June 27, 2011

Maine reaction divided on campaign finance ruling

The Associated Press

AUGUSTA — Mainers are divided over a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a campaign finance law that's modeled on Maine's law.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center applauded today's ruling, which struck down a provision of Arizona's campaign financing system that gives extra cash to publicly funded candidates who face privately funded rivals and independent groups.

The conservative think tank, which challenged a matching fund provision in Maine law in 2010, said it is a violation of free speech. Matching fund schemes "pick and choose whose free speech rights should be enhanced, and whose should be restricted, and that is in clear violation of the First Amendment rights all citizens are guaranteed," said the center's David Crocker.

Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, which has supported Maine's public funding law since voters endorsed it in 1996, said the decision was disappointing but expected.

Maine lawmakers were prepared for the ruling and are considering a bill, LD 848, that provides a public review of it so adjustments can be made in Maine law before the 2012 elections, said Alison Smith of the citizens' group.

The group's counsel, John Brautigam, said that based on an initial reading of the opinion, it appears that Maine's law will be affected.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, said he too was disappointed with the decision. There's little question Monday's decision on Arizona's statute will have an adverse impact on Maine's clean election system, he said. Maine's system, which provides funding to qualifying candidates for governor and Legislature, has a very high participation rate and has worked well for years, Michaud said.

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