AUGUSTA (AP) – A request for an additional $4.7 million in public financing for legislative and gubernatorial candidates is raising eyebrows in Gov. John Baldacci’s office and among some lawmakers concerned about a pending budget gap.

The Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices is seeking the additional money to partially restore $6.7 million that lawmakers took from the Clean Election Fund in recent years to help balance the state budget.

The agency, which provides the public money to candidates, estimates that the fund will need almost $10.3 million in the 2006 election cycle, but will have only $5.6 million.

The commission is asking for $4.7 million by Nov. 1, 2005, a commission memo says, “to assure gubernatorial and legislative candidates in the 2006 elections that there will be adequate funding” for the Clean Election Act.

Baldacci’s spokesman and some lawmakers in both major parties said it will be hard to come up with that much money when state government faces a projected shortfall of more than $730 million in the two-year cycle that starts next July.

Lee Umphrey, Baldacci’s spokesman, said “it’s going to be a challenge” to find $4.7 million for the Clean Election Fund and hinted that any additional funding may fall short of that mark.

“I think virtually every nook and cranny of the state budget will be under scrutiny” to keep state government in the black, said Democratic Rep. Glenn Cummings of Portland, who will be House majority leader in the next Legislature.

Republican Rep. Peter Mills of Cornville, who will move to the Senate Dec. 1, said an extra $4.7 million for the Clean Election Fund is “a staggering amount.”

The commission believes it will need $4.9 million for publicly financed legislative races in 2006, $4.6 million for gubernatorial candidates, and about $692,000 for administrative and personnel costs.

The Legislature began taking money from the Clean Election Fund in 2002, with the understanding that “the money would be returned when needed,” the commission says in the memo.

The call for additional funding comes at a time when questions are being raised about possible deficiencies in the Clean Election Act.

Reformers have suggested that the Legislature make it harder for candidates to get public financing, prohibit publicly financed candidates from raising money privately for political action committees, or cap contributions to PACs.


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