In November 2015, Maine voters made it clear they want a strong Clean Election system, increased transparency and a political system that elevates the voice of everyday people — not deep-pocketed special interest — when they voted in support of Question 1 on the ballot.
Now, because of that vote and the clear message it sent, more and more candidates are choosing to run using our strengthened Clean Election system. In fact, more than 70 percent of declared candidates have chosen to run clean in 2016 compared with just 53 percent in 2014.
I am one of them.
For me, the choice was easy.
I chose to run as a Clean Election candidate because I want my constituents to know I am accountable to them — not deep-pocketed campaign donors. I want to amplify the voice of Maine’s residents through publicly supported access to the political process. And, I want to ensure that when I cast votes on the House floor in Augusta, no voter in my district has to worry whose interests I’m looking out for.
As an elected official, it’s my responsibility to be a voice of the people, and that’s exactly what I intend to do if elected in November 2016 to represent District 94.
Unfortunately, several leaders in Augusta don’t seem to agree with that.
Despite Mainers voting with an overwhelming, double-digit margin of victory in support of a stronger Clean Election system last November, several lawmakers in Augusta care more about protecting big money in politics than listening to the will of the voters.
Now, according to recent news reports, not only is there a chance voter-approved funding for Clean Election may be blocked by Gov. Paul LePage — a longtime opponent of public campaign financing — but also the system may go bankrupt because of years of elected leaders raiding our clean election system in order to balance the state budget.
This is not OK. And it’s not how democracy works. Elected leaders can’t just ignore the voice of the people because they don’t agree with the outcome of their vote.
Maine’s Clean Election system is a first step in addressing the growing problem of unlimited amounts of money in our political system. It puts the emphasis on small dollar contributions by providing support for qualifying candidates who collect a specific number of $5 contributions from local voters in their district. It levels the playing field and gives otherwise marginalized citizens a voice in the political process.
Maine voters time and time again have affirmed their support for this system.
Now it’s time for lawmakers to listen to the will of the people and act by fully funding our Clean Election system and stopping the irresponsible practice of raiding the Clean Election fund for other purposes.
November’s referendum clearly directed lawmakers to offset the increased funding for Clean Elections by eliminating one or more wasteful corporate tax giveaways that was doing little or nothing to strengthen our economy.
If LePage is willing to give away millions of dollars in tax breaks to corporations and failing economic development programs each year, legislators in Augusta should be able to find $1 million to fund a voter-approved program that will give Mainers an opportunity to vote for a candidate who is representing their community’s best interests: such as increased funding to education, a return of sales and income tax to municipalities to help reduce property taxes and investment in infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
The voters’ mandate to fund Clean Elections last year sent a clear message to leadership that people want a government of, by and for the people. I support Maine’s legislature taking swift action to sustain and fully fund the Maine Clean Elections fund.
Betsy Saltonstall of Rockport is a Democratic candidate for the Maine House.