Weekly Radio Address: Carey says Clean Elections system faces threat
Good morning, I’m State Representative Mike Carey from Lewiston.
Thank you for tuning in.
If you think special interests and big corporations should have less influence on elections in Maine, you’ll want to hear this. Earlier this week, Maine’s Clean Election system came under fire in Augusta.
The state’s Clean Elections program was passed by the voters over a decade ago to ensure that regular Maine people would have a chance to serve their neighbors. Thanks to Clean Elections, the Legislature is populated with farmers and teachers, millworkers and loggers, and retirees and small business people —- Not just professional politicians.
You don’t need to have personal wealth or special interest connections to serve the people in Maine. You need to work hard, knock on doors, and earn your neighbor’s vote.
Republicans, Democrats, and Independents have done just that. In fact eight out of ten current lawmakers – regardless of party — used the fund to run their campaigns.
But now this system is being threatened. Despite the fact that Clean Elections was mandated by the voters AND maintains strong bipartisan support, some lawmakers in Augusta are getting ready to pull the rug out from the program. Some want to eliminate the program entirely.
Lawmakers must revise the system due to a Supreme Court ruling that struck down part of the law that allowed publicly financed candidates to collect additional funds if others spent money against them.
The court has ruled. Now, to keep Clean Elections viable Maine lawmakers must act. If we don’t, fewer candidates will be able to compete effectively using Clean Elections.
And, fewer Clean Elections candidates means that outside special interests will have more influence in our politics.
This week a panel of state lawmakers met to discuss how to fix the Clean Elections system. Democratic state lawmakers backed a non-partisan plan from the Maine Ethics Commission to preserve the program that keeps special interests out of our elections. On the other hand, Republicans turned away from making the adjustments necessary to keep our system viable and clean.
The Ethics Commission plan would give qualified candidates a base amount and provide an option for them to gain more money to be competitive. The Ethics Commission puts the responsibility on the candidate to earn more funds by working harder to collect checks that in turn go back into supporting the Clean Elections fund.
Most importantly, the plan adds no additional costs to the state budget.
In contrast, Republicans on the panel offered a plan that would raid $1 million from the Clean Elections program but refused to make any other changes to keep the program viable. The “do-nothing” approach closes the door on a system that was mandated by the voters to keep politicians focused on constituents, not special interests.
Clean Elections has limited the influence wealthy out of state corporations and special interests have on our lawmakers. As a result, the Maine Legislature has been able to find bipartisan compromise on most issues – avoiding much of the bitter partisan gridlock we see in Washington, where special interests hold greater sway.
If we do nothing to fix the system, Maine people will lose. Please call your representatives and tell them doing nothing is not an option. Maine people must come before special interests.
Thank you for listening. I’m State Representative Mike Carey of Lewiston.