Excuse me if I get a little anxious when I hear that the Biden transition team is considering Maine Sen. Angus King for  director of national intelligence.

Not that there’s anything wrong with King – he would be great for the job. He’s served on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he’s been sounding the alarm about cyberwarfare as a national security threat since he got to Washington.

He’s a great communicator who would take the public part of the job a lot more seriously than its current occupant does. We could do much worse.

But if King were to make the move, think about what happens here in Maine.

First, Gov. Mills would appoint a replacement senator, who would serve until the next general election in 2022.

The winner of that election would serve until King’s term expires in 2024, when there would be another election.


Then Maine could get ready for the race that comes with the end of Sen. Susan Collins’ current term in 2026.

I’m all for democracy, but I don’t know if we can take all these elections if they are anything like the last one.

Events fly by in 2020, but try to remember what was going on three weeks ago. As you may recall, partisan control of the Senate was at stake and Collins’ seat was seen as a likely pickup for Democrats. The TV ad war started a full year before Election Day, and by the end of October the campaigns and allied groups had raised $208 million, spent mostly on negative advertising.

It was the most expensive race in Maine history, but don’t expect that record to last long. Ever since the Supreme Court issued the 2010 Citizens United ruling that allowed unlimited corporate spending on electioneering, every election has been the most expensive.

Senate races are the biggest attractions because the stakes are so high. Democrats and Republicans both want control of the body, and the out party is never more than a few seats away from a majority.

Maine was the beneficiary of all that attention. Regardless of how you feel about the outcome, I don’t think anybody who lives here got much out of it.


Most of the money was raised from out-of-state sources, and was paid out to out-of-state companies for services.

A lot of it went to advertising, mostly on TV. That benefits the employees of local TV stations, who are friends and neighbors that contribute to their communities, but the profits go to station owners, which are corporations based elsewhere.

In the end, it doesn’t seem to have had much impact on the result. Collins got almost exactly the same number of votes this month that she got six years earlier, 414,970 to 412,211, a difference of less than 1 percent (although overall turnout was much higher this year). All the ads did was stir up ill will.

Imagine if that $208 million had been spent in Maine on something that we could use – expanding rural broadband, say, or on research and development grants? It could have been creating good jobs and building communities instead of just making us hate each other.

People in Maine have a story to tell the nation. We’ve seen what too much looks like, and it’s not pretty. We need to speak out for the kind of reforms that would give us back control of our elections.

A good place to start is the package passed by the House in 2019, known as HR1.


The bill does not overturn Citizens United – that would take a constitutional amendment – but it would require political groups to identify large donors and would ban foreign money from coming into American elections. It would also put some teeth in the enforcement of campaign finance violations and require the same kind of disclosure of online ads that is now required for the ones on TV.

And it would create a public financing system in which small contributions would be matched. You need this if you want to have a system where challengers can take on incumbents without having to outraise them with corporate money.

This is not a partisan issue: Conservative groups were the first to jump on the Citizens United opportunities, but liberal organizations have more than caught up, and they spent more than their opponents in this election, not just in Maine but nationally as well.

There should be a bipartisan consensus that all of this spending, and the constant fundraising it requires of senators and representatives, is not good for democracy.

So, Washington, take Angus King if you have to, but please give us some reform in return.

Don’t make us go through three more elections like the last one.

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