Republicans reject election disclosure law, put nail in coffin for clean elections
March 19, 2012
AUGUSTA – Republicans in the Maine House today voted against a measure that would increase transparency in political advertising in Maine elections, while also dealing a final blow to the publically-mandated Clean Elections system in a separate vote.
“Today, Republicans put the final nail in the coffin for the clean elections system and refused to increase transparency in campaign advertising,” said Rep. Mike Carey, D-Lewiston, who serves on the Veterans and Legal Affairs committee, the policy committee focused on election issues.
Carey added, “In a one-two punch, special interests again won out over Maine people.”
The Maine Legislature took a final vote today, after hours of debate last week, on a measure that would do nothing to keep the Maine Clean Elections law viable in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The court struck down part of the law that allowed candidates to receive “matching funds” to respond to campaign spending against them.
The Republican vote today did nothing to replace Maine’s “matching funds” provision, making the publically mandated-system less viable for candidates with more competitive races who may require more funds to fend off attacks from special interests.
“It’s a sad day when politicians absolutely refuse to listen to the people,” said Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland. “Last year, 60 percent of the people rejected Republican election-rigging and now the Republicans are at it again.”
The Clean Elections vote, which broke largely around party-lines, was followed by a separate debate on a bill, LD 1262, that would increase transparency in disclosure laws by increasing fines for those who break the law.
“Right now, special interests can come to Maine, disregard our disclosure laws, and simply pay a small fine as part of the cost of doing business,” said Carey. “A fine should be more than a slap on the wrist; it should be a deterrent.”
Carey said the bill would also mandate candidates for state level office to include a standard disclosure statement already required in federal campaign advertising saying for example, “I’m Rep. Mike Carey and I approve this message.”
“We are only asking state level candidates to do the same as federal officials,” said Carey.
During the 2010 election, the Republican State Legislative Committee violated Maine election disclosure laws when it spent $400,000 on a negative advertising. The group was ultimately assessed the largest fine in Maine history, $26,000, for failing to disclose its spending within the reporting period.
The fine was small change for the group, which according to disclosure documents with the Federal Election Commission, had a war chest of about $70 million last year.
Jodi Quintero [Carey,Russell] 287-1488, c. 841-6279