The League is deeply committed to reforming our nation's campaign finance system to ensure the public's right to know, combat corruption and undue influence, enable candidates to compete more equitably for public office and allow maximum citizen participation in the political process.
The League of Women Voters was a founding member of the coalition that worked to gather signatures to pass the Maine Clean Election Act in 1996. And we were again a lead partner in the successful ballot initiative to restore Clean Elections in 2015. Now we work closely with our allies at Maine Citizens for Clean Elections to reform political action committees and limit the influence of special interests on privately-funded candidates.
130th Legislature (2021-2022)
Find more information about our efforts to fight big money in politics at our Legislative Priorities page. You can also check out the testimony that we have submitted during the current legislative session.
Corporate Contribution Ban
Maine Citizens for Clean Elections officially endorses a Foreign Corporate Contribution Ban Initiative.
This initiative will prohibit donations and disbursements by foreign governments, foreign government-owned entities, and foreign government-influenced entities in ballot measures and candidate campaigns. This evolved from a bill that we supported, which narrowly failed to override the Governor’s veto last spring. It also includes a resolve directing our elected leaders to support a federal Constitutional Amendment that would reign in money in politics.
This concern is based on the belief that our system of self-government should place political control in the hands of the sovereign people, and concerns that foreign interests will meddle with that process to leverage their influence or achieve results they cannot win through diplomacy.
Current federal law prohibits the involvement of foreign nationals in candidate campaigns, but it does not prohibit their involvement in issue and ballot question campaigns. Also, federal law does not address a variety of foreign financial interests beyond “foreign nationals” that may seek to influence our elections.
Our top priority in 2021 was to break the connection between corporate money and state candidates.
Too often, Maine’s democracy has been tarnished by significant corporate money – whether from pharmaceutical companies, utilities, insurance conglomerates – flowing into the coffers of candidates who will soon decide legislation vital to those sectors.
In 2020, we wrote legislation addressing this problem and brought it to Senator Louis Luchini – the Senate Chair of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.He agreed to sponsor the bill, and we began mobilizing our legislative efforts. Our goal was to make the case for this reform to all 186 legislators and see the bill through to the governor’s signature. We helped Mainers make more than 250 contacts with their legislators in support of the bill.
The bill also bans contributions from corporations to leadership PACs, and for the first time places contribution limits on other gifts to those PACs.
Over the course of many weeks, the legislature made some changes to the bill but finally advanced it to the governor’s desk. We were gratified when LD 1417 was signed into law on June 17, 2021. Maine now joins 22 other states and the federal government in banning corporate contributions.
Fair Elections Portland
We support the Fair Elections Portland effort to bring public funding of elections to the mayor, city council, and school board races in Maine’s largest city!
Everyone should be represented in our democracy — not just the wealthy. Ordinary people can’t write massive campaign checks or hire high-priced lobbyists that tilt the playing field in their favor at everyone else’s expense.
We need to keep the power of our government where it belongs - in the hands of the people. When politicians depend on contributions from large corporations, lobbyists, and special interest groups, they’re the ones holding all the power. We need a strong clean elections policy if we want our city government to work on solutions for us, instead of helping out rich corporations and their lobbyists.
In 2020, the Maine Clean Election Act (MCEA) marked a major milestone: twenty years successfully providing over 2,500 general election candidates a way to campaign without raising private contributions. Maine Citizens for Clean Elections (MCCE) has published new data on the Clean Elections participation rates and outcomes, covering the 2018 and 2020 legislative races.
Maine needs the continued success of Clean Elections. Getting big money out of politics creates a democracy that truly represents Maine people. Additionally, as the first state to create a public funding system, Maine has an important role to play in the national debate over how to reform our democracy.
The For the People Act (H.R. 1/S. 1) is a sweeping package of election and voting rights reform. It also creates the space for Clean Elections, a small donor, public matching fund system that would match contributions up to $200 per donor at a 6-to-1 ratio for federal candidates.
Maine knows the success of Clean Elections. The MCEA program allows candidates to compete for office even if they object to the fundraising imperative or lack wealthy friends and contacts who could fuel their efforts. Many candidates have stepped forward and served distinguished careers. The innovative program also encourages issue-based campaigns maximizing direct contact between voters and candidates.