The voters have spoken. Maine’s lawmakers must listen.

In recent years, there has been increasing debate about Maine’s landmark Clean Elections system, which allows candidates the opportunity to step up, run for office and serve their constituents without relying on donations from big-money special interests.

In 2011, the Supreme Court severely weakened it. Lawmakers have occasionally raided its funds for other uses.

And some lawmakers have even attempted to eliminate the program altogether.

They have used the excuse that the program is old. Though the voters originally approved it by referendum, that was two decades ago, and there were questions about whether Mainers supported it still.

On Nov. 3, Maine voters answered that question when they voted by a 10-point margin in support of Question 1 on the statewide ballot.


Question 1 not only reaffirms Mainers’ support of the landmark Clean Election Act by strengthening its funding, but also increases transparency and accountability in elections by toughening fines and penalties for those who break the campaign finance laws and strengthening disclosure requirements on outside groups so Mainers know who is trying to influence their vote.

On Nov. 3, the message from Maine voters was clear. There was a vigorous, thorough and public debate. The question was settled and voters got the last word.

Democrats, Republicans, Greens and independents throughout this state want strong citizen-funded campaigns. They want a political environment that puts control of elections in the hands of Maine voters and politicians who are truly accountable to the people — not wealthy special interests.

Now legislators have an opportunity to prove that they listened.

As part of Question 1, the Legislature is charged with finding $6 million in biennial funding for Maine’s Clean Election Act by eliminating one or more wasteful corporate tax breaks that do little or nothing to benefit Maine’s economy.

This won’t raise taxes on any Maine individual or family.


What it will do is force a difficult and necessary conversation about whether or not the tax expenditures on which billions of dollars are spent every year actually benefit this state and the people who live here, or whether they are wasteful giveaways that serve no true purpose to the greater good.

Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat or an independent, I think that all of us expect our taxpayer dollars to be used wisely; but when big-money special interests and lobbyists pour millions of dollars into politicians’ campaign coffers, we all know they expect something in return, and many times it is sweetheart deals or wasteful giveaways and spending that do a lot to benefit big campaign contributors but very little to benefit the interests of the hard-working people of Maine.

If lawmakers choose to ignore this important conversation or fail to agree on a couple million dollars in cuts of wasteful tax incentives after the voters have charged them to do just that, they are choosing to ignore the will of the voters, weaken our democracy, and give in to the broken political system that hundreds of thousands of Mainers voted to fix when they voted in support of Question 1 on Nov. 3.

Now is not the time to shirk from responsibility. This is the law now. It’s up to lawmakers to make sure it works the way the people expected.

On Nov. 3, Mainers from all political parties led the way on landmark campaign finance reform, fought back against the influence of wealthy special interests on elected officials and demanded a system that is open and accountable to them.

We should be so proud. It is a reflection of the commitment that Maine voters have to this state and the strength of democracy.


Now it is time for Maine lawmakers to show that same commitment.

When it comes to protecting democracy, it shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

And I am thankful to say that, in Maine on Nov. 3, the voters proved that it is not.

Jolene Lovejoy lives in Rumford where she served on the Board of Selectmen and the School Board. She serves on several nonprofit boards, the Rumford Water District and the Rumford Board of Appeals.

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