Proposed ME Clean Money Initiative to Address Weaknesses in System

Fosters: “Maine Citizens for Clean Elections is expected on Jan. 21 to submit a petition for a citizens’ initiative with well over the 61,123 signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot this fall. The initiative covers those running for the State House, the Senate and the Blaine House, and builds on Maine’s first-in-the-nation Clean Elections Act passed in 1996.

“Key is a mechanism to overcome a recent Supreme Court ruling that disallows state matching funds to be used in clean elections — a key component to any clean elections system. By requiring candidates to garner a series of $5 donations in order to trigger rounds of matching funds, MCCE legal experts believe the initiative will pass constitutional muster because it will show a candidate has continuing support. But that’s not the only provision in the initiative.

“The measure would force the Maine State Legislature to find the $3 million annually to adequately fund clean elections by closing corporate tax loopholes; require governors-elect to report money spent on inaugural and transition activities; and raise the penalties for violations.”

NM, AR MO, CT, ME Most Likely Places to Seek Reform

Huffington Post:

New Mexico: Outside Spending & Coordination

“New Mexico was one of the worst-prepared states for the altered campaign finance landscape wrought by the Citizens United decision. The state’s laws had no legal definition or standard for either independent expenditures or coordination between an independent group and a candidate or party committee. And, like every other state, New Mexico did not require disclosure of donors to nonprofits active in electoral politics.”

Arkansas: Ethics & Disclosure

“Arkansas voters this year passed a ballot initiative with significant campaign finance and ethics reforms, including a total ban on direct corporate contributions to candidate campaigns. The state-level reform group Regnat Populus hopes to build on this success with an initiative in 2016 to expand these reforms and enact new disclosure rules for independent groups.”

Missouri: Contribution Limits, Gifts & Disclosure

“These outsized contributions [from a Missouri mega-donor] that came after Missouri ended its campaign contribution limits are sparking action.

“Democratic lawyer Brad Ketcher said he will propose a constitutional amendment for the ballot that would re-establish contribution limits for legislative candidates, place limits on lobbyist gifts and impose strong coordination rules on independent spending.”

“The issue is gaining attention from Republicans as well. Republican state Rep. Caleb Rowden (R-Jefferson City) introduced legislation to require disclosure of dark money spent by nonprofit groups on elections, ban lobbyist gifts and increase campaign finance disclosure.”

Maine & Connecticut: Public Financing

“In Maine, this means lawmakers would be allotted public funds in an amount appropriate to counteract the dramatic increase in independent spending since Citizens United. Maine Citizens for Clean Elections is working to get an initiative on the ballot in the next election.

“Connecticut legislators are expected to tackle similar fixes, according to groups involved in reform efforts.”

ME Commission Seeks Additional Funding to Improve Disclosure Efforts, IT

Maine Sun Journal: “The request, included in a list of changes to Maine statute proposed by Maine Ethics Commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne, would divert the entirety of state revenue from lobbyist registration fees to the commission.

“The commission receives half of all lobbying fees, and the other half goes to the state’s General Fund.”  This currently amounts to between $55,000 and $65,000 annually.

“’Businesses, nonprofits and others are subsidizing the general costs of Maine government — just for the privilege of petitioning the Legislature,’ Wayne said in the letter. Instead, the commission staff would like to propose that our agency receive the entire fee and use the increased revenue for [information technology] expenses to better disclose lobbying and campaign finance information to the public.”