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Committee Takes Up Bill To Ban Corporate Contributions To Maine Lawmakers, PACs

The Maine State House is seen at sunrise, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
The Maine State House is seen at sunrise, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.

Maine lawmakers are considering a bill that would bar corporations from contributing directly to state legislators or their political action committees.

The proposal sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson and Ellsworth Sen. Louis Luchini, both Democrats, would bar corporations from making contributions directly from their general treasury to candidate campaigns or so-called leadership PACs, which are typically used by lawmakers to obtain key positions in the Legislature.

John Brautigam, legal counsel for the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, told members of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee that such donations can stifle the voices of ordinary citizens.

"Corporate contributions can be used to increase a corporation's influence over public policy and to push back against the public interest. This corporate money over time distorts our democracy," he said.

Twenty-two other states have instituted similar bans, which are considered incremental steps to stemming the flood of corporate money in elections.

As currently drafted the bill allows employees of corporations to band together and make contributions to candidates and leadership PACs. It also allows donations from unions, although Jackson indicated during the public hearing that the proposal could be amended to ban those, too.

The bill drew no opposition, but is expected to undergo several changes.

Updated: April 27, 2021 at 10:39 AM EDT
A spokesperson says Senate President Troy Jackson would support banning contributions from associations, which includes membership organizations like unions and the Maine Chamber of Commerce.
Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.