Maine citizens will have a chance this coming November to vote on an amendment aimed at restoring the state’s Clean Elections law, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2011 decision invalidating a similar Arizona law’s matching funds provision.
Anna Kellar, Southern Maine field organizer for Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, discussed the amendment and plans for promoting it at a March 16 meeting in Newcastle of the Lincoln County Democrats.
Kellar explained that instead of an opponent’s campaign spending being the trigger, as it was under the original law, for the Clean Elections Fund to supplement a candidate’s campaign funds, under the amended version supplements could come in response to additional supporters of the candidate making $5 minimum contributions to the Fund in the candidate’s name, beyond the qualifying contributions from original supporters.
Another significant feature of the amended version, Kellar said, would be a requirement that outside groups list their top donors on political ads.
The Clean Elections law amendment will be the major item on the November ballot, she said, and MCCE and supporting organizations, such as the League of Women Voters, the Maine Small Business Council, the American Civil Liberties Union, Maine Initiatives, the Sierra Club, Common Cause, the Maine People’s Alliance, and Ben & Jerry’s, will be calling on backers to join in the effort to alert voters and win their support.
The need for revitalizing the Clean Elections law, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, is demonstrated, Kellar said, by the fact that in the 2008 and 2010 elections in Maine 80 percent of candidates participated in the Clean Elections program, but the percentage dropped in 2014 to 50 percent.
MCCE gathered over 85,000 signatures, many of them during the 2014 elections, to get the initiative on the 2015 ballot. The County Democrats at the Newcastle meeting voted a show of support for the initiative.