Politics

October 6, 2013

Washington Notebook: Maine delegation staffing levels vary markedly during shutdown

While some members opted to keep everyone working – without pay – others sent all but a handful of staffers home.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, furloughed all of his staff in Maine, while eight people Are taking turns manning the Washington office.

File photo/The Associated Press

Members of Congress earn $174,000 a year, although members of leadership receive more. That equates to nearly $3,350 a week before taxes for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate.

On Saturday, a bill to retroactively pay furloughed employees passed the House and appeared likely to pass the Senate as well.

MAINE IMPLICATIONS IN COURT CASE?

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case on campaign contribution limits that some believe could have implications for states with their own donation caps, including Maine.

The case, McCutcheon v. the Federal Election Commission, involves the $123,200 cumulative two-year cap that individuals are allowed to donate to federal candidates as well as political parties and political action committees.

The lead plaintiff in the case is Shaun McCutcheon, a wealthy Alabama businessman who argues he should be able to give to as many federal candidates and political parties as he wants to as long as he stays within the caps on donations to those individual entities. McCutcheon is often described as a Republican activist.

McCutcheon, the Republican National Committee and other critics of the law contend that a separate cap of $2,600 per federal candidate per election and other restrictions on donations to political parties per election is sufficient to guard against a donor buying undue influence. They also continue the argument that an aggregate cap is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. Defenders of the limits say restrictions help prevent corruption.

The case has been described as “the next Citizens United,” the 2010 ruling that opened the door for unlimited “independent expenditures” by corporations and labor union contributions. And like Citizens United, some believe the McCutcheon case could affect state laws.

Maine is one of about a dozen states that impose their own aggregate or cumulative limits on campaign contributions. The cap in Maine is $25,000 for all campaign contributions.

If the Supreme Court continues down the path it followed on Citizens United and overturns the federal cap on total contributions, it could also eventually scuttle aggregate caps at the state level, some predict.

“Relatively few donors presently give the maximum allowed under the two-year federal limit. But if the far more modest limits imposed by state laws are overturned, the implications for state elections could be quite dramatic,” wrote Larry Norton and Ron Jacobs, co-editors of the Political Law Briefing blog and co-chairmen of the Venable law firm’s political law group. Norton is also former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission.

OVERHEARD ON THE HILL

“This junior senator from the state of Mane is one of the most dignified, experienced senators that this body has ever had,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said of Sen. Angus King on Saturday during a floor speech amid the shutdown debate. 

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

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