“Concern should drive us into action, not into a depression.” -- Karen Horney

"With the Clean Elections, it seemed less daunting a task to run. I could do what I can do, which is talk to people, as opposed to raising money, which in my life, I didn't have any experience in.“

Maine State Representative Deborah Simpson (D). Single mother juggling night school and a waitressing job before winning public office.

In 1996, Maine became the first state ever to pass full public financing for candidates for state office who choose to reject special-interest contributions and agree to campaign spending limits. The Clean Elections initiative won by a wide 56% to 44% margin after the Maine public became outraged at campaign contributions affecting political decisions on their environment, safety, and health.

Maine’s Clean Election law provides an equal and limited amount of public funds to qualifying candidates based on the costs of campaigning in Maine for each office, and covers all state legislators and statewide offices.

Clean Money was an immediate success in Maine starting in 2000, with participation increasing every year. In fact, 84% of of the legislators who were elected in 2006 office without ties to any special interest money for their election. Challengers, who were only able to spend 54 cents for every dollar spent by an incumbent in 1998, before public financing was available, have closed that gap dramatically.

Participating candidates gave the system rave reviews. In a survey conducted by the Maine Citizen Leadership Fund, 99% of candidates said they were “reasonably satisfied” or “very satisfied” with it.

Just as importantly, the 2003 GAO report on Maine’s Clean Elections system found that a net 9% of voters said that the law had somewhat or greatly increased their confidence in government. As time goes on, with fewer and fewer of their state representatives beholden to special interest campaign contributors, that number seems likely to increase.


Qualifying Candidates

Candidates qualify as Clean Elections candidates and receive public funds based on the costs of campaigning for their office by:

(1) Collecting a set number of $5 qualifying contributions from voters in their districts. The exact number of qualifying contributions required are:

State Senate:
State Representative:

(2) Renouncing any further campaign contributions.

Matching funds are granted if a clean candidate is outspent by a privately funded opponent, up to double the original grant.

Maine Links

“Maine Law Ushers in New Style of Politics!”
Public Campaign report on Maine Clean Elections Law

“Going Public”
Boston Review article on Maine Clean Elections Law

“Maine’s Clean Election Law Upheld”
(Brennan Center Report)

Maine Clean Elections Act
(Full text of 1996 initiative)

Maine Clean Elections Act Summary
Indiana University School of Law Summary

Maine Clean Elections Act Contributions and Expenditures

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