The Political Grind: Clean money


Applications for three of the four gubernatorial candidates seeking Maine Clean Election Act funding have been approved, according to Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

Wayne said on Thursday that Republican hopeful Peter Mills and Democratic candidates Libby Mitchell and Pat McGowan had all met the necessary thresholds and had received or would soon be sent their checks.

Democrat John Richardson turned in his paperwork last, but by the April 1 deadline, and a decision would be made on his application early next week, Wayne said.

To qualify, the gubernatorial candidates had to turn in 3,250 individual contributions of $5 for the Clean Elections Fund and raise $40,000 in seed money in donations no greater than $100.

During the primary election, qualifying candidates receive checks for $400,000, with an additional $200,000 available, triggered by opponent spending. McGowan and Mitchell will have $400,000  each, but Mills will have $600,000, thanks to spending by Republican opponents.

What’s next

Congress is heading back to work next week, after a two-week spring break. It’s expected that financial regulation reform is the next major issue that will be taken up, now that the controversial health care reform law has passed. Also waiting in the wings is climate change legislation, a version of which has already been approved by the House. The Senate efforts, led by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, have yet to lead to a public legislative draft.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she hopes for a bipartisan solution to financial reform.

“(It) should not be a partisan issue and I’m concerned that the Congress still has not addressed the root causes of the financial crisis,” she said in a recent interview. “There is a lot of dispute over how far to go in pre-empting the consumer protection powers of the existing federal regulators and state regulators; that would have implications for the bureau of consumer credit protection in Augusta, for example. But surely we ought to be able to come together and agree that never again should taxpayers be held hostage by a giant financial institution that engages in risky practices.”

On climate change, Collins said she is optimistic that parts of legislation she sponsored with a Democratic colleague would get incorporated into the final product.

“(Kerry, Lieberman and Graham) have come out with principles (for their proposal) and they’ve incorporated two major provisions from our bill, but in a lesser way,” Collins said.

One provision would rebate profits from the sale of carbon credits back to low- and middle-income citizens to help off-set increases in overall energy prices; Collins’ bill calls for 75 percent of revenues to go back to the public, the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham principles call for just 60 percent.

Collins’ proposal also would limit carbon credit trading to entities participating and contributing to the market, which would prevent speculation from investment bankers.

“What I’m told by Sen. Kerry is that they will take safeguards from our bill, but I think they are going to create a big new market,” she said.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said she hasn’t taken a formal position on climate change legislation. While she encourages work to continue on such measures, she said Congress should be singularly focused on job creation.

“We really shouldn’t be looking at anything else until we can get that squared away,” she said in a recent interview. “It doesn’t mean to say those things and talks can’t be going on, but it has to be far more sensitive. People just think you can just drive these major initiatives, irrespective of what’s happening out across America. That’s a problem. We have an obligation to restore that confidence and the best way you can do that is to restore the economy and having people get jobs.”

– Rebekah Metzler