AUGUSTA, Maine- The sparring has begun in a lawsuit over the stalled release of Clean Elections Act funding. Governor Paul LePage is being sued for disallowing the distribution of that money to publicly financed candidates for Governor and the legislature.
In written arguments filed in Superior Court, the plaintiffs argue that they are being harmed by the Governor’s refusal to sign off on a transfer of funds set aside for clean elections candidates by the legislature. The state and the candidates have a contractual relationship, they say, because the candidates have agreed to use only the public funds for their campaigns, having met a required condition of collecting a certain number of $5 contributions.
They also argue that the Ethics Commission has responsibility over the fund and should be allowed to spend the money- despite a drafting error made in the state budget.
The Governor, through his attorney, counters that the request to the court is unprecedented and in violation of state budget laws. The law, they argue, gives the governor “unfettered discretion” in deciding whether to transfer money. They also reject the implicit contract argument citing the fact that the law allows candidates to raise money privately if they do not receive the amount spelled out in statute. Governor LePage also contends that the legislature is still in session and can fix the problem.
Further written arguments are expected and oral arguments are scheduled for July 24th.