Clean Election Act Summary
University School of Law - Indianapolis
The Program on Law and State
On November 5, 1996 the citizens of Maine voted
to enact the "Maine Clean Election Act." Before filing
a petition for such an act, the Maine Constitution requires the
signatures of at least ten percent of the vote from the last gubernatorial
election. This petition was signed by 59,563 Maine citizens, which
was well in excess of the required number of signatures. On April
1, 1996, the initiated act died between the Houses for lack of concurrence.
Following Article IV, Part Third, Section 18 of the Maine Constitution,
the Secretary of State of the State of Maine, Bill Diamond, acting
on behalf of the Governor, presented the bill to the citizens of
Maine for a referendum vote. The bill passed 320,755 to 250,185
and will go into effect January 1, 1999. By passing this bill, Maine
became the first state in the union to enact legislation providing
for publicly financed political campaigns.
Under the "Maine Clean Election Act,"
certified candidates for the positions of Governor, State Senator
and State Representative have the option of having their campaigns
publicly financed. This applies to elections beginning in the year
2000 and continuing thereafter. To qualify as a certified candidate
for public funding, candidates for Governor must receive contributions
between $5 and $100 from at least 2,500 Maine voters for an aggregate
amount not to exceed $50,000; candidates for State Senator must
receive contributions between $5 and $100 from at least 150 voters
within the Senate district for an aggregate amount not to exceed
$1,500; and candidates for State Representative must receive contributions
between $5 and $100 from at least 50 voters within the House district
for an aggregate amount not to exceed $500. After a candidate has
been certified, he or she can no longer accept contributions in
any amount and must finance the campaign solely from the Clean Election
The Maine Clean Election Act Fund consists of
money from the following sources:
Two million dollars from state income and sales
tax revenues Seed money contributions remaining after a candidate
has been certified (A "seed money contribution" is a contribution
of no more than $100 per individual made to a candidate trying to
qualify as a Clean Election Act candidate for public funding.) Fund
revenues that remain unspent after being distributed to certified
candidates Voluntary donations made to the fund Fines collected
from violations of the Act Other unspent funds distributed to a
candidate who does not remain a candidate throughout the election
Revenues generated from a tax checkoff program that allows a resident
of Maine who files a tax return to designate that $3 be paid into
the fund The distribution of the fund to the certified candidates
will be equal to the average amount of campaign expenditures for
the office in question for the preceding two contested primaries,
or contested general elections, as applicable. If there is not enough
electoral information from the past two applicable elections, the
amount distributed will be determined by the most recent data available.
Funds are not distributed for uncontested general elections. The
governing commission of the fund cannot distribute amounts in excess
of what is contained in the fund. If the amount determined for distribution
exceeds the amount available from the fund, the commission will
allow candidates to accept or spend contributions.
Regardless of any other provisions of the law,
certified candidates must report any money collected, all campaign
expenditures, obligations and related activities to the commission
according to procedures created by the Commission. In addition,
all unspent revenues must be returned to the fund.
Under the Act, the pre-existing Commission on
Governmental Ethics and Elections Practices will become a five member
commission, each member appointed by the Governor and confirmed
by the legislature. This Commission will administer both the Act
and the Fund. Due to its increased duties in administering and enforcing
campaign and lobbyist reporting laws, funding to the Commission
will increase from $200 to $400 for each principle lobbyist and
$100 to $200 for each lobbyist associate.
Summary Prepared by: John M. DeCastro J.D. Candidate
Class of 1999 Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis
Sec. 17. 21-A MRSA c. 14 is enacted to read:
CHAPTER 14 THE MAINE CLEAN ELECTION ACT
ME ST T. 21-A § 1121
§ 1121. Short title
This chapter may be known and cited as the "Maine
Clean Election Act."
ME ST T. 21-A § 1122
§ 1122. Definitions
As used in this chapter, unless the context otherwise
indicates, the following terms have the following meanings.
1. Certified candidate. "Certified candidate"
means a candidate running for Governor, State Senator or State Representative
who chooses to participate in the Maine Clean Election Act and who
is certified as a Maine Clean Election Act candidate under section
1125, subsection 5.
2. Commission. "Commission" means the
Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices established
by Title 5, section 12004-G, subsection 33.
3. Contribution. "Contribution" has
the same meaning as in section 1012, subsection 2.
4. Fund. "Fund" means the Maine Clean
Election Fund established in section 1124.
5. Nonparticipating candidate. "Nonparticipating
candidate" means a candidate running for Governor, State Senator
or State Representative who does not choose to participate in the
Maine Clean Election Act and who is not seeking to be certified
as a Maine Clean Election Act candidate under section 1125, subsection
6. Participating candidate. "Participating
candidate" means a candidate who is running for Governor, State
Senator or State Representative who is seeking to be certified as
a Maine Clean Election Act candidate under section 1125, subsection
7. Qualifying contribution. "Qualifying contribution"
means a donation:
A. Of $5 in the form of a check or a money order
payable to the fund in support of a candidate
B. Made by a registered voter within the electoral
division for the office a candidate is seeking;
C. Made during the designated qualifying period
and obtained with the knowledge and approval of the candidate; and
D. That is acknowledged by a written receipt that
identifies the name and address of the donor on forms provided by
8. Qualifying period. "Qualifying period"
means the following:
A. For a gubernatorial participating candidate,
the qualifying period begins November 1st immediately preceding
the election year and ends at 5:00 p.m. on March 16th of the election
year unless the candidate is unenrolled, in which case the period
ends at 5:00 p.m. on June 2nd of the election year.
B. For State Senate or State House of Representatives
participating candidates, the qualifying period begins January 1st
of the election year and ends at 5:00 p.m. on March 16th of that
election year unless the candidate is unenrolled, in which case
the period ends at 5:00 p.m. on June 2nd of the election year.
9. Seed money contribution. "Seed money contribution"
means a contribution of no more than $100 per individual made to
a candidate, including a contribution from the candidate or the
candidate's family. To be eligible for certification, a candidate
may collect and spend only seed money contributions subsequent to
becoming a candidate as defined by section 1, subsection 5 and throughout
the qualifying period. A candidate may not collect or spend seed
money contributions after certification as a Maine Clean Election
Act candidate. The primary purpose of a seed money contribution
is to enable a participating candidate to collect qualifying contributions.
A seed money contribution must be reported according to procedures
developed by the commission.
ME ST T. 21-A § 1123
§ 1123. Alternate campaign financing option
This chapter establishes an alternative campaign
financing option available to candidates running for Governor, State
Senator and State Representative. This alternative campaign financing
option is available to candidates for elections to be held beginning
in the year 2000. The commission shall administer this Act and the
fund. Candidates participating in the Maine Clean Election Act must
also comply with all other applicable election and campaign laws
ME ST T. 21-A § 1124
§ 1124. The Maine Clean Election Fund established;
sources of funding
1. Established. The Maine Clean Election Fund
is established to finance the election campaigns of certified Maine
Clean Election Act candidates running for Governor, State Senator
and State Representative and to pay administrative and enforcement
costs of the commission related to this Act. The fund is a special,
dedicated, nonlapsing fund and any interest generated by the fund
is credited to the fund. The commission shall administer the fund.
2. Sources of funding. The following must be deposited
in the fund:
A. The qualifying contributions required under
section 1125 when those contributions are submitted to the commission;
B. Two million dollars of the revenues from the
taxes imposed under Title 36, Parts 3(1) and 8(2) and credited to
the General Fund, transferred to the fund by the Treasurer of State
on or before January 1st of each year, beginning January 1, 1999.
These revenues must be offset in an equitable manner by an equivalent
reduction within the administrative divisions of the legislative
branch and executive branch agencies. This section may not affect
the funds distributed to the Local Government Fund under Title 30-A,
C. Revenue from a tax checkoff program allowing
a resident of the State who files a tax return with the State Tax
Assessor to designate that $3 be paid into the fund. If a husband
and wife file a joint return, each spouse may designate that $3
be paid. The amounts designated for the fund must be appropriated
from the General Fund and credited to the fund;
D. Seed money contributions remaining unspent
after a candidate has been certified as a Maine Clean Election Act
E. Fund revenues that were distributed to a Maine
Clean Election Act candidate and that remain unspent after the candidate
has lost a primary election or after all general elections;
F. Other unspent fund revenues distributed to
any Maine Clean Election Act candidate who does not remain a candidate
throughout a primary or general election cycle;
G. Voluntary donations made directly to the fund;
H. Fines collected under section 1020-A, subsection
4 and section 1127.
3. Determination of fund amount. By September
1st preceding each election year, the commission shall publish an
estimate of revenue in the fund available for distribution to certified
candidates during the upcoming year's elections.
ME ST T. 21-A § 1125
§ 1125. Terms of participation
1. Declaration of intent. A participating candidate
must file a declaration of intent to seek certification as a Maine
Clean Election Act candidate and to comply with the requirements
of this chapter. The declaration of intent must be filed with the
commission prior to or during the qualifying period, except as provided
in subsection 11, according to forms and procedures developed by
the commission. A participating candidate must submit a declaration
of intent prior to collecting qualifying contributions under this
2. Restrictions on contributions for participating
candidates. Subsequent to becoming a candidate as defined by section
1, subsection 5 and prior to certification, a participating candidate
may not accept contributions, except for seed money contributions.
A participating candidate must limit the candidate's seed money
contributions to the following amounts:
A. Fifty thousand dollars for a gubernatorial
B. One thousand five hundred dollars for a candidate
for the State Senate; or
C. Five hundred dollars for a candidate for the
State House of Representatives.
The commission may, by rule, revise these amounts
to ensure the effective implementation of this chapter.
3. Qualifying contributions. Participating candidates
must obtain qualifying contributions during the qualifying period
A. For a gubernatorial candidate, at least 2,500
verified registered voters of this State must support the candidacy
by providing a qualifying contribution to that candidate;
B. For a candidate for the State Senate, at least
150 verified registered voters from the candidate's electoral division
must support the candidacy by providing a qualifying contribution
to that candidate; or
C. For a candidate for the State House of Representatives,
at least 50 verified registered voters from the candidate's electoral
division must support the candidacy by providing a qualifying contribution
to that candidate.
A payment, gift or anything of value may not be
given in exchange for a qualifying contribution.
4. Filing with commission. A participating candidate
must submit qualifying contributions to the commission during the
qualifying period according to procedures developed by the commission,
except as provided under subsection 11.
5. Certification of Maine Clean Election Act candidates.
Upon receipt of a final submittal of qualifying contributions by
a participating candidate, the commission shall determine whether
or not the candidate has:
A. Signed and filed a declaration of intent to
participate in this Act;
B. Submitted the appropriate number of valid qualifying
C. Qualified as a candidate by petition or other
D. Not accepted contributions, except for seed
money contributions, and otherwise complied with seed money restrictions;
E. Otherwise met the requirements for participation
in this Act.
The commission shall certify a candidate complying
with the requirements of this section as a Maine Clean Election
Act candidate as soon as possible and no later than 3 days after
final submittal of qualifying contributions.
Upon certification, a candidate must transfer
to the fund any unspent seed money contributions. A certified candidate
must comply with all requirements of this Act after certification
and throughout the primary and general election periods. Failure
to do so is a violation of this chapter.
6. Restrictions on contributions and expenditures
for certified candidates.After certification, a candidate must limit
the candidate's campaign expenditures and obligations, including
outstanding obligations, to the revenues distributed to the candidate
from the fund and may not accept any contributions unless specifically
authorized by the commission. All revenues distributed to certified
candidates from the fund must be used for campaign-related purposes.
The commission shall publish guidelines outlining permissible campaign-related
7. Timing of fund distribution. The commission
shall distribute to certified candidates revenues from the fund
in amounts determined under subsection 8 in the following manner.
A. Within 3 days after certification, for candidates
certified prior to March 16th of the election year, revenues from
the fund must be distributed as if the candidates are in an uncontested
B. Within 3 days after March 16th of the election
year, for primary election certified candidates, revenues from the
fund must be distributed according to whether the candidate is in
a contested or uncontested primary election, reduced by any amounts
previously distributed under paragraph A.
C. Within 3 days after the primary election, for
general election certified candidates, revenues from the fund must
be distributed according to whether the candidate is in a contested
general election. Funds may not be distributed for uncontested general
Funds may be distributed to certified candidates
under this section by any mechanism that is expeditious, ensures
accountability and safeguards the integrity of the fund.
8. Amount of fund distribution. By July 1, 1999
of the effective date of this Act, and at least every 4 years after
that date, the commission shall determine the amount of funds to
be distributed to participating candidates based on the type of
election and office as follows.
A. For contested primary elections, the amount
of revenues to be distributed is the average amount of campaign
expenditures made by each candidate during all contested primary
election races for the immediately preceding 2 primary elections
as reported in the initial filing period subsequent to the primary
election for the respective offices of Governor, State Senate and
State House of Representatives.
B. For uncontested primary elections, the amount
of revenues distributed is the average amount of campaign expenditures
made by each candidate during all uncontested primary election races,
or for contested races if that amount is lower, for the immediately
preceding 2 primary elections as reported in the initial filing
period subsequent to the primary election for the respective offices
of Governor, State Senate and State House of Representatives.
C. For contested general elections, the amount
of revenues distributed is the average amount of campaign expenditures
made by each candidate during all contested general election races
for the immediately preceding 2 general elections as reported in
the initial filing period subsequent to the general election for
the respective offices of Governor, State Senate and State House
D. Revenues may not be distributed for uncontested
If the immediately preceding two election cycles
do not contain sufficient electoral data, the commission shall use
information from the most recent applicable elections. For only
the initial computations under subsections A to C that are conducted
by July 1, 1999, the commission shall reduce the amounts to be distributed
9. Matching funds. When any campaign, finance
or election report shows that the sum of a candidate's expenditures
or obligations, or funds raised or borrowed, whichever is greater,
alone or in conjunction with independent expenditures reported under
section 1019, exceeds the distribution amount under subsection 8,
the commission shall issue immediately to any opposing Maine Clean
Election Act candidate an additional amount equivalent to the reported
excess. Matching funds are limited to 2 times the amount originally
distributed under subsection 8, paragraph A or C, whichever is applicable.
10. Candidate not enrolled in a party. An unenrolled
candidate certified by March 16th preceding the primary election
is eligible for revenues from the fund in the same amounts and at
the same time as an uncontested primary election candidate and a
general election candidate as specified in subsections 7 and 8.
For an unenrolled candidate not certified by March 16th at 5:00
p.m. the deadline for filing qualifying contributions is 5:00 p.m.
on June 2nd preceding the general election. An unenrolled candidate
certified after March 16th at 5:00 p.m. is eligible for revenues
from the fund in the same amounts as a general election candidate,
as specified in subsections 7 and 8.
11. Other procedures. The commission shall establish
by rule procedures for qualification, certification, disbursement
of fund revenues and return of unspent fund revenues for races involving
special elections, recounts, vacancies, withdrawals or replacement
12. Reporting; unspent revenue. Notwithstanding
any other provision of law, participating and certified candidates
shall report any money collected, all campaign expenditures, obligations
and related activities to the commission according to procedures
developed by the commission. Upon the filing of a final report for
any primary election in which the candidate was defeated and for
all general elections that candidate shall return all unspent fund
revenues to the commission. In developing these procedures, the
commission shall utilize existing campaign reporting procedures
whenever practicable. The commission shall ensure timely public
access to campaign finance data and may utilize electronic means
of reporting and storing information.
13. Distributions not to exceed amount in fund.
The commission may not distribute revenues to certified candidates
in excess of the total amount of money deposited in the fund as
set forth in section 1124. Notwithstanding any other provisions
of this chapter, if the commission determines that the revenues
in the fund are insufficient to meet distributions under subsections
8 or 9, the commission may permit certified candidates to accept
and spend contributions, reduced by any seed money contributions,
aggregating no more than $500 per donor per election for gubernatorial
candidates and $250 per donor per election for State Senate and
State House candidates, up to the applicable amounts set forth in
subsections 8 and 9 according to rules adopted by the commission.
14. Appeals. A candidate who has been denied certification
as a Maine Clean Election Act candidate or the opponent of a candidate
who has been granted certification as a Maine Clean Election Act
candidate may challenge a certification decision by the commission
A. A challenger may appeal to the full commission
within 3 days of the certification decision. The appeal must be
in writing and must set forth the reasons for the appeal.
B. Within 5 days after an appeal is properly made
and after notice is given to the challenger and any opponent, the
commission shall hold a hearing. The appellant has the burden of
providing evidence to demonstrate that the commission decision was
improper. The commission must rule on the appeal within 3 days after
the completion of the hearing.
C. A challenger may appeal the decision of the
commission in paragraph B by commencing an action in Superior Court
according to the procedure set forth in section 356, subsection
2, paragraphs D and E.
D. A candidate whose certification by the commission
as a Maine Clean Election Act candidate is revoked on appeal must
return to the commission any unspent revenues distributed from the
fund. If the commission or court find that an appeal was made frivolously
or to cause delay or hardship, the commission or court may require
the moving party to pay costs of the commission, court and opposing
parties, if any.
ME ST T. 21-A § 1126
§ 1126. Commission to adopt rules
The commission shall adopt rules to ensure effective
administration of this chapter. These rules must include but must
not be limited to procedures for obtaining qualifying contributions,
certification as a Maine Clean Election Act candidate, circumstances
involving special elections, vacancies, recounts, withdrawals or
replacements, collection of revenues for the fund, distribution
of fund revenue to certified candidates, return of unspent fund
disbursements and compliance with the Maine Clean Election Act.
ME ST T. 21-A § 1127
§ 1127. Violations
1. Civil penalty. In addition to any other penalties
that may be applicable, a person who violates any provision of this
chapter is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 per
violation payable to the fund. This penalty is recoverable in a
civil action. In addition to any fine, for good cause shown, a candidate
found in violation of this chapter may be required to return to
the fund all amounts distributed to the candidate from the fund.
If the commission makes a determination that a violation of this
chapter has occurred, the commission shall assess a fine or transmit
the finding to the Attorney General for prosecution. Fines paid
under this section must be deposited in the fund. In determining
whether or not a candidate is in violation of the expenditure limits
of this chapter, the commission may consider as a mitigating factor
any circumstances out of the candidate's control.
2. Class E crime. A person who willfully or knowingly
violates this chapter or rules of the commission or who willfully
or knowingly makes a false statement in any report required by this
chapter commits a Class E crime and, if certified as a Maine Clean
Election Act candidate, must return to the fund all amounts distributed
to the candidate.
ME ST T. 21-A § 1128
§ 1128. Study report
By January 30, 2002 and every four years after
that date, the commission shall prepare for the joint standing committee
of the Legislature having jurisdiction over legal affairs a report
documenting, evaluating and making recommendations relating to the
administration, implementation and enforcement of the Maine Clean
Election Act and the Maine Clean Election Fund.
Sec. 18. 36 MRSA § 5286 is enacted to read:
ME ST T. 36 § 5286
§ 5286. Contribution to the Maine Clean Election
Fund; voluntary checkoff
1. Designation. Resident taxpayers may designate
that $3 of their taxes be deposited in the Maine Clean Election
Fund in accordance with Title 21-A, section 1124.
2. Forms. The State Tax Assessor shall provide
on the first page of the income tax form a space for the filing
individual to indicate whether that filer wishes to pay $3, or $6
if filing a joint return, from the General Fund of the State to
finance the Maine Clean Election Fund.
3. Transfer of Funds. The State Tax Assessor shall
transfer funds from the General Fund in accordance with Title 21-A,
Note: ME ST T. 1 § 1002
Note: ME ST T. 21-A § 1122
Sec. 19. Transition clause. The revised Commission
on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices is the successor in
interest to the existing Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election
Practices. The members of the existing commission shall serve until
appointment and confirmation of members to the revised commission.
Members of the revised commission must be appointed and confirmed
by June 15, 1997.
Approved by the electorate at the general election
on November 5, 1996.
(1)36 M.R.S.A. § 1751 et seq.
(2)36 M.R.S.A. § 5101 et seq.