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Mike Michaud, chair of the board of selectmen in East Millinocket, previously represented Maine’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Faith in our democratic system was rocked during the 2020 election cycle. Tens of millions of dollars poured in from donors from away who were not required to disclose their identities. Outside forces sought to drown out the voices of the Maine electorate, and they did so from the shadows. Mainers have rightfully digested this as an affront to their ability to decide for themselves who should represent their best interests in the halls of government.
The opportunity of Maine’s delegation to take action is not only ripe, but necessary to protect the integrity of our elections for generations to come.
The most immediate legislative vehicle up for consideration in Washington is the “For the People Act,” a comprehensive package of reforms that aims to tackle corruption, dark and foreign money, and barriers to democratic participation for vulnerable populations.
Special interests and campaign finance loopholes have long plagued our political system. But this past election year revealed just how problematic the reality of “dark money” is today. Political groups under no legal obligation to disclose their donors have run rampant across campaigns in every corner and county in America, leveraging shell corporations and opaque nonprofit mechanisms in an attempt to tip the scales of democracy in all directions.
Maine’s U.S. Senate race was the most expensive race in the state’s history, with more than half of the money spent coming from outside sources. Tens of millions poured in from out of state, fueling attack ads and opposition efforts from the shadows. Regardless of your partisan inclinations, the prospect that dark-money donors can seek to influence our collective electoral decision-making, in any direction, should be of significant concern.
Mainers, particularly those of us who have been lucky enough to serve the people of our great state in the halls of Congress, have never been much for partisan labels. Pre-packaged assumptions about our decisions as political leaders have, frankly, always been an affront to the independent thinking nature of our voters back home. It is this independent mindset that I would encourage Maine’s political leaders in Washington to employ as campaign finance reforms are debated in Congress over the coming months.
It is impossible to understate the importance of non-partisan deliberations on this legislation and the issues it aims to address. Despite the current power balance in Washington and what some coverage of the issue may have you believe, reforming our political system is not a
partisan issue. These are issues that impact voters and political candidates of all stripes, past, present and future.
It is past time we bring our democratic process out of the darkness. And Maine’s representation in the U.S. Senate is uniquely positioned to take hold of the spotlight. And today, it has become increasingly clear that campaign finance reform must be among them.
Leading a historic overhaul of our campaign finance system is an opportunity to cement Maine’s political leadership as an independent force for democracy. And it is absolutely necessary for the future of our Republic.