Question 1 on the November ballot asks Maine voters to increase taxpayer funding for candidates through the Maine Clean Election Act. The idea of “clean elections” sounds good, but don’t be fooled: it’s just more campaign cash for politicians.
Question 1 is disguised as a way to disclose who pays for political ads and to increase fines on candidates who violate campaign finance laws. But it would double — and triple — the amount of taxpayer money available to political candidates. The real question is: how much of your hard-earned tax dollars do you want to buy lawn signs, make robocalls to your house and send junk mail you don’t want?
In a primary race, each candidate for governor who participates in the Clean Election system would get up to $1 million. In the general election, each participating candidate for governor would get up to $2 million. In the last election, the candidates for governor, if they had all received Clean Election funding, would have received $6.4 million in taxpayer funds. In 2010, it would have been more than $15 million if all candidates participated.
In total, taxpayers in 2010 would have had to fork over as much as $30 million if all legislative and gubernatorial candidates participated in the Clean Election system and qualified for all available funding. Thirty million dollars would go a long way toward road work or to help our elderly, disabled and mentally ill get the services they so desperately need.
Taxpayers should not subsidize campaigns for politicians. If candidates can’t get enough support from the Maine people to win an election, they shouldn’t run. Meeting with voters, knocking on doors and articulating positions on issues that matter to constituents is far more important in local elections than getting campaign cash from taxpayers.
Candidates for House and Senate already get taxpayer funding for their campaigns. House candidates now get about $5,000. If Question 1 passes, it would triple to $15,000 if participating candidates qualified for all available funds. Senate candidates now get about $20,000. It could triple to $60,000.
Supporters of Question 1 claim it will keep big money out of politics, but it won’t. It does not limit the activity of political action committees (PACs).
Question 1 would require listing the top three donors to a PAC, but it is very difficult to determine the names of those donors. They can funnel money through legal organizations that are not required to reveal their names — just as they do now.
Furthermore, unions are often the biggest donors to candidates using taxpayer money, but union bosses never reveal their names. Question 1 would not change that.
It’s no surprise who is behind Question 1: union bosses and very rich people from other states, including Sean Eldridge of New York, who more than doubled his opponent’s spending trying to win a congressional seat. Despite spending $6.4 million, he not only failed, he lost by more than 30 points to a retired colonel with a Ph.D. from Cornell. Eldridge’s millions did not make a difference against an opponent who is credible and well educated on the issues.
Now Eldridge, who is the partner of ultra-wealthy Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, has donated more than a $100,000 to fund the campaign for Question 1.
Supporters of Question 1 are using a George Soros-style of bundling dark money from out-of-state millionaires and billionaires who hide their identities. In fact, the Proteus Action League, a Massachusetts-based liberal nonprofit organization with ties to Soros, has already donated $350,000.
These supporters claim our democracy is being corrupted by big money in politics. So they are using big money from out-of-state billionaires to influence our politics in Maine. The hypocrisy behind Question 1 is stunning.
Finally, supporters of Question 1 say they are going to find the millions of extra dollars by eliminating unspecified tax breaks for corporations. Liberals in the Legislature have been searching for these mythical tax breaks for years, to no avail. If Question 1 passes, they will have to find ways to penalize businesses or raise your taxes to find the millions of dollars needed to increase taxpayer funding for campaigns.
Do you really want your tax money paying for politicians to stuff your mail boxes with more junk mail, interrupt your dinner with robocalls, put up hundreds more lawn signs and buy more blaring TV and radio ads?
Make no mistake: billionaires, union bosses and out-of-state liberal activists are trying to buy Maine’s elections. It’s up to you to stop them.
Paul R. LePage is Maine’s governor. Sen. Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, is president of the Maine Senate. Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, is the Maine House Republican leader.