In Maine: Popular Campaign Finance Reform in Jeopardy over Typo

AUGUSTA, MAINE – Maine State Treasurer and independent gubernatorial candidate Terry Hayes was joined by state representatives, former legislators, and others Monday to call on lawmakers to pass the error and omissions bill needed to restore Clean Elections funding for the 2018 election cycle.

There are 191 candidates running for office in Maine, including Hayes and members of all five legislative caucuses, using the publicly-financed Clean Elections program. These campaigns are underway, but they are being denied funding they are guaranteed by law because of a typo in the state budget.

“The voters of Maine passed this law overwhelmingly in 1996, again in 2015, and the legislature has consistently funded it for the past 20 years. Because of a typo, candidates who committed to the program are unable to access the funds they were promised under Maine state law,” stated Hayes at the press conference. “The result is changing the rules in the middle of a game.”

The Clean Elections program requires candidates to show they have broad community support by collecting a certain number of small contributions. For Hayes, that was 3,200 qualifying contributions. She is also supposed to get additional funds for each batch of 1,200 qualifying contributions she receives.

The Maine Ethics Commission reports that more than 45,000 registered voters have made $5 qualifying contributions to the Clean Elections Fund. Candidates who commit to running a Clean Elections campaign cannot raise money the traditional way, leaving their campaigns in a precarious position going into November.

“Fixing this error in the language to allow the funding to be released is the right thing to do,” continued Hayes, “The legislature owes it to the candidates and the Maine voters.”

Hayes’s campaign reports that she has received over 5,600 $5 checks from citizens across the political spectrum in Maine, including Republicans, Democrats, and independents.

The typo that is getting in the way of this funding would normally be fixed in an end-of-session housekeeping bill, but some lawmakers are sitting on their hands. A lawsuit has been filed to force Gov. Paul LePage to release funds already committed to the program.

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