Protecting the voice of the people in our democracy is a guiding principle about which, as a Republican and an American, I care deeply and to which I am committed.
As President Abraham Lincoln said while delivering his Gettysburg Address, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
These words are no less important today as we face a new challenge in our democracy: the growing influence of big, undisclosed and secret money influencing our elections and weakening the voice of the people in our democracy.
That’s why it’s frustrating to read that some have decided to mislead the voters of Maine and run a smear campaign against Question 1 on this November’s ballot.
They are trying to scare and confuse Mainers into voting against a referendum that will elevate their voice in our democracy and fight back against wealthy special interests, individuals and corporations that have undue influence over our current political system.
It’s my hope Mainers won’t be fooled. Our campaign finance system is broken.
There is too much money in politics. There is too little transparency about where that money is coming from. And there may be people who are breaking our election laws and not being held accountable. It’s impacting our ability to elect good and ethical people to office.
Most importantly, it’s impacting progress on the important issues that everyday Mainers care about, such as education, creating jobs and ensuring we have a clean and healthy environment for generations to come. Because when politicians are dependent on wealthy special interests to finance their campaigns, they tend to listen to them. Meanwhile, everyday Mainers who don’t have deep pockets and can’t write big campaign checks get ignored.
This November, Mainers — Democrats, Republicans, Greens and independents — have an opportunity to take a big step forward in fixing our broken campaign finance system by voting yes on Question 1.
Question 1 takes on the lack of transparency and rapidly increasing amount of secret money in elections by strengthening Maine’s inadequate disclosure laws. Although the Supreme Court has made it clear that we can’t ban or limit outside money, we can strengthen disclosure requirements and ensure that voters know where that money is coming from. Question 1 does that by requiring that outside groups spending money in support of or opposition to a candidate disclose their top three donors on political ads so Mainers can follow the money and know who is trying to influence the election of a given candidate.
Question 1 also increases fines and penalties for those who break our election laws so that those who violate our campaign finance rules are truly held accountable. Right now the largest fine ever levied in Maine was just 2.5 percent of what was spent illegally. Question 1 would allow the state to fine groups and politicians breaking our campaign finance laws up to 100 percent of what they spent illegally.
Most importantly, Question 1 will limit the direct influence of wealthy special interests on politicians by restoring clean election funding so candidates can run competitive races for office without being beholden to big money donors.
Strengthening our public campaign finance system puts the focus on strict spending limits and small dollar donations from everyday Mainers who live in a candidate’s district. This means we can level the playing field, empower candidates and elevate the voice of everyday Mainers in our elections. This will help ensure that politicians are working for the people of Maine and representing their interests.
There certainly is no silver bullet to fixing our campaign finance system. But Question 1 is a comprehensive approach to campaign finance reform that makes huge progress in disclosing where the big money in our elections is coming from and helps restore the voice of the people in our democracy.
We have a clear choice in front of us on Nov. 3. We can either do nothing as the playing field tilts even more in the favor of the wealthy special interests, or we can move forward by voting yes on Question 1 and ensuring we truly have a government of, by and for the people.
This November, I am voting yes on Question 1.
Sherry Huber is a former member of the Maine House of Representatives (1976-1982) and the first woman to run in the Republican Party for governor of Maine (1982). She directs an environmental education nonprofit and is a volunteer board member of a Maine land trust and the national Land Trust Alliance.