AUGUSTA — The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to eliminate public matching funds for Clean Election Act candidates who get outspent by privately funded opponents.

The 74-64 vote fell along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. Lawmakers took up the issue in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated matching-funds provisions in states’ public campaign financing laws.

Democrats wanted to preserve some way for publicly funded candidates to compete with private funding and special-interest donors. They said the House vote effectively guts the Clean Election system approved by Maine voters in 1996.

The Senate also has voted to strike the matching-funds provision.

One proposed alternative would have allowed candidates to receive additional public money if they could collect a certain number of $5 contributions from supporters.

“The Republicans are closing the door on the Clean Election system that was mandated by the voters to limit the influence of special interests,” said Rep. Mike Carey, D-Lewiston.

Republicans, meanwhile, argued that the state no longer can afford to pay for campaigns.

The program is available to all legislative and gubernatorial candidates.

“I am quite certain that the intention of Maine voters was not to help politicians pay for campaign signs and negative TV and radio ads,” said House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland.

“That’s especially true during these tight financial times, when the state is struggling to pay its bills,” Nutting said.

John Richardson — 620-7016

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