AUGUSTA — Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in campaigns through independent expenditures. The decision equates political spending with political speech, which is protected under the First Amendment. This decision fundamentally changed the financing of political campaigns in this country and gave wealthy donors and corporations greater influence in American elections.
In Maine, Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, and the Maine Senate Democrats have worked to pass campaign finance reform legislation and limit the influence of lobbyists and wealthy corporations in state government. Both Pres. Jackson and Sen. Chenette released statements commemorating this historic anniversary and reaffirming their commitment to cleaning up the political system.
“Government is at its best when the outcome of legislative debates and elections are reflect the consensus of many and not just the wealthy few. The infamous Citizens United decision has allowed the wealthy elite and large corporations to put their finger on the scale, tipping it in favor of the candidates and issues that serve their personal interests. That does a disservice to the hardworking people in this state and in this country, who just want a fair shake and a government that has their back.
“In Maine, we’ve led the nation in cleaning up our political system from the first-in-the-nation clean elections program that has both widespread support and allows regular people, like myself, to run for office and serve in state government. We’ve also passed a robust packaged of campaign finance reform bills thanks to Sen. Chenette’s leadership and unrelenting commitment. While we’ve made progress, the anniversary of Citizens United is a reminder that we still have work left to do. I will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my colleagues and champion campaign finance reforms.”
“In Maine, we aren’t waiting for Citizens United to be overturned, we’re taking matters into our own hands; Maine is taking action now. You deserve a government that is listening and responding to you, not the lobbyist who writes the biggest check. With the reforms that we’ve passed in the past year alone, lawmakers are beginning to restore trust, integrity and accountability back into the institution of government. From banning lobbyist contributions to closing the revolving door of lawmakers becoming lobbyists to tightening ethic rules around PACs, Maine is leading the way on campaign finance reform. One thing I can promise you is that we aren’t planning to stop anytime soon.”
This past year, Sen. Chenette introduced and passed a suite of campaign reform laws. The first law – LD 76, “An Act To Strengthen the Integrity of the Legislature by Extending the Waiting Period before Legislators May Engage in Any Amount of Compensated Lobbying” – prevents lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for at least one year after their public services ends. The second law – LD 256, “An Act To Ban the Use of Leadership Political Action Committees for Personal Profit” – prevents lawmakers from using PACs, or political action committees, as a personal bank account. Finally, the last law – LD 54, “An Act To Limit the Influence of Lobbyists by Expanding the Prohibition on Accepting Political Contributions,” – puts restrictions on lobbyists using their money to influence electoral and policy outcomes.