GOP Lawmaker's Bill Would Bar Public Employee Unions from Giving to Political Campaigns
Stone, Matthew, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)
AUGUSTA, Maine -- The public employee unions that played a major role in bankrolling political action committee efforts during the 2012 campaign season would essentially be barred from participating in future campaigns under a measure being proposed by a Republican lawmaker.
Rep. Peter Johnson, R-Greenville, is submitting a bill that would prohibit unions like the Maine State Employees' Association and the Maine Education Association from contributing to candidates for state office. The measure would also bar such unions from backing outside campaigns that support or oppose political candidates.
Johnson said he's proposing the bill in an effort to prevent conflicts of interest created when public employee unions contribute to the campaigns of lawmakers who then vote on budget measures that directly impact public employees.
"I think it's a clear conflict of interest," he said.
Johnson's measure, LD 110, comes after a campaign season in which state legislative races were dominated by outside groups that spent more than $3.5 million to influence them, setting a state record for outside spending. Public sector unions, including the Maine Education Association and the Maine State Employees' Association, contributed significantly to those efforts throughout the campaign season, which ended with Democrats recapturing legislative majorities in both the House and Senate.
Johnson said his proposal isn't a direct outgrowth of the 2012 campaign season. He's been thinking about proposing the measure for several years, he said.
The Maine Education Association, which represents most of Maine's teachers, contributed more than $180,000 in cash and in-kind support to an array of political action committees that supported mostly Democratic candidates in 2012, according to data from the Maine Ethics Commission. The union also contributed directly to a handful of mostly Democratic candidates.
The Maine State Employees' Association spent nearly $250,000 on similar causes during the last election cycle, according to the ethics commission. …