Politics

December 7, 2012

Report: Maine 'clean' candidates find success

A new report says Clean Election-funded legislative candidates won 54 percent of the time in November.

AUGUSTA — Clean Election-funded legislative candidates won 54 percent of the time in November, but fewer candidates were using the system of publicly funded campaigns, according to a report released Friday.

Preliminary data used in the report by Maine Citizens for Clean Elections shows publicly funded candidates' success rate last month exceeded that of privately funded candidates, who won in 39 percent of the races.

But the figures also show that fewer legislative candidates used the Clean Election system, 62 percent in last month's election to roughly 80 percent since the 2004 election. The lower participation rate followed a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a key provision of the Clean Election Act, the so-called matching funds provision, which provided Clean Election candidates with extra cash when their privately funded opponents outspend them.

In response to that court decision, the Maine Legislature stripped the matching funds provision from the law earlier this year, rebuffing efforts by public funding supporters to patch up the law.

With the new session under way, supporters will be back again trying to persuade lawmakers to give Clean Election candidates another way to bolster their campaigns against opponents who receive large sums or benefit from independent advertising, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections Executive Director Andrew Bossie said.

"We're still really concerned and think the system needs to be strengthened so we can get participation back up and candidates can be heard, instead of these third-party groups," Bossie said Friday.

The Clean Election Act was authorized by voters in 1996 and first utilized by candidates in 2000. It provides public campaign funds to candidates in gubernatorial and legislative races who qualify by collecting minimum numbers of $5 contributions from the public. The system has been very popular with legislative candidates, although it has dipped from 77 percent in 2010 to 62 percent this year.

The study found that the drop-off in participation was most pronounced among male candidates and Republican candidates for the House of Representatives.

It also said concluded that Clean Election candidates won 65 percent of the races that pitted a publicly funded candidate against one using private funding.

A full analysis is expected after final fundraising and expenditure reports are filed with the state Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

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