John Brautigam’s and Ron Fein’s April 7 Sun Journal article, urging Maine to “ban political spending by foreign-influenced corporations,” is disappointing. These men know better; in their adult lives each has worked for free speech and fair elections. Free and open speech is both constitutionally protected, and the cornerstone of a free society.

Their distaste for Central Maine Power’s New England Clean Energy Connect project seems to have clouded their judgment; they assert “… foreign entities shouldn’t be able to influence our elections. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Russian military intelligence [or] a Canadian energy conglomerate ….”

But it does matter. One is engaged in illegal hacking and disseminating fears and untruths aimed at influencing who is elected president. The other is engaged in a legal business, providing an essential service, in an open and highly regulated market. Seeing these settings as identical is simply irrational.

All constitutionally-protected rights (including free speech) have some limitations; one may not cry “fire” in a crowded theater. But Brautigam and Fein both know that limitations (including limitations on foreign speech rights) are to be narrowly construed. These limitations are the exception, not the rule. Justice Kavanaugh, whom they reference to support their proposition, in fact does not support their view.

Kavanaugh’s opinion in Bluman v. FEC (sustained by the Supreme Court) holds that extant foreign speech limitations only bar expenditures in support of candidates for elected office. They do not bar expenditures for ballot initiatives. Maine law should reflect this approach.

Orlando Delogu, Portland

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