About two dozen current and former Maine legislators are calling on Hydro-Quebec to stop its campaign to influence November's ballot referendum on a proposed transmission line through the state.
In a letter to both the company and the province of Quebec, the group says that the company should not be "meddling" in elections in Maine, and that it is exploiting a loophole in Maine's campaign-finance laws. A ballot committee representing the company has spent more than $6 million thus far on the referendum campaign.
Hydro-Quebec, which is owned by the government of Quebec, would supply power for the Central Maine Power transmission line.
Maine state Rep. Kent Ackley, an independent from Monmouth, says that a foreign entity such as Hydro-Quebec should not be allowed to interfere in a Maine referendum.
“The citizens' initiative process comes from the Maine constitution," Ackley says. "And it is what it sounds like, it's an idea that Maine citizens have a right to self-determination. That's not foreign citizens. That's not foreign governments or foreign entities. That's Maine citizens.”
Earlier this year, Ackley proposed a bill that would prohibit foreign nationals from influencing ballot referendums in Maine.
Serge Abergel, the director of external relations for Hydro-Quebec, disputes the letter and says the company should be able to provide information to Maine voters after spending years working to obtain permits.
“So once you want to take that away, at least give us the right to give the facts when it comes to us," Abergel says. "We don't view this as a loophole at all. We're compliant to the rules, and we're just trying here to give a straight story, so people can understand and make their own choices.”
Abergel also points to oil and gas companies, which recently announced they would spend $6 million in ads opposing the transmission project.
In January, a ballot committee representing Hydro-Quebec was ordered to pay a $35,000 fine after not disclosing campaign spending for several weeks.