Portland voters will be asked Nov. 6 to amend the city charter to require more transparency in the financing of local campaigns.

Currently, candidates and political action committees are only required to file two reports before the election. The first is due in July, assuming a candidate or campaign is underway by then. And the second report isn’t due until only 11 days before the election.

The amendment, sponsored by City Councilor Belinda Ray, who is up for re-election, calls for an additional report to be filed 42 days before the election – a requirement that already exists for state-level races. Portland’s charter amendment would only apply to candidates, not political action or ballot question committees.

“This amendment, if it passes, will ensure greater transparency,” Ray said. “People will be able to see who is funding a candidate’s campaign and how that candidate is spending money in early autumn, when it really matters.”

No PAC or ballot question committees have formed in support or against the proposal. However, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections and the Maine Women’s Lobby are helping to organize people in support of the amendment. They do not expect to exceed the $5,000 threshold that would require them to formalize the group at City Hall, said Anna Kellar, who is the joint executive director of both groups.

In recent years, some council candidates have raised over $20,000, while mayoral candidates have raised more than $100,000.


“It seemed like Portland was an unusual case that needed a little more transparency,” Kellar said.

To raise awareness of the charter amendment, the group asked all council and school board candidates to submit a 42-day report voluntarily.

The candidates who complied were Ray, District 2 challenger Jonathan Torsch, at large challenger Joey Brunelle and District 2 school board candidate Emily Figdor.

District 2 Councilor Spencer Thibodeau, at large Councilor Nicholas Mavodones, District 1 council challenger Matthew Coffey and District 2 school board candidate Jeanne Swanton did not.

Kellar said the additional reporting requirement could be the first step toward wider campaign finance reform in Portland, including some sort of clean elections program to lower the maximum contribution, which is currently $800. But the group would have to first see what happens in November and conduct a more detailed analysis of financial information provided by the candidates.

“For us, this is the tip of the iceberg, but it’s not an iceberg we know what the rest of it looks like yet,” Kellar said. “We want to get some input about that.”

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