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Bill Would Bar Gubernatorial Candidates from Using Clean Elections Money

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would prohibit gubernatorial candidates from participating in the state’s public campaign financing program. The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee held a public hearing on the proposal Friday.

The proposal is supported by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative advocacy group. Mike Quatrano told lawmakers that public funding through the Maine Clean Election Act has done little to curb spending by outside groups that can spend unlimited amounts to influence an election.

Quatrano noted the recent explosion in spending by such groups during the past four gubernatorial contests.

“No amount of public money will prevent this. Public funding encourages interested parties to fund outside groups instead of contributing directly to the candidate,” he said.

The proposal is opposed by Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, the group that convinced voters to create the public campaign financing law 20 years ago. Two years ago the group led an initiative that expanded the program and beefed up its public funding. Andrew Bossie, director of the group, told lawmakers that the bill ignored the will of voters.

He said it would also limit gubernatorial candidates to those who are independently wealthy or with ties to wealthy interests.

“Gubernatorial campaigns are expensive to run, making it much more difficult for candidates with modest means to wage a successful campaign using only private funding,” Bossie says.