Feeling double-crossed by your elected officials?

Wondering how, time after time, they get away with promising one thing on the campaign trail only to pull a 180 once they’re safely installed in office?

Looking for a way to throw them out on their keisters?

Arthur Kyricos of York Harbor just might be your guy.

“It’s frustrating to have all my idealism, all my hope in an election, based on what candidates say they’ll do – and sometime later to have them not do what they said they were going to do,” said Kyricos.

And so Kyricos, a self-described “organization of one,” is hellbent on doing something about it.

Something big.

Something dramatic.

Something that may in fact be unconstitutional, but we’ll get to that later.

Nestled among the five citizens initiative petitions now in circulation throughout the state of Maine (the other four deal with either gambling or growing and smoking marijuana) is “An Act Regarding Campaign Promises.”

Launched by Kyricos in June, the measure is relatively short and very much to the point:
“The initiated bill allows a voter to file in court a complaint seeking declaratory judgment that a campaign promise was violated,” reads the summary. “If the court finds that a person who ran for public office made a promise indicating how that person would vote once elected and then violated that promise after having been elected, the court shall issue an order disqualifying that person from serving the remainder of the term in office and that person shall vacate office as soon as a replacement becomes available.”

Kyricos needs 55,087 registered Maine voters to sign his petition by January 2012 for this baby to become the law of the land. He’s got only a bit over 400 signatures so far, but don’t let that low number fool you.

Kyricos said he has headed out only once – Election Day in November – to circulate his petition at his local polling place. And he’s thrilled to report that seven out of every eight people he approached grabbed the pen and signed in a heartbeat.

“I haven’t really even started trying to gather signatures yet – but that will change after the winter,” Kyricos said. “It’s just 10 or 20 committed people in each town who are willing to go five or six houses to the left and five or six houses to the right.”

The man may be on to something.

Think about it – who among us, when asked if we want to support a law forcing elected officials to keep their promises, won’t want to hop aboard? (Kyricos awaits your e-mail at [email protected])

And lest you think this is one of those schemes supported by the Maine Tea Party movement, well … OK, it is. Kyricos has been a member of the Maine Refounders since October.

“Welcome Arthur. Nice petition,” wrote state Rep. Beth O’Connor, R-Berwick, in a message to Kyricos the day after he joined. “I’ll sign it and pass it around to my friends and neighbors to sign.”

Brave woman, that Rep. O’Connor.

So exactly how does an idea like this go from a balloon caption over a frustrated citizen’s head to a grass-roots movement in the making? Does our electoral system actually allow for a guy like Kyricos to attempt something like this?

“The example I always used to use is, ‘If you want to make the state color purple, go ahead!’” said Matt Dunlap, who was secretary of state when Kyricos’ paperwork went through his office and the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

The result: A bona fide citizens initiative petition, complete with statutory language that goes so far as to instruct the courts on how they must deal with a broken-promise complaint brought by an aggrieved voter. (Brace yourselves, elected officials, it leaves you precious little wiggle room.)

“The only issues the court may hear are whether or not the promise was made and if the elected official violated it,” reads the proposed addition to Title 21-A, Chapter 9 of Maine Revised Statutes.

Defenses not available to the defendant are a change in circumstance between the time the promise was made and the violation of the same promise and unanticipated facts, events or circumstances.”

As required by law, Kyricos’ initiative petition also contains an “estimate of fiscal impact.” And once again, it’s not pretty.

There would be the cost of a special election if the defendant’s opponent in the most recent election, who by law would have first dibs on the vacated seat, declined to accept.That could range from under $10,000 to elect a state representative all the way to $145,000 for a statewide do-over.

Then there’s the cost to the courts.

Notes the fiscal impact statement: “While the number of cases that might be filed cannot be accurately predicted, with more than 5,000 public officials running for public office and assuming that 75 percent, or 3,750, will make statements that could be interpreted to be campaign promises, if only 10 percent of those individuals are challenged on a single issue by disgruntled voters or opponents, the workload of the court system would increase by 375 additional cases annually.”

We’re talking anarchy, folks. And telling it to the judge wouldn’t come cheap.

The estimate projects a $1.8 million cost to the judiciary to cover the requisite seven additional Superior Court justices, seven deputy marshal positions and 2.5 extra assistant clerks. And that doesn’t count the $43,000 needed to hire a part-time assistant attorney general.

Kyricos, a grandfather of three who works in the industrial food manufacturing business and has lived in York Harbor since 1972, scoffs at the notion that by opening this can of worms, he might derail the democracy.

After all, he noted, an elected official need only add an “I’ll do my best” or “I don’t know if I can do it” to each lofty promise and, voila, he or she is off the hook.

“But say we have two candidates running neck-and-neck and one of them steps out of line by saying something he or she knows they can’t deliver on,” he added. “We need to take that out of our system.”

So let’s just say Kyricos were to get the required signatures and, after the Legislature chose, ahem, to sidestep it, voters actually passed this thing sometime in 2012. Would it come even close to being constitutional?

“It’s the guys in the black robes who have final say over constitutionality,” noted Dunlap, referring to an all-but-certain review by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Bring it on, says Kyricos.

“I’ve had volunteers – constitutional lawyers – who have gone through it. And it is constitutional,” he said. “All we’re trying to do is put teeth into our vote.”

Just imagine: Angry voters with bared teeth … politicians, caught in their blatant lies, quivering before a solemn judge … a long trail of broken campaign promises snaking out the courthouse door …
Citizens initiative? Kyricos is setting the bar too low.

I smell a reality show.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:  [email protected]