Keep Maine clean. Well, at least when it comes to political campaigns. I’m having a tough time keeping up with the litter that road slobs cast out of their vehicles onto my Route 41 woodlot. Thankfully, it won’t be as hard to clean up our political system.
And yes, I recognize that I may be a bit optimistic here, but we are offered an opportunity in November to take another important step in that direction by improving Maine’s clean elections system. And some of our most respected political leaders have endorsed the Clean Elections Initiative, including U.S. Sen. Angus King and former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.
“The political process is drowning in money,” said Mitchell. “Today there is more money in politics than ever before and at the same time declining transparency. It is the worst of both worlds. But there is something Maine citizens can do to reduce the influence of money in politics and improve the system.
“This November, I urge Mainers to vote yes on Question 1. It’s an important way for all Mainers — Democrats, Republicans, Greens and independents — to protect their voice in our democracy, increase transparency in the political process, and support a system that prioritizes voters over donors. It is possible to enact reasonable restraints on the flow of money into the political process and a yes vote on Question 1 is a step in the right direction.”
King agreed. “I am deeply worried about the future of our democracy,” he said. “Its fundamental principle has always been that the people govern. But the massive amount of money that flows into our system today only undermines that by drowning out the voices of everyday people. That’s why Question 1 on the Nov. 3 ballot is so important.
“It will pull back the curtain on secret money in elections by strengthening disclosure rules so that Mainers know who is truly trying to influence their vote, and it will increase fines and penalties for those who break our election laws. By passing Question 1, we can return control of our elections to the hands of Mainers, restore faith in our political system and protect the fundamental principle of having a government that is truly of, by and for the people.”
Simply put, Question 1 will increase transparency and disclosure by requiring special interest groups to list their top three donors on all political ads so that voters know right away who is trying to influence their vote, increase accountability by toughening penalties and fines for candidates and special interest groups that break our campaign finance laws so that politicians are accountable to the people, and encourage strict spending and contributions limits by strengthening Maine’s Clean Election system, so that candidates aren’t reliant on special interests and big money donors.
Before the U.S. Supreme Court opened the funding floodgates that now allow anonymous donors to pour huge amounts of money into political campaigns, 92 percent of Maine Senate Republicans and 82 percent of Senate Democrats ran as clean election candidates. The current Republican Party chairman, Rick Bennett, has supported Clean Elections.
“My enthusiasm for Clean Elections is rooted in my belief that all qualified Maine people should have access to run for office, and they should have the ability to run competitive campaigns,” he wrote in the Sun Journal in 2012. “The best way to ensure that Maine values prevail in Maine government is to encourage a broad cross-section of Maine people to run. For more than a decade, the citizen-initiated Clean Election Act has provided opportunity to candidates and choices for voters. It has been good for our democracy.
“The Clean Election program needs an adjustment now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the matching funds that allowed candidates to compete against well-funded opponents. It is important to provide candidates enough resources so that they can run vigorous campaigns and, up until now, the system was able to deliver that. Not every candidate needs additional funds, but it is not realistic to think that a one-size-fits-all approach will work for all races,” Bennett said.
“Keeping Clean Elections healthy is important, for we need good people to run, win and serve. And there is another thing we must do to keep Maine’s political culture in tune with the people’s values. We must reduce the influence of corporate money in state elections. … For the sake of all that we love about Maine, let us get to work to shore up the Clean Election system and get corporate money out of state elections,” concluded Bennett.
I can’t say it any better than Mitchell, King and Bennett. Vote yes for the Clean Elections referendum.