An effort by a pair of Republican state lawmakers to remove gubernatorial candidates from Maine’s publicly financed political campaign system is being met with mixed reactions at the State House. Reps. Joel Stetkis and Paula Sutton have co-sponsored a bill removing candidates for governor from the list of those who can become eligible for taxpayer support for an election campaign. Stetkis, R-Canaan, told the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Friday that the program was a failure as it stands even though he supports the underlying goal of the state’s Clean Election Act, which was to remove special interest money from political campaigns. Stetkis said providing up to $3 million in taxpayer funds for every gubernatorial candidate who becomes eligible for public finances puts a financial burden on the state at the expense of other priorities.
Another bill, L.D. 408, on clean elections would prohibit the use of state funds for post-election celebrations. Sen. Ron Collins, R-Wells, said that in his most recent campaign his publicly financed opponent spent $500 on a post-election party, according to campaign finance records available with the Maine Ethics Commission. While that is not disallowed under the system, Collins said taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for a party for campaign volunteers.
“There are differing opinions on the clean election system and whether taxpayer money should be used to fund political campaigns,” Collins said. “But I think we can all agree that hardworking Maine citizens shouldn’t have to pay for parties after the election. It is clearly an abuse of the system and it’s time to put a stop to it.”