Senate GOP kills bill to ban pay-to-play contributions by lobbyists

Posted: May 24, 2017 | Senator Chenette

AUGUSTA — Senate Republicans on Wednesday killed a bill by Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, which would have ended the system of pay-to-play that allows lobbyists, corporations and special interests to exert undue influence in Maine’s political system.

The bill was rejected in an 19-16 vote on a motion to kill the bill, with every Republican in the Senate casting their vote against the measure.

The bill — LD 413, “An At to Limited the Influence of Lobbyists by Expanding the Prohibition on Accepting Political Contributions” — would have prohibited legislators and the governor, as well as candidates for those offices and constitutional officers, from accepting political contributions from lobbyists or the entities that employ them. It was sponsored by Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco.

State law currently prohibits legislators from accepting donations from lobbyists, lobbyist associate or their employers during the legislative session. Chenette’s bill would extend this prohibition to the entire year, effectively banning all lobbyist contributions.

“I am tremendously disappointed that every single Republican in the Maine Senate voted today to continue the system that allows lobbyists to write them a check one day and stump for policies that favor their special-interest bosses the next day,” said Sen. Chenette. “Mainers are tired of big money in politics. They want a government of, by and for the people — not the wealthy special interest with the largest checkbook. As long as this pay-to-play system exists, we will continue to see the erosion of public trust in government and the people who serve in it.”

Between 2014 and 2015, more than 400 companies hired 229 lobbyists and spent nearly $5 million to lobby state legislators. During his testimony, Chenette stressed the importance of undue influence of money in politics.

At the public hearing in late February, Executive Director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections (MCCE) Andrew Bossie testified in support of the measure. He said that while lobbyists often “provide useful information,” there are times that what a lobbyist seeks comes at the expense of taxpayers or “worthy programs of interest”.

Sen. Chenette said that while he was disappointed in the Senate vote, he will continue to fight for policies and bills to get money out of politics and restore the public’s trust in its elected officials.