AUGUSTA – A group hoping to reform Maine’s campaign finance laws with a statewide ballot question this November rallied at the State House on Tuesday with about 200 supporters in tow.

The ballot question requires more disclosures for political advertising and steep increases in the fines for campaigns and candidates that violate Maine election laws.

“I don’t think anyone will be shocked when I say that politics in Maine and across the country today are extremely divisive and partisan,” Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, said. “Yet here we are, Republicans, Democrats, Greens and independents united together in support of an initiative that will elevate the voice of everyday Mainers in our political system, shine a light on big spending in our elections and strengthen our Democracy. The time for campaign finance reform is now and that’s why Question 1 on this November’s ballot is so important.”

The

coalition includes more than 30 Maine organizations representing thousands of voters. The group is committed to limiting the influence of big money in politics and increasing transparency and accountability in Maine elections. Its ballot measure will be Question 1 in November.

“We are pipe fitters and teachers, small business owners and environmentalists, Democrats, Republicans and independents. Mainers from all walks of life and all geographic regions are here today because we want a government that works for – and is accountable to – everyday voters and not one bought and paid for by wealthy special interests,” Andy Bossie, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections executive director, said.

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Maine Citizens for Clean Elections organized the citizen-led effort that collected 80,000 signatures to place Question 1 on the ballot.

In summary Question 1:

* Increases transparency and disclosure by requiring special interest groups to list their top three donors on all political ads so that voters know right away who is paying for them.

* Increases accountability by toughening penalties and fines for candidates and special interest groups that break our campaign finance laws.

“Right now, Maine’s penalties are so small they are merely a cost of doing business. This referendum increases penalties and fines to up to 100 percent of what the wrongdoer illegally spent on the election,” a release from the coalition said.

* Limits the influence of big money and special interests in our political system by restoring Maine’s Clean Election Act so candidates in Maine can run for office without having to depend on contributions from ultrawealthy donors.

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“This will ensure that politicians are accountable to the people and not just to big spenders,” the release said.

Marilyn Canavan, a former state lawmaker from Waterville and the former executive director of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, said increasing fines and penalties for those who break Maine’s election laws was a key and important element of the ballot measure. 

“The largest fine that Maine has ever levied against a violator of our campaign finance laws was just 2.5 percent of what the violator spent illegally,”Canavan said. “That’s a better rate than my mortgage and it’s certainly not a deterrent from breaking the law. This referendum will allow the state to fine campaign finance violators up to 100 percent of what they spend illegally. It will send a clear message to out-of-state groups and special interests trying to skirt Maine campaign finance laws and buy our elections.”

Suzanne Kelly, a small business owner from Bangor, urged Mainers to work together to pass Question 1.

“Small businesses. Everyday citizens. It is imperative that we work together to ensure that this initiative is passed,” Kelly said. “Let’s get the referee back on the court and tighten up the rules so that all Mainers can get into the game. No elbows, shoves, or big money allowed. What we want is transparency, accountability, and democracy. A government that is truly of, by, and for Maine people.” 


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