A ‘clean elections’ report from Maine

Today I stumbled across the statement of Lynne Williams, who recently dropped out of the race for Governor of Maine. She had been running as a member of the Maine Green Independent Party. Her comments on “clean elections” I found particularly interesting:

 …our volunteers were also initially diverted from signature gathering by the additional requirements of the Maine Clean Election Law, requirements imposed by the Legislature in 2009, after I announced my candidacy.

By eliminating the requirement that parties had to run a gubernatorial candidate in order to maintain party status, the Democrats made it clear they did not want a Green Party candidate for governor on the ballot this year, and furthermore, if there was a Green Independent candidate, they did not want that candidate to be well funded. So they also made major changes to the Clean Election Law that discouraged small parties from taking advantage of that process.

The most onerous change was the new requirement that Clean Election candidates for governor must raise $40,000 in private funding – under much stricter requirements than those imposed on traditional gubernatorial candidates – before qualifying for public funding.

Basically the Legislature said that in order to not be dependent on private campaign funds we had to be dependent on private campaign funds. It’s an illogical requirement that flies in the face of the intent of the law and is disrespectful of the citizens who voted to approve the Clean Election Act.

On top of that, the $40,000 had to come from Maine registered voters, who are already paying for the Clean Election Act through their taxes. Thus those who supported the law were subjected to a system of double taxation if they wanted the law to work as intended. This was an irresponsible act on the part of the Democratically-controlled Legislature.

Williams also commented on the political mood in Maine a couple of times. Referring to her difficulty in getting enough signatures to appear on the ballot, she notes:

Another factor is the general public’s current disgust and distrust of government.

The two-party turmoil in Washington and Augusta has taken its toll. We found many people turned off by the gridlock. It was hard to get people engaged in January and February over something they didn’t perceive would affect them until June or November. The fact that as of last week only one of the seven Democrats and just four of the seven Republican Party candidates for governor had filed their nomination papers tells me that this is a universal problem.

Later, she observes:

The Green Independent party offers what we believe most Maine voters are looking for – independence from the two big-money parties…

Big money parties? Voter apathy, citizens discontent and distrust of government? Turmoil and gridlock? Politicians rigging the rules to benefit themselves?

I thought “clean elections” were supposed to be the solution to these problems. I guess the “reform” Kool-Aid has begun to run out up in the Old Dirigo State.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.