Why Mainers Should Question Question One
Supporters of Question One would have you believe that its passage would end the scourge of big money invading Maine politics. Not only is that simply not the case, those supporters are hypocritically funding their campaign to rid the state of big money, out of state donors by – you guessed it – big money out of state donors.
We hear about Clean Election Candidates versus Traditionally Financed Candidates implying that if you’re not using the Maine Clean Election program, funded by the taxpayer’s, to fund your campaign you must therefore be a “dirty candidate” taking money from lobbyists, out-of-state interests and big corporations. The truth is there is big money in every campaign.
As an example, let’s take a look at Mainers For Accountable Elections whose commercial in support of Question One is currently airing. They are registered as a political action committee in support of Question One along with three other PAC’s registered in support of Question One; Maine Center for Economic Policy- BQC, Proteus Action League- BQC and the Sierra Club Maine for Question One. .
According to campaign finance reports, supporters of Question 1 have raised $1.3 million to date. Of that amount, nearly $800,000 came from wealthy out-of-state sources. Some of those donors were the Every Voice of Washington D.C., Sean Eldridge of New York who is married to the co-founder of Facebook, Communications Workers of America of Washington D.C., and Proteus Action League of Massachusetts.
It’s disheartening and disingenuous for a group claiming this initiative would reduce the influence of money and hold politicians accountable is funded largely by out-of-state special interest groups while also failing to disclose full details of this initiative. I question why they did not voluntarily disclose their top three donors in their own commercial or mention the funding increase for MCEA candidates. This brings me to my main concern with Question One.
Under the current system, a candidate running for the Maine House of Representatives and using the Maine Clean Elections Act qualifies for up to $6,153 of taxpayer money to pay for their campaign expenses. A state Senate candidate can get up to $29,108 and gubernatorial candidates do not qualify for taxpayer funding under the current system.
If Question One passes those dollar amounts would essentially triple. House candidates could qualify for up to $17,500 each; Senate candidates up to $70,000 apiece and those who run for governor, who do not qualify under the current system, could get up to $3 million each. That means every campaign season you can count on a blizzard of junk mail; more lawn signs clogging up the roads and intersections and more annoying robocalls and you’re paying for it.
To put this in perspective, we only need to look back to 2010. There were eight candidates running for governor in the primary and that number was whittled down to five in the general election. If you factor in all State House races, if Question 1 were in effect then, there could have been roughly $30 million of taxpayer money given to subsidize political campaigns. That kind of money could go a long way toward helping our elderly, disabled and mentally ill get the services they so desperately need.
Supporters will try to tell you that they can easily find the money to pay for this exorbitant spending by simply eliminating unspecified tax breaks for Maine businesses. We need to encourage businesses in Maine, not drive them away with job killing referendums. Since we never know how many candidates will decide to run for office using taxpayer funding this would be writing a blank check to politicians.
We need to do a better job of prioritizing our spending in Augusta rather than diverting state dollars away from the people who truly need the help in order to give even more campaign cash to politicians.
I encourage you to research this initiative before casting your vote and take into consideration who is truly backing this referendum and the future costs it will impose on Maine taxpayers.
Rep. Dillingham is in her first term in the Maine House of Representatives serving House District 72 which includes Mechanic Falls, Otisfield and Oxford