In order to qualify for public funds under the Maine Clean Election Act, a candidate must demonstrate a threshold amount of community support by collecting a minimum number of checks or money orders of $5 or more made payable to the Maine Clean Election Fund. For legislative candidates, the contributions must be made by registered voters in the candidate's district, and for candidates for governor the contributions must be made by individuals registered to vote in Maine.
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Required Amounts for Certification
Candidates must collect a minimum number of valid qualifying contributions to be eligible for the Maine Clean Election Act program:
- 60 qualifying contributions for House candidates
- 175 qualifying contributions for Senate candidates
- 3,200 qualifying contributions for Gubernatorial candidates
Candidates for the Legislature must submit their qualifying contributions and the accompanying receipt & acknowledgement forms to the Commission by 5:00 p.m. on April 21st, 2020. Candidates are encouraged to collect more than the minimum number of qualifying contributions in case some cannot be counted as valid.
Unenrolled candidates (candidates who do not belong to a qualified political party in Maine) have the same qualification deadline as party candidates. There are special qualifying periods and deadlines for replacement candidates.
Optional Supplemental Payments for the General Election
General election candidates (in contested races only) may request up to eight supplemental payments of MCEA funds by continuing to collect qualifying contributions and submitting them to the Commission by 5:00 p.m. on October 13, 2020.
- For every 15 valid qualifying contributions collected by a House candidate, the Commission will make a supplemental payment of $1,325.
- For every 45 valid qualifying contributions collected by a Senate candidate, the Commission will make a supplemental payment of $5,300.
Qualifying Contribution Collection Periods
Candidates participating in the Maine Clean Election Act program must sign and file a Declaration of Intent with the Commission. Qualifying contributions collected more than 5 business days before the Declaration of Intent has been filed will not be counted toward the eligibility requirements.
The qualifying contributions must also be collected during the applicable period:
- Legislative Candidates: from January 1, 2020 - October 13, 2020
Receipt and Acknowledgment Form
The individuals making the qualifying contributions must either sign a paper receipt and acknowledgment form or contribute online. The campaign must enter each contributor into the online QC portal so that the contributor can be matched against the Central Voter Registration database to verify that they are registered to vote in the candidate's district (for legislative candidates) or in the state (for gubernatorial candidates). The qualifying contributions website will attempt to automatically verify the voter registration status of contributors. Those successfully verified online need no further action from the candidates. If the system cannot verify the contributor's registration, the candidate must have it verified by the town or city clerk.
Family members, domestic partners, and live-in caregivers who live in the same household may make qualifying contributions in the form of a single check, provided that each individual signs the receipt and acknowledgment form, is registered to vote at the address of the household, and makes the contribution with their own personal funds.
Qualifying contributions must be made with the personal funds of the registered voter. If the checking account is in the name of a business, the Commission staff will not count the check toward the eligibility requirement unless the individual's name is printed on the check or the candidate submits a written statement from the contributor indicating that the business account is used for personal purposes.
Candidates or supporters may purchase money orders to facilitate their collection of qualifying contributions. The individuals making the contributions must give $5 in cash to the campaign, and must sign the money order and the receipt and acknowledgment form.
Supporting Maine Clean Election Act Candidates
Before the Ethics Commission certifies a candidate as eligible to receive Maine Clean Election Act funds, the candidate may collect limited private contributions (seed money contributions). Individuals may give up to $100 in seed money contributions to the candidate. In addition, registered voters may assist the candidate in obtaining public financing by making a qualifying contribution of $5 or more made payable to the Maine Clean Election Fund.
After the candidate has been certified as a Maine Clean Election Act candidate, no cash or in-kind contributions may be given to the candidate. Certain goods and services are excluded from the definition of contribution, and may be provided to the campaign without compensation.
For example, supporters may spend up to $250 per election in organizing a house party, and may use their offices, telephones, computers, and similar equipment to support a candidate when the use does not result in additional cost. Party committees may provide certain services to the candidate, such as providing advice, or mailing a slate card, sample ballot or other printed listing of three or more candidates.