July 18, 2012

Angus King to opponents: No super PAC money

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BRUNSWICK — Former Gov. Angus King announced this morning that he has sent a letter to all the candidates in Maine's U.S. Senate race asking them to adopt an agreement to eliminate the influence of unregulated third-party campaign spending.

click image to enlarge

U.S. Senate candidate Angus King, speaking during a press conference in Brunswick today: "This money is destroying our politics,"

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer



Dear Cynthia,


First, let me congratulate you for winning the Democratic nomination to the US Senate. I know that putting yourself forward for public office is a serious commitment these days and respect your investment of time, effort, and energy. I look forward to engaging with you and the other candidates over the next five months as we define and debate the critically important issues facing Maine and our country.


I know that we will disagree from time to time but expect there will be areas of agreement as well, given our common commitment to improving the lives of our citizens through work in the United States Senate. In this sense, this campaign will be like all of the elections in Maine which have gone before--where able candidates vigorously debate the issues and each other in an effort to help the voters decide who they want to represent them.


But in another sense, this will be radically unlike prior Maine elections, because of the changes wrought by recent developments in campaign finance law, particularly the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case. In the past, campaigns were fought out between the candidates using the financial resources they were able to muster on their own behalf, all subject to strict contribution and disclosure limits designed to curb undue influence on our electoral process by any one individual or group. Now, under Citizens United, these limitations have been effectively swept away and a small and often anonymous group (or even one wealthy individual) can spend unlimited sums to promote (or oppose) the candidacy of any one or the other of us.


In fact one of these groups has already sprung up and created an ad on my behalf in this election.


But in spite of its potential benefit to me, I think this development is harmful to the process and poses a very real threat to our electoral system--and therefore I’d like to propose that we join together to keep these groups out of Maine using the model that seems to be working in the Senate campaign in Massachusetts between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren.


The concept is simple — we explicitly disavow super PAC or similar political-committee spending in Maine which is designed to promote any of us or denigrate any of our opponents and commit ourselves to actively discouraging any such “independent” expenditures which might help us one way or the other in this election. This agreement can be reduced to writing and include an enforcement mechanism which would penalize us if such activity takes place on our behalf, just as is the case in the Brown-Warren agreement. Although somewhat more complex because we will have more than two candidates, I’m sure some satisfactory arrangement can be worked out among our respective campaigns if we have the will to do so.


I sincerely hope you will join me in this effort; together, we can establish an important precedent in Maine that the integrity of our elections should not be compromised by unlimited and effectively anonymous flows of cash into our political process.


I stand ready to enter into such an agreement; please let me know at your earliest convenience whether this is an issue upon which we can stand together.


With my best,


Angus King

Candidate for the United States Senate

The agreement would be similar to one now in use in the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts, in which Republican incumbent Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren have agreed to donate the same amount of money to charity whenever third-party money is spent on their behalf.

King said he is frustrated that he has to record and disclose the source of even a $10 campaign contribution, while independent super PAC money does not face similar requirements.

He said the third-party money – the result of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling two years ago – has created a system in which there is no accountability in how campaign money is spent.

"This money is destroying our politics," he said. "It's a question of fundamental honesty. The people of Maine should know who's influencing these campaigns."

King said he sent the letters to all five of the other candidates running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Olympia Snowe, including Democrat Cynthia Dill, Republican Charlie Summers and the three other candidates running as independents: Steve Woods of Yarmouth, Danny Dalton of Brunswick, and Andrew Ian Dodge of Harpswell.

Democratic nominee Cynthia Dill said in a statement this afternoon that she appreciates the overture by King to have a dialogue about the corrupting influence of money on politics, which she described as an issue of great concern to her.

However, she said, King's proposal lacks detail or substance.

"Given the number of candidates in the race and the vast disparity of personal wealth among them, the devil will be in the details," she said. "We look forward to seeing a proposed agreement, the terms of which would be carefully considered."

Republican nominee Charlie Summers in a statement today rejected King's proposal. Summers said his campaign will not get involved in the "tit-for-tat gimmickry of Washington politics" and added that King is trying to distract voters by talking about the intricacies of campaign finance rather than the economy.

"This is exactly what is wrong with Washington," he said.

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