Augusta - Legislators take up a bill to reform the Clean Elections system and to cap PAC contributions for all candidates...again.
Rep. Justin Chenette has introduced LD 410 an act to revise the Maine Clean Election Act regarding participation in political action committees. This bill would prohibit a certified candidate under the Maine Clean Election Act from establishing a political action committee for which the candidate is a principal officer, fundraiser or decision maker. Then-Rep. Linda Valentino introduced similar legislation last session where it ended up being a divided minority report out of committee and failed in the House.
Chenette might seem like an unlikely advocate for Clean Elections as he himself was a traditionally financed candidate accepting no tax dollars to run his campaign. “I will not sign my name to a program that has blatant back-door loopholes that allow individuals to create an entire network of completely legal fraud,” says Rep. Chenette.
The bill would directly impact candidates for leadership in the House and the Senate who often have PACs on the side to fundraise to help boost their chances of securing those positions. 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.
“When candidates double dip by accepting money from two hands at the same time, we are creating generations of dirty politicians or at the very least creating a very negative public perception of the campaign finance process,” says Rep. Chenette.
During the public hearing, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections opposed the bill citing a lack of reform for PACs of traditionally financed candidates in the bill. After several meetings and negotiations, Rep. Chenette and the advocacy group compromised on a final piece of legislation that both sides can support.
This newly amended bill leaves in the previous language regarding Clean Elections candidates while adding language to ensure that any state legislator or candidate for legislator could not raise more than $350 from any one source into PACs with which they are affiliated.
“This bill with the proposed amendment, would allow us to further reduce potential corruption and the appearance of corruption in our campaign finance system,” says Andrew Bossie, Executive Director for the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections.
LD 410 will be decided on in the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee Friday March 15th at 10am in room 437 before it heads to the floor. Committee members could choose to move ought to pass as is, pass with amendment, or move not to pass.
To view the full language of the bill and supporting documents visit http://www.justinchenette.com/7/post/2013/03/pacreform.html.