The senatorial race between incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic challenger Sara Gideon is already the most costly political race in Maine history. The 2018 2nd District congressional race in which Democrat Jared Golden unseated Republican Bruce Poliquin held the record briefly at a combined $31 million. Gideon v. Collins now stands at about $40 million and counting.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

And Maine is not getting its money’s worth. The political advertising is noxious and unhelpful, an insult to the intelligence of voters and unbecoming of both women. Every time I hear Collins or Gideon say, “I have approved this message,” I think, “Well, you shouldn’t have.”

Collins is being attacked as never before for her inexplicable support of demagogue Donald Trump and Gideon is fending off spurious attacks by Collins’ big business supporters. Ads from both camps are filled with half-truths and mudslinging. But the real problem with all the political campaign noise is that too much money is being spent on it. Rather than provide useful information, the ads cloud the issues and pollute the public airways.

The primary reason for all the filthy lucre being spent on media in Maine is the disastrous 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that corporations are people and, thus, have a constitutional right to spend whatever they want expressing their corporate opinions.

The other faulty leg on which the campaign finance toilet teeters is the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision that established the precedent that spending money is a form of free speech. Money is not speech and corporations are not people. Period. End of story. Wipe and flush.

Americans across the political spectrum should be able to agree that we badly need to get the money out of politics. To achieve any semblance of reason, only individual citizens should be allowed to contribute and there should be strict limits on how much. And only residents of a state should be allowed to contribute.

Where is all the money coming from in the Maine Senate race? Collins has raised $1.4 million from California, $1.3 million from Florida, $1.1 million from New York and, oh yes, $907,000 from here in Maine. Gideon has raised $1.8 million from California, $1.2 million from New York, and $1.2 million from Maine. Based on Maine fundraising, I declare Gideon the winner.

Collins’ ads complain about the so-called “dark money” groups that support Gideon, but Collins also gets money from dark money groups that do not have to disclose their donors and, oh, by the way, Sen. Collins cast the deciding vote in 2010 that defeated the effort to make dark money groups disclose their contributors. Can’t have it both ways, Senator.

Truth be told, however, real and meaningful campaign finance reform should probably begin with the media. Print, electronic and especially broadcast media make millions airing lies and misinformation while pretending to be objective – even worse while some endorse candidates.

Facebook has faced huge criticism for not fact-checking online political ads, but what about ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox? Shouldn’t they be held just as accountable for the information they broadcast? And they should not profit from the democratic process. All political advertising should be free and should only be allowed a month or two prior to an election.

Obviously, none of these common sense reforms will ever be enacted, which means we are in for a steady diet of lies, spin and verbal diarrhea for the foreseeable future.

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