Political Leadership Means More Than Fundraising

Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), March 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

Political Leadership Means More Than Fundraising


The Legislature's Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee turned its back on another opportunity to close a loophole in Maine's public campaign financing system when the panel voted 12-1 Friday against a measure that would prevent candidates who accept Maine Clean Election Act funding for their own campaigns from operating political action committees.

Unless a House floor vote reverses the committee's recommendation against LD 410, the bill sponsored by Rep. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, will join failed attempts in the past three legislatures to address the hypocrisy of a system that allows candidates who fund their own campaigns with public money to simultaneously solicit private donations for leadership PACs.

Lawmakers and opponents of Chenette's proposal argued that LD 410 would not stem the flow of special-interest money into Maine elections. That's true -- because it would be difficult to enforce the prohibition of a third party from operating a PAC for a candidate. But it's not the point. A broader discussion, one that explores all aspects of the impact of leadership PACs, is needed.

Leadership PACs, which all 10 Democrats and Republicans who currently serve in legislative leadership positions operated, contribute to a dynamic that equates political leadership with fundraising ability. Added to Supreme Court rulings that protect unlimited campaign contributions as free speech, their proliferation helps fuel an unhealthy public impression that Maine state government is increasingly open to the highest bidder, which directly contradicts the spirit of the Maine Clean Election Act that voters passed in 1996.

A second concern is that leadership PACs, which funnel money to political parties and campaign organizations to help other candidates in hotly contested races, extend the special-interest funding pipeline directly into the legislative process. …

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