Justin Chenette represents District 31 in the Maine Senate. FILE PHOTO

AUGUSTA — Legislation sponsored by State Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, to reduce the outside influence of money in politics received approval from the Legislature’s Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs. LD 54, “An Act To Limit the Influence of Lobbyists by Expanding the Prohibition on Accepting Political Contributions”LD 76, “An Act To Strengthen the Integrity of the Legislature,” and LD 256, “An Act To Ban the Use of Leadership Political Action Committees for Personal Profit,” now head to the full Maine House and Senate for further votes.

“Closing these loopholes will ensure high ethical standards for current and former elected officials,” said Chenette. “From tackling the revolving door of legislators becoming lobbyists to banning lobbyist contributions to sitting lawmakers, these needed reforms are part of a much-needed comprehensive overhaul of our campaign finance system.”

LD 54 would ban legislators, legislative candidates, the Governor, and gubernatorial candidates from accepting political contributions from lobbyists. Currently, the only ban in place is for elected officials while the legislature is in session. This bill expands the ban to year-round, making the ban permanent. It passed committee 5-4.

LD 76 was supported unanimously by the committee. As amended, the bill would close the loophole that allows former lawmakers to immediately become lobbyists after their legislative service. Under current law, former legislators are barred from lobbying for a full year after their service ends unless it is less than eight hours a month.

If passed, the bill would mean that legislators cannot engage in any amount of compensated lobbying for a full year regardless of the number of hours worked.

LD 256 would prevent legislators and candidates from using political contributions to their political action committee (PAC) as a loan to their private business. It would also bar individuals from commingling personal and PAC funds to avoid possible misuse. This bill received nearly a unanimous vote, 10-1, ought to pass as amended, with a new title for the bill: “An Act To Ensure the Responsible Operation of a Political Action Committee.”

“Lawmakers should be accountable to the people and communities they have the good fortune to represent in the Legislature. I first ran for office because I was tired of politicians being accountable to donors and special interests and not the working people they were supposed to represent,” said Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. “Getting money out of politics is long overdue, and I applaud Sen. Chenette for leading the charge on this bill. I look forward to its passage before the full Legislature.”

Chenette’s campaign finance reform package is supported by the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections and Maine League of Women Voters.

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