AUGUSTA – Legislative candidates who got public funding won 54 percent of their races in November, but fewer candidates used the Clean Election system, says a report released Friday.
Preliminary data used in the report by Maine Citizens for Clean Elections shows that publicly funded candidates’ success rate on Nov. 6 exceeded that of privately funded candidates, who won in 39 percent of their races.
But the figures show that fewer legislative candidates used the Clean Election system, 62 percent in last month’s election to roughly 80 percent since the 2004 election.
The lower participation rate followed a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a key provision of the Clean Election Act, the so-called matching funds provision, which provided Clean Election candidates with extra cash when their privately funded opponents outspent them.
In response to that court decision, the Maine Legislature stripped the matching-funds provision from the state law earlier this year, rebuffing efforts by public-funding supporters to patch up the law.
In this legislative session, supporters will again try to persuade lawmakers to give Clean Election candidates a way to bolster their campaigns against opponents who receive large sums or benefit from independent advertising, said Maine Citizens for Clean Elections Executive Director Andrew Bossie.
“We’re still really concerned and think the system needs to be strengthened so we can get participation back up and candidates can be heard, instead of these third-party groups,” Bossie said Friday.
The Clean Election Act was authorized by voters in 1996 and first used by candidates in 2000. It provides public campaign funds to candidates in gubernatorial and legislative races who qualify by collecting minimum numbers of $5 contributions from the public.
The system has been popular with legislative candidates, although participation dipped from 77 percent in 2010 to 62 percent this year.
The study shows that the drop-off in participation was most pronounced among men and Republican candidates for the House of Representatives.
It also concluded that Clean Election candidates won 65 percent of the races in which their opponents used private funding.
A full analysis is expected after final fundraising and expenditure reports are filed with the state Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.