Update: Bill Failed in House 83 to 56
Floor Speech Tuesday May 14th
Thank you Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker and Ladies and Gentlemen of the House. I rise in opposition to impending motion of ought not to pass. Money and politics seem to be two words that are not mutually exclusive. With the Citizen’s United decision by the Supreme Court, money has been limitlessly amplified by way of political action committees better known as PACs.
While many of the campaign finance reforms that are needed must come from the federal level, there are things we can do in this state, in this chamber that can help take money out of the equation or at the very least make our officials more accountable to the people rather than to their donors.
My bill LD 410 addresses both the hypocrisy in the Clean Election’s system as well as a cap for overall contributions to PACs. This represents a compromise between Democrats and Republicans and unlikely allies. As I’m pushing for this reform as someone who was a traditionally financed candidate and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, a strong ally for preserving and protecting our Clean Elections system that was voted on by Mainers in 1996, has changed their position on this bill with this compromised language.
I am not suggesting eliminating PAC fundraising altogether. I am merely suggesting during the entire duration of the campaign period from the time the Clean Elections candidates turn in their qualifying checks all the way through the day of the election, there should not be any PAC involvement. Clean Election’s candidates profess to be ‘clean’ from special interest money and can then turn around and raise funds for their PACs on the side. This is disingenuous to the voters and a misuse of taxpayer money if allowed to continue.
In too many instances PAC funds are raised from exactly the same special interest groups that our public funding system was designed to avoid. This program has blatant back-door loopholes that allow individuals to create an entire network of completely legal fraud; much of which is publicly searchable, if you know what it is you are searching for. Many PACs don’t have the name of the principal officer in their title thus adding an extra layer of secrecy. The PAC money collected during campaign periods is used as a security blanket for Clean Elections candidates who fear being outspent if they just stay with the public dollars they are given. The PAC money can be their knight in shining armor as independent expenditures when their taxpayer funded supplies grow thin. I am seeking to strengthen Clean Elections by ensuring that it’s core mission of keeping special interest money out of politics is abided by.
And yet it appears that fundraising was a major priority for at least 34 candidates in the 2010 election cycle who took public tax dollars to run their respective campaigns and at the same time were also principal officers or decision makers for their own political action committees many of which were leadership PACs. Between 2010 and 2011, there were 13 Republicans and 21 Democrats who were Clean Candidates in their own right, while raising a combined $978,501 in PAC money. Some key leadership PACs raised about $77,000 in two years, $105,000 in three years, and $118,000 over a four year span. Imagine if all this money was used to shore up our budget shortfall instead of hoisting political aspirations.
According to the Commission of Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, there is no limitation on the amount of money a contributor may give to a PAC hence why I’m seeking to cap this amount at $350 per a single source. This current unlimited nature of PACs combined with our Clean Elections system loophole is a bad combo. It creates a vicious cycle where candidates raise private money for their PACs, funnel that money to party caucus or committee PACs, which then in turn spends that money throughout multiple races by way of independent expenditures. All the while the lobbying groups donating to these individual PACs get brownie points with that particular legislator to influence policy opinions, votes, or to gain access later in the session. These legislators, on both sides of the aisle, also get their gold star by raising a substantial amount of money, somehow showcasing this fiscal feat to their respective caucuses in an attempt to secure leadership positions. And we wonder why the public has a apprehensive view of our political system. Last time I checked leadership is defined by ability not money. Putting this bill into law would ensure that special interest money does not influence leadership races or make it more difficult to do so. It will send a message that the Senate President, Speaker of the House, and the like, cannot and will not be bought.
When candidates double dip by accepting money from two hands at the same time, we are creating generations of dirty politicians and a very negative public perception of the campaign finance process. While the Veterans and Legal Affairs committee voted 12-1 against my bill, I urge this body to vote against the impending motion and support the ought to pass as amended report. I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will do what is right over what is politically easy.
Thank you Mr. Speaker and I most definitely request a roll call.
Below is the roll call: