create a voluntary program of full public financing for gubernatorial, state senate and state representative campaigns.
Anna Keller, executive director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, said the bill is needed as outside spending on county level candidates is increasing, especially for sheriff races.
"It's especially important that people can trust that those officials are not biased and are not going to be partial to donors," Keller asserted.
The bill has drawn both bipartisan support and criticism with some lawmakers saying the tax dollars would be unevenly distributed to counties. Keller argued while the bill is not a perfect solution it helps to better ensure elections are determined by voters and not donors.
While some lawmakers are hoping to expand Maine's Clean Election Act, others are working to amend it by repealing a ban on corporate contributions. Critics of the ban say it does not go far enough and money can still flow to political parties and their political action committees. Keller recommended rather than repeal the ban, lawmakers should work to strengthen it.
"It's really upsetting to see after years of Maine being a leader on campaign finance reform that we might actually move backwards this session," Keller stated.
Corporate donations were the largest source of spending in Maine's 2020 election cycle, including some from foreign-owned companies. Federal law and 22 other states prohibit corporate contributions to candidates.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.
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