2015 Maine Question 1
|Question 1: Citizen Initiative|
|An Act To Strengthen the Maine Clean Election Act, Improve Disclosure and Make Other Changes to the Campaign Finance Laws|
|Source: Office of the Secretary of State of Maine, Tabulation of Votes|
|Elections in Maine|
Maine Question 1, "An Act To Strengthen the Maine Clean Election Act, Improve Disclosure and Make Other Changes to the Campaign Finance Laws", was a citizen-initiated referendum measure in Maine, which appeared on the November 3, 2015 statewide ballot. As the Maine Legislature did not exercise its ability to pass the bill on its own, it was placed on the ballot and approved by Maine voters.
The Maine Clean Elections Act was passed as a citizen-initiated referendum titled Question 3 in 1996, making Maine the first state to adopt a public campaign financing law. It established a voluntary public campaign financing program for Maine gubernatorial and legislative elections, allowing candidates who demonstrated a certain level of community support through a limited number of 'seed money' contributions to qualify for public financing of their campaign. Candidates who accepted such financing could not subsequently accept any private contributions to their campaign.
Initially, the Act also provided for publicly financed candidates to receive additional matching funds should privately financed candidates in their race outspend them. In 2011, the United States Supreme Court struck down a similar provision in Arizona as unconstitutional, which led to a US District Court judge doing the same with Maine's provision later that year. Due to those court rulings, the Maine Legislature removed the matching funds provision from the Act.
The group Mainers for Accountable Elections turned in approximately 86,000 signatures to Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap on January 21, 2015. Dunlap verified about 80,000 of them by February 18, 2015. That was about 16,000 more than required, which sent the question to the Legislature for consideration, though they did not do so and the question was sent to the ballot.
Republican State Senator Eric Brakey introduced a competing measure in the Legislature to ask voters to repeal the Act and redirect the intended funds to education costs. His proposal was rejected in committee on May 6, 2015 by a 9-1 vote.
The proposed changes to the Act include increasing the amount of money distributed to candidates, more disclosure requirements such as listing the top three donors that pay for political advertisements in the ad itself, and increased fines for violators.
Until September 2015, there was no organized opposition to the referendum. On September 23, it was reported a Facebook page was created called "No on Question 1". It was created in part by State Rep. Joel Stetkis (R-Canaan) who appeared on WVOM radio to call the proposal "nothing but a scam" and "an assault on the Maine people who want a citizen legislator to represent them."
Opponents of the Act as a whole include Governor of Maine Paul LePage who has attempted to remove funding for the Act from the state budget, calling it "welfare for politicians", without success as well as the aforementioned Sen. Brakey's effort to seek repeal of the law. The conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center supported court rulings against the Act. LePage has called Question 1 specifically a "scam" and that public campaign financing was like "giving your wife your checkbook".
On October 21, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce announced its opposition to the Question, due to disagreeing with its funding mechanism of eliminating corporate tax breaks. Chamber President Dana Connors stated that Maine's business incentive programs are modest and it would be difficult and harm the state's business climate to eliminate any of them. The opposition was notable it that it was not based on ideological opposition to public financing of campaigns as with other opponents.
- Shenna Bellows, Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate in 2014, former head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine
- Chris Johnson, Democratic State Senator
- Roger Katz, Republican State Senator
- Angus King, U.S. Senator and former Governor of Maine
- George Mitchell, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader
- George Smith, former executive director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, TV host
- Groups affiliated with Mainers for Accountable Elections
- Bangor Daily News
- MaineToday Media newspapers; Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel
- Maine Small Business Coalition
- John Baldacci, former Governor of Maine, former U.S. Representative
- Kenneth Fredette, Minority Leader of the Maine House of Representatives (R-Newport)
- Paul LePage, Governor of Maine
- Larry Lockman, State Representative (R-Amherst)
- Joel Stetkis, State Representative (R-Canaan)
- Michael Thibodeau, President of the Maine Senate
- Maine State Chamber of Commerce
- "Proposed cuts worry Maine Clean Election advocates". Portland Press Herald. January 16, 2013. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- "The Maine Clean Election Act". Maine Ethics Commission. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- "Supreme Court ruling to affect Maine Clean Elections". Bangor Daily News. June 27, 2011. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- "Matching funds portion of Clean Election Act in jeopardy". Bangor Daily News. November 29, 2011. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- "Maine Senate OKs Clean Election Act changes". Bangor Daily News. March 2, 2012. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- "Maine Group Earns 85,000 Signatures For Clean Elections Initiative". WABI-TV. January 21, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- "Bill to Repeal Maine's Clean Elections Law Comes Under Fire". MPBN. April 24, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- "Campaign for Maine finance reform ballot question kicks off". Bangor Daily News. July 28, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- "Group rallies around ballot question to reform Maine campaign laws". Bangor Daily News. July 28, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- "Question 1 opponent: Maine election reform bid 'nothing but a scam'". Bangor Daily News. September 23, 2015. Retrieved September 23, 2015.
- "LePage budget would gut clean election fund for 2014 campaign". Bangor Daily News. February 27, 2013. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
- "LePage calls Maine election reform effort 'a scam'". Bangor Daily News. October 15, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
- "Gov. LePage says public campaign financing like "giving your wife your checkbook"". Maine Beacon. October 22, 2015. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
- "Maine State Chamber of Commerce opposes Question 1". Bangor Daily News. October 21, 2015. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
- "Maine has another chance for clean elections". Lewiston Sun Journal. October 29, 2015. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
- "George Mitchell, Angus King step into Question 1 debate with endorsement". Bangor Daily News. October 1, 2013. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
- "Keeping Maine clean requires a yes vote in November". Kennebec Journal. October 14, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
- "Question 1 is Maine's chance to keep politics the domain of everyday people". Bangor Daily News. October 21, 2013. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
- "Our Endorsement: Vote 'yes' on Question 1 for Clean Election reform". Portland Press Herald. October 29, 2015. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
- "Ex-Maine Gov. John Baldacci opposes Question 1". Bangor Daily News. October 23, 2013. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
- "More Clean Election money is wrong for Maine". Bangor Daily News. October 29, 2013. Retrieved October 29, 2015.