Sen. Chenette proposes ban on lobbyist contributions

Posted: January 19, 2017 | Senator Chenette, Veterans and Legal Affairs

AUGUSTA — Maine lawmakers would no longer be allowed to accept campaign contributions from lobbyists under a bill unveiled Thursday by Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco.

Thursday marked the 7th anniversary of Citizens United, which opened the floodgates for private cash contributions into the political process. Sen. Chenette, who has run publicly financed campaigns in the House and Senate,  unveiled his proposal during a press conference hosted by Maine Citizens for Clean Elections to highlight the need to get money out of politics.

“Lobbyists don’t give politicians money out of the charitable goodness of their hearts, or because they are friends. They do it because they believe it will buy them access and, perhaps, a vote,” Sen. Chenette said. “Whether these contributions cause lawmakers to vote in the lobbyists’ favor or not, their very existence creates a cloud of uncertainty around the legislative process. They create an appearance of corruption that undermines our democratic institutions regardless of whether any votes were really ‘bought.’”

Currently, lawmakers are allowed to accept political contributions from lobbyists before and after the legislative session. Sen. Chenette’s bill, “An Act To Limit the Influence of Lobbyists By Expanding the Prohibition on Accepting Political Contributions,” would expand the prohibition to last all year long.

“While ultimately overturning the Supreme Court ruling, Citizens United, is the long-term objective, we can make incremental reforms to our campaign finance system to weed out the perception of corruption and fundamentally restore a sense of trust and credibility back into the institution of government,” Sen. Chenette said.

Sen. Chenette’s bill would build on the success of his previous efforts to reform campaign finance, including a successful effort last year that created a new law to ban Clean Elections candidates from operating political action committees.