Good Morning. This is state Senator John Patrick of Rumford.
Today marks the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission. This decision gives corporations, associations, and labor unions the same free speech right as individual citizens. And consequently, grants corporations carte blanche spending on political campaigns. The consequences of the Citizens United ruling has been profoundly negative on elections across our country. Essentially, the voice of the people has been drowned out by the voice of multi-billion dollar corporations.
And, Mainers know what this means. It means that these corporate sponsors who fund high priced political campaigns buy a seat at the table and call the shots once their candidate is in office. It’s no wonder in our own state, with our own governor, that he is calling for less government oversight and accountability, and more tax giveaways for the rich—that’s what his big money funders are demanding.
Studies show—heck, talk to your neighbor—people are fed up with corporate greed and influence.
Our leaders need to protect Maine from big out of state corporate interests coming in and inserting their big monied agenda in to our political landscape.
For more than a decade, Maine has led the nation as a model for how to keep money out of politics. Back in1996, the citizens of Maine initiated campaign finance reform—and since then, the Maine Clean Elections Act has led campaign finance standards in Maine. It has truly been a bedrock for legislative and gubernatorial races by candidates of all political affiliations in Maine for fifteen years.
Incumbents and challengers alike, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, have all chosen to run as clean elections candidates. And, as a result of its resounding success, Maine Clean Elections, has mitigated many of the corrosive side-effects that come with big money and politics. However, the level playing field may be in jeopardy.
Last June, Maine Clean Elections took a major hit when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a provision of Arizona’s Clean Election law that allows candidates to receive additional “matching funds”. As a result of the Arizona case, Maine no longer allows “matching funds” to a clean elections candidate if he or she is politically outspent or attacked by a privately financed candidate.
If nothing is done to protect Maine’s Clean Elections then a well-connected, well-financed candidate would know just how much money to raise if he wanted to overpower and silence his clean elections challenger. Such a system would actually deter candidates from using Clean Elections and would instead, promote privately financed, higher priced campaigns.
Maine’s clean election system is vital to keeping special interest out of Maine politics.
It is key to allowing access to government and political office to regular Maine people—otherwise, political office might be reserved for only those who can afford it.
As the ranking Democrat on the Veterans and Legal Affairs committee, I can tell you that my Democratic colleagues and I are fighting every day to keep Clean Elections strong in Maine and make sure that we have a chance to lead once again. In the upcoming weeks, the legislature will have an opportunity to keep Maine clean elections alive by providing options and alternatives to the “matching funds” provision.
This issue is not a republican or democratic issue—it’s an issue of great importance to Maine people. It’s an issue that keeps special interest and out-of-state money out of our political system and it’s an issue that encourages transparency and honest dialogue during campaigns. It is imperative that we work together toward a solution that keeps Maine’s elections clean and free from big money influence.
This is State Senator John Patrick. Thank you for listening and have a great weekend. God bless.