Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Maine's Clean Elections law survives an 11th hour attack

Maine will still be a clean elections state, at least for now, after a decision by the Supreme Court last Friday to deny an injunction to overturn the state's twelve-year-old public campaign funding law. About 300 Maine candidates are running Clean Elections campaigns this season, according to WABI tv, including gubernatorial candidate Libby Mitchell.

The Maine Clean Elections Act, which limits private contributions while providing matching public funds, was challenged by a group called the Respect Maine Political Action Committee and Republican State Representative Andre Cushing. Cushing said he objected to the extra funds Clean Elections candidates can tap if they're opposed by "non-clean" candidates, and the suit also targeted contribution caps and disclosure rules.

Maine's voter-approved clean elections law has been a plus for the state, Ann Luther, co-chair of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, told WABI. "We have more women, more people from diverse backgrounds, more young people seeking office. We have more challengers facing incumbents, fewer uncontested races, we've kept campaign spending down, it's just been a huge success."

Cushing and Respect Maine PAC will have their day in a lower court, for the judge there to hear the merits of their suit. The Court's two-paragraph order simply cited the lateness of the request and the high burden for granting an injunction in denying emergency relief, according to Demos Foundation, which, with co-counsel, including the Brennan Center for Justice and Portland attorney John Brautigam, filed a 47-page amicus brief in support of the state before the Court's decision.

The Court's action means that Maine's Clean Elections system has been preserved intact for this upcoming election - an important victory for public financing of elections since other states, like Arizona, Florida and Connecticut, have seen portions of their programs halted this year.

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