June 8, 2011
AUGUSTA – House Democrats today fought against a measure that would significantly increase the amount of money political groups and individuals could give to gubernatorial candidates. Republicans passed the bill, LD 856, by a partisan vote of 77 to 70.
“This bill will increase the power and influence of the wealthiest individuals and groups,” said Rep. Mike Carey of Lewiston, who serves as the lead House Democrat on the policy committee that oversees election issues. “It is the wrong direction for Maine.”
The measure will increases the amount individuals, committees, corporations, and associations can contribute, up from $750 to $1,500 to a gubernatorial candidate.
Democrats argued the measure will undermine the voter-backed Clean Elections system that encourages candidates to seek lower dollar amounts of money from more individuals.
“This is a sneak attack on Clean Elections,” said Carey. “Republicans couldn’t muster the votes to kill it quickly, so they voted to starve it instead.”
Democrats also insisted the bill had been changed significantly by Senate Republicans without a proper public hearing.
This original bill amended the laws governing campaign contribution limits by setting a maximum contribution to a much lower ceiling of $350 for a legislative candidate and $750 for any other candidate.
“Republicans have now developed a pattern of ‘repeal and replace’ on bills they know will have strong public backlash,” said Rep. Diane Russell of Portland. “It’s not right and it completely circumvents the democratic process.”
Carey added that the sponsor of the bill, Senator Seth Goodall, no longer supports the bill as amended.
The Maine Clean Election Act (MCEA) established a voluntary program of full public financing of political campaigns for candidates running for governor, state senator, and state representative. Maine voters overwhelmingly passed the MCEA as a citizen initiative in 1996.
“Maine people told us they wanted big money special interests out of our elections, and this bill ignores that message,” said Rep. Linda Valentino of Saco. “We should reform our Clean Elections system, but this bill takes the wrong approach.”
The bill faces more votes in the House and Senate.
Jodi Quintero [Carey, Russell], 287-1488, c. 841-6279