Supporters of Maine’s Clean Elections system are urging Maine lawmakers to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that would provide half a million dollars to the program this year.
The program could run short of the money it needs to support legislative races, but the governor says the bill comes just after the approval of a ballot question last fall that added $2 million to the fund.
In his veto message, Gov. Paul LePage said the bill that advances $500,000 to the Maine Clean Election Fund fails the straight-face test because the program is consistently underfunded and continually robbing future funding to pay for current costs.
The governor has consistently been a critic of taxpayer-financed campaigns that he calls welfare for politicians. During one of his town hall meetings, LePage gave his blunt assessment of providing more money to the fund.
“This is the biggest scam on Maine people,” LePage said. “This is truly, truly about getting the wealthy, wealthier and the poor people dumb, keep ‘em dumb, dumb ‘em down. This is a scam.”
Supporters of the program, such as Andrew Bossie, executive director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, say the $500,000 the bill would provide could spell the difference between success and failure for some legislative candidates this year.
“So this is the first time in the history of Clean Elections that the funding could be in jeopardy — it doesn’t mean that the fund will run out, but it could run out is what the Ethics Commission is saying — so we’re really concerned about this,” Bossie said.
Lawmakers will meet Friday to consider overriding or sustaining the governor’s veto.