Imagine a state government that operates with the best interest of Maine people, not one based on who writes the biggest check. Imagine a state government that isn’t unduly influenced or hindered by special interest groups. Imagine a state government where industries can’t try to financially sway the very lawmakers in charge of regulating them. We don’t have to just imagine it – we can make it happen.

With Democrats in control of the Maine House, the Maine Senate and the Blaine House, now is the time to put actions to words and make meaningful change. Particularly, we have a momentous opportunity to address a topic that’s long been the third rail under the State House dome: campaign finance and ethics reform.

Maine has strict contribution limits for individuals running for office, but not so much once these individuals win and enter office. And the gross expansion of political action committees has revealed even more rampant loopholes in our anti-corruption laws. PACs have no contribution limits, which means corporations and lobbyists can spend unlimited amounts of money to garner access, influence and votes in the Maine Legislature.

We need to ask ourselves this: Why are large multinational corporations giving hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars to a single lawmaker? It’s not out of the goodness of their hearts. When companies are able to donate such large amounts of money, who do you think lawmakers feel most accountable to – a constituent, or a big donor?

Even worse, we know that corporations and lobbyists tend to target legislators who serve on the committees that directly affect their client’s corporate interests. For example, it’s been common practice for telecommunications and utility companies to contribute thousands of dollars to the chair of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. The system allows companies such as Central Maine Power and Spectrum to try to influence the very lawmakers and committee responsible for regulation. This would seem like an obvious conflict of interest, but it’s completely legal under our broken laws.

Our flawed political system has also allowed for lawmakers to run “leadership PACs” on the side. And we’ve seen firsthand examples where lawmakers have gotten into hot water for failing to disclose using PAC funds to benefit their personal bottom line.

When it comes to contributions from lobbyists, the only stipulation on the books is that lobbyists can’t give money to sitting lawmakers while we are in session, which is usually January through April or June. Make no mistake: This in-session ban is no stop-gap measure. The influence is still there, no matter when the contribution is made, which is normally right before session begins and right after it ends. In one year, 400 entities hired 229 lobbyists and spent $4.8 million to lobby members of the Legislature.

My bill aims to change that. I’ve introduced L.D. 54, which would ban elected officials serving in state government from soliciting or accepting financial contributions from lobbyists. It’s a simple but long-overdue change that will disrupt the status quo and help clean up our political system.

Five brave states – Alaska, California, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee – already ban lobbyist contributions at any time. Maine should join them.

The bill is backed by Maine Citizens for Clean Elections and the Maine League of Women Voters, and is a top legislative priority for Senate President Troy Jackson. That’s a good sign for the people of Maine.

The system we have isn’t working for the average Mainer. Lawmakers are supposed to serve as the lobbyist for the people. This year, we have the chance to make sure lawmakers aren’t pressured or unduly influenced by lobbyists. This bill would deal a major blow to decades of pay-for-play politics at the State House. It’s our chance to champion honest and transparent public policy decision-making. Together, we can restore trust and integrity in our state government.


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