Federal campaign reform deserves local debate, say Auburn city councilors

Posted Jan. 08, 2013, at 5:44 a.m.

AUBURN — Councilors may not be constitutional scholars, but they will try to tackle the issue of federal campaign finance reform.

Councilors agreed to consider adopting a resolution or statement calling for a national review of how political action committees influence elections.

“I think this does relate to the city of Auburn and election to some of our offices here,” said Councilor Tizz Crowley. “I’m not sure about some of the wording or that we can speak on behalf of the citizens of Auburn. However, I think the dialog is important.”

Lewiston’s City Council adopted a resolution in September that targets the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission decision that ruled that some campaign finance reporting rules violated the First Amendment.

It calls for a new constitutional amendment that would define election spending as different from protected First Amendment speech, let state and federal government regulate election spending and clarify that human beings are endowed with constitutional rights. Corporations are not guaranteed constitutional protection, according to the resolution.

Portland, Bangor, Waterville and several other Maine communities have also adopted resolutions calling for new campaign finance definitions.

Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said he was not sure it was good use of the City Council’s time.

“Given the depth and breadth of items the council already has on its plate, I’m not sure if they are in a position to immerse themselves enough in this issue to understand all the legal nuances,” LaBonte said.

Councilor David Young agreed.

“There are much more important things that we should act on first before we act on this,” Young said.

But Councilors Robert Hayes, Tizz Crowley and Belinda Gerry said it’s worth some debate at the local level.

“At least we should bring it forward for some discussion,” Hayes said. “I agree that we should not spend a lot of time on it. But I think it’s something that could affect us.”

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