AUGUSTA (AP) – Looking to bolster public financing resources for the next round of gubernatorial election campaigning, the staff of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices is urging the panel to appeal to lawmakers for help – or, if you prefer, payback.

“The Maine Clean Election Fund will not have sufficient money to pay for the public financing of candidates in 2010 due to past legislative deappropriations,” Executive Director Jonathan Wayne told ethics panelists in a memo this week in advance of the commission’s Aug. 13 meeting.

“The staff recommends that in the 2008 session the Commission request that the Legislature make two transfers in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 totaling $5.2 million. This represents the money which was transferred from the Fund plus a large portion of the interest which the deappropriated money would have earned,” Wayne wrote.

Last month commission members, who serve in effect as overseers of Maine’s Clean Election treasury, decided to cap basic public funding payments for eligible participants in the 2008 campaign cycle at 2006 levels.

Next year’s elections covered by the Clean Election Act are only for legislative candidates, who get elected to two-year terms. Voting for the governorship, which has a four-year term, happens again in 2010.

Under Maine’s Clean Election system approved by voters in 1996, participating candidates must agree to do without most private funds and to limit spending. Nonparticipating candidates may raise and spend money without limitation. If a participating candidate is outspent by a candidate raising private funds, matching money becomes available.

Sources of money for the Maine Clean Election Fund include legislative appropriations, an income tax checkoff option and qualifying contributions submitted to the commission by candidates.

Taxpayers last year provided around $3.5 million for gubernatorial campaigns as four Blaine House candidates used Clean Election funds to finance their campaigns.

Republican Chandler Woodcock received $1.3 million, Green Independent Pat LaMarche got about $1.1 million, and independent Barbara Merrill got $915,000. Republican Sen. Peter Mills received $200,000 in public funds for the Republican primary, which was won by Woodcock.

Victorious Democratic incumbent John Baldacci ran a privately funded campaign for re-election.

“The staff believes it is prudent to presume that four candidates for governor in the 2010 general election will be publicly funded, and that two additional candidates would be publicly funded for the primary only,” Wayne wrote in his memo to the commission this week.

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