Magazine article The Nation

As Maine Goes

Magazine article The Nation

As Maine Goes

Article excerpt

Campaign finance reformers are celebrating a major victory in Maine, where a federal district court just upheld the constitutionality of that state's pathbreaking Clean Election Act of 1996. The Maine decision comes on the heels of an important announcement by Public Campaign, the primary national organization promoting "Clean Money" campaign reform, and the American Civil Liberties Union affirming both groups' commitment to work together for this new approach. This is a subtle shift for the ACLU, which had been allied with reform opponents.

Chief District Judge D. Brock Hornby's ruling in the Maine case affirmed what clean-money activists have been saying all along: A voluntary system of full public financing for candidates who raise no private money and accept spending limits is constitutional and expands political speech. Maine's law, the prototype for similar measures adopted in Vermont, Arizona and Massachusetts-and on the way in other states through the initiative and legislative processes-also provides a modest level of matching funds to candidates faced with higher spending by privately funded opponents. Those against the law had hoped to convince Judge Hornby that this matching funds provision would "chill" their own private spending on campaign speech. He dismissed that argument, writing that "the plaintiffs want to preserve the ability to outspend their publicly financed opponents. Their view of free speech is that there is no point in speaking if your opponent gets to be heard as well. …

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