“Concern should drive us into action, not into a depression.” -- Karen Horney
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 Arizona for each office, and covers all state legislators and statewide offices.
Clean Money was an immediate success in Maine. One-third of the state’s legislators took office on December 6, 2000 without ties to special interest money. Challengers, who were only able to spend 54 cents for every dollar spent by an incumbent in 1998, before public financing was available, were able to close that gap dramatically in 2000. Overall, private campaign spending in Maine was cut in half.
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.
Results got even better in 2002, as participation in the Clean Elections system increased across the board:
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.
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:
(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.
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Maine Clean Elections Act
Maine Clean Elections Act Summary