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Measure to bar foreign spending in Maine referendums qualifies for 2023 ballot

Sam Lopez
James Nord
AP file
Petition circulator Sam Lopez, left, gathers signatures in Sioux Falls, S.D., Monday, Oct. 30, 2017.

A citizens initiative aimed at prohibiting foreign governments from electioneering in Maine referendum campaigns has qualified for the 2023 ballot.

The proposal seeks to bar foreign governments and the companies they own from spending money to influence voters on ballot campaigns.

It was born out of the fight to scuttle Central Maine Power's transmission project through western Maine, as Hydro-Quebec, which is owned by the province, spent millions of dollars trying to defeat a 2021 referendum designed to kill the project.

The initiative certified by the secretary of state Thursday would prohibit Hydro-Quebec from future electioneering efforts, but it may also have implications for other companies with 5% or more of foreign ownership, including at least one of the state’s two largest electric utilities.

The proposal also includes a provision that would join Maine in the multistate effort to amend the U.S. Constitution and reverse the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that has led to an explosion in election spending by corporations, unions and monied interests.

The Secretary of State’s office said it validated 67,550 of the 79,660 signatures submitted to get the proposal on the ballot. It now goes to the full Legislature, which can either pass it or send it to voters next year. The Legislature rarely ratifies citizen initiatives, which means it will likely appear on the 2023 ballot.