For critics of the system, this likely comes as no surprise. However, it’s time supporters face this simple fact: Our process is controlled by outside interests, not real Maine people.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center will soon release a report that analyzes the funding behind each ballot initiative considered by Maine voters between 2009 and 2017.

The report also examines the checks and balances on Maine’s system relative to what other states with initiative and referendum processes employ. It will provide the most accurate estimates to date regarding the real amount of money contributed to our ballot question campaigns, and where it all came from.

Entities such as the National Institute on Money in Politics and the Maine Ethics Commission, which operate FollowTheMoney.org and MaineCampaignFinance.com, respectively, publish similar findings on their websites; however, their estimates “double count” funds.

Double-counted funds are committee-to-committee transfers of money among political action committees and ballot question committees that are officially registered to support or oppose an initiative.

These transfers should not be included in final fundraising estimates because the money being transferred was originally contributed by a different person or entity.

In addition, such transfers can artificially enhance total fundraising estimates and the percentage of funds contributed from sources inside Maine.

What we’ve found performing this analysis is that, between 2009 and 2017, more than $81 million was contributed to groups supporting or opposing ballot question campaigns. About 71 percent of these funds came from donors outside of Maine, while only 23 percent was contributed from sources within our borders.

On average over the period, Maine voters saw six ballot questions per year for which supporting and opposing groups raised a combined $9 million; $2.1 million from in-state sources and $6.5 million from away. All remaining funds were nonitemized, meaning they were contributions for which the Maine Ethics Commission does not require committees to report detailed information about the contribution, including donor state data.

In addition, groups that supported ballot initiatives during this period routinely outperformed their opposition. Supporting groups accepted a far greater share of contributions from out-of-state sources, and significantly out-fundraised the opposing campaigns.

This is noteworthy because ballot questions and veto referendums must be crafted so that a “yes” vote signifies support of the measure; therefore, petitioning organizations are always considered the “supporters” of an initiative. In other words, the groups that bring these issues to ballot are the ones lining their pockets with outside money to see them enacted.

In fact, groups supporting ballot initiatives received more than 75 percent of the $81.3 million raised by all groups over this period. This 3-to-1 advantage in fundraising reflects a difference of more than $42 million, or nearly $5 million more per cycle.

Groups that opposed ballot initiatives over this period received a far greater share of contributions from in-state sources than did supporting groups (40 percent versus 18 percent); however, the majority of their funding (53 percent) still originated from outside Maine.

The proportion of funds contributed from outside sources has also increased in recent years. In 2016 and 2017, this surged to 80 percent and 87 percent, respectively.

In 2013, groups participating in ballot initiatives received a collective $1,250 from outside sources, the only year in which out-of-state entities contributed less than $1.5 million.

The 2013 ballot featured only bond issues; not a single initiative or veto referendum appeared on the ballot that year.

Why weren’t outside interests ginned up for the bond questions in 2013? If this is not a tell-tale sign of abuse, I’m not sure what is.

Maine’s ballot initiative system is exploited regularly by outside interests who use groups like the Maine People’s Alliance as lackeys to do their bidding.

It’s time to put this “the will of the people” nonsense to rest.

Sure, people wanted these initiatives to appear on our ballot.

They just don’t live in Maine, that’s all.