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Officials Fear Maine’s Clean Elections Will Run Out of Money

The Elections and Ethics Commission, which administers Maine’s Clean Elections, believes the program could run out of money this fall without an additional half a million dollars.

Last fall Maine voters approved an expansion of the state’s public campaign financing.

The measure also allocates more money to candidates, and lets them tap into additional funds beyond that basic allocation.

But the Clean Elections system is once again at the center of a partisan dispute.

The House has voted 81-65 to transfer half a million dollars into the Clean Elections program to ensure it has enough money to fund campaigns this fall. But supporters, including Andrew Bossie of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, are worried that Gov. Paul LePage will veto the measure, and that the fund could run short.

“The Clean Elections fund, for the first time in the history of its use, may run out of money in 2016,” he says. “We’re not certain of that.”

That’s because of uncertainty around the new law about how many candidates will use the program and to what extent. Rep. Heather Sirocki, a Republican from Scarborough, believes that the fund will have a record high amount going into the fall.

“I am sufficiently satisfied that the $4.6 million that he has indicated is sufficient and that this bill is not necessary at this time,” she says.

House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, a Democrat from Skowhegan, says it was the Ethics Commission that suggested the early transfer of existing appropriations to make sure funds are adequate for the fall elections.

“Seem to make sense that when we vote today that our vote reflect the clean election system that many of us in this chamber are using,” he says. “We looked quickly today and saw that 30 Republican incumbents are using Clean Elections.”

But 65 Republican House members voted against the early transfer of funds, and only two supported it. The legislation faces further votes in the House and Senate before it gets to the governor’s desk.

Lawmakers hope to complete their work, except for dealing with vetoes from the governor, by the end of the week.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.