Public trust in the American election system is at an all-time low. A majority of Americans say that they lack confidence in the honesty of U.S. elections, and that is particularly true in Maine. After the 2020 election, it is no surprise our confidence is even lower.

Last year, millions of dollars from shadowy political groups poured into Maine’s Senate election, funding television advertisements and online microtargeting with a level of vitriol we haven’t seen in years. Mainers have long been stalwart in our political independence, and did not take kindly to this outside engagement attempting to influence our election. Ensuring that Maine’s independent-minded electorate remain the true participants in our election is critical to the future of our democracy. And thus, our Senate delegation must make key campaign finance reforms a priority.

Undisclosed political spending from shadowy groups in Washington and elsewhere does not benefit anyone in Maine, nor does it properly represent our needs and interests. Dark money spending threatens to further erode voters’ faith in democracy, regardless of the party with which they identify. In Maine, we have historically valued people’s opinions, but we also demand accountability and are repulsed by opinions hidden by a shield of anonymity.  We want to know who is saying what, because credibility is critical in a democratic process. Dark money purposely hides the motive of comment so that the light of public inspection or analysis is impossible. The end result is the erosion of democracy.

Our U.S. senators have felt the effects of dark money firsthand. Now they have the opportunity to fight back and blaze a trail on these critical issues at the federal level. The For the People Act is a legislative package that includes critical campaign finance and election reforms and is currently moving through Congress, with a focus on robust dark money and anti-corruption reforms that have the potential to dramatically improve our democratic processes.

Beyond ensuring that political groups be required to disclose their donors and enhancing the transparency of online political ad spending, the reforms would also target foreign money in our election process. Under the For the People Act, political campaigns and political action committees would be required to disclose any offers of illicit campaign assistance from foreign governments.

Regardless of who you voted for in 2020, or 2016, or your political background in general, the For the People Act is legislation that every voter – and policymaker – should be able to get behind. It is not often that we have the opportunity to improve our democratic processes, and we should jump at the chance. Addressing dark money is not a partisan issue. It affects Democratic, independent and Republican voters and politicians alike.

The 2020 Senate race in Maine was our most expensive in history by far. And outside spending topped a shocking $110 million. Without federal action, there is no doubt that our state’s candidates will see millions of dollars spent against them in future campaign cycles, from out of state and from the dark. The For the People Act will not just protect the integrity of our future campaigns, but it will protect the voices of Maine’s constituents for generations to come.

Campaign finance reform is overdue, and I hope our senators make an effort to seriously consider the political and sensible value of the reforms included in the For the People Act.

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