Advocates for “clean” elections in Maine are gearing up for a November ballot referendum that would ban foreign government spending in state elections.

By Kathryn Carley, Public News Service

Advocates for “clean” elections in Maine are gearing up for a November ballot referendum that would ban foreign government spending in state elections.

Augusta, Maine state capital building

The Maine Legislature recently passed a bill to enact a ban with broad bipartisan support, but it was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Janet Mills, who said the bill’s language raised First Amendment concerns.

Kaitlyn LaCasse, a campaigner for Protect Maine Elections, said the ban makes sense to voters.

“This campaign is really driven by the grit and determination and grassroots support of Maine voters,” she said, “but our opponents will have tens of millions of dollars.”

Companies from Canada and Spain are already spending some of that money on statewide television advertisements opposing a public takeover of two New England-based power companies.

LaCasse said more than 80,000 signatures have been collected to place the ban proposal on the November ballot.

Advocates for “clean” elections suffered another setback this session with the repeal of a recently enacted ban on corporate campaign contributions to legislators. Critics said the ban didn’t go far enough, and that money could still flow to political action committees.

Anna Keller, executive director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, called it “a step backwards.”

“We had over 600 letters go to legislators from their constituents protesting the repeal of the corporate campaign contribution ban,” she said, “and it made a big difference.”

Keller said the bill repealing the ban does direct the Maine Ethics Commission to come back with a new bill that makes clearer the distinction where corporate contributions are allowed in Maine elections, while attempting to preserve the original aim of the ban.