For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - The United States District Court for the District of Maine today ruled that the matching funds portion of Maine's Clean Elections Act violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The order, signed by U.S. District Judge George Singal, represents a major victory for the plaintiffs, including Rep. Andre Cushing, assistant leader of the House Republicans.'
The ruling did not come as a surprise. Last month, the U.S, Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that the matching funds provision within Arizona's Clean Elections Act was unconstitutional. The high court held that Arizona's "matching funds scheme substantially burdens protected political speech without serving a compelling state interest and therefore violates the First Amendment."
"This is a victory for citizens of Maine," said Rep. Cushing (R-Hampden). "It clearly states that there is an impact on the electoral process when we inject taxpayer money into campaigns. The traditional method of having to earn peoples support, both their vote and financial support, is a cornerstone of good elections. The matching funds provision was particularly challenging, as it pours more money into the system toward the end of the campaign, thus wasting taxpayer funds.
"We asserted in our case that Maine's matching funds provision is a violation of free speech rights protected by the First Amendment," he added. "The decision today makes it clear that the automatic distribution of taxpayer dollars to a publicly funded candidate when the traditional candidate raises money beyond a certain threshold is no longer permissible."
Today's District Court ruling in Cushing v. McKee does not affect public funding of campaigns. Most elected legislators have used Clean Elections funds, and 24 percent of their spending has come from matching funds. The Clean Elections formula gives escalating cash aid to publicly funded candidates to counter the money being spent against them by privately financed opponents and independent groups.
Joining Rep. Cushing in bringing the lawsuit last year was former state representative Harold Clough, of Scarborough. ###
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445