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July 30, 2018

Dear Members and Friends of LWVME,

We're still here.

The legislature recessed three weeks ago, still stalemated on Clean Elections funding. There has been no breakthrough since then. We had expected a Veto Day on Monday, July 23, but even that was postponed.

Here is the schedule for this week.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, June 28, our partners at Maine Citizens for Clean Elections took the governor to court to release promised Clean Elections funds to qualified candidates. You can read the court documents for yourself at our web site. The oral arguments were heard by Hon. William R. Stokes on July 24 at the Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn.

We were there! Our team made a strong case. You can read news coverage at the Bangor Daily News and at the Portland Press Herald. We expect a ruling early this week. Stay tuned.

Just to recap about Clean Elections and where we stand on two different problems.

Funding for Clean Elections 1
This problem relates to the authorization to disburse already-allocated Clean Elections funds beginning on July 1, 2018. For the background on that, see this edition of Action Under the Dome from June 25. John Brautigam wrote a strong op-ed for the Bangor Daily News that makes the case for fixing the Errors Bill.

Attempts over the last several weeks to find a compromise have failed. While negotiations continue in the background, we appear no closer to an agreement. Concessions—some of which we thought went too far—have been offered to recalcitrant House Republicans, but as of today, there is no deal. House Democrats are vowing to keep the special session open until November, thereby preventing legislators in both parties from raising money from lobbyists and lobbyist employers. While the loss of Clean Elections funding hits Democrats hard, the loss of fund-raising from lobbyists is harder on Republicans. Republicans in the Senate are feeling a double-whammy, since they have a large number of Clean Elections candidates and have been willing to pass the Errors Bill from the beginning.

Candidates and voters from all parties have been relying on the Clean Elections program. The funding for the program was part of a bipartisan budget deal hammered out last year. The error in the bill was just a scrivener's error. There is no legitimate reason for House Republicans to renege on that deal now or to change the rules in the middle of the election cycle. Don't be surprised if this one winds up in court.

Funding for Clean Elections 2
Meanwhile, there's another, totally separate problem. On Friday, June 22, the Ethics Commission distributed a memorandum announcing that the Governor had declined to sign routine financial orders to release money to candidates from the Maine Clean Election Fund. The governor, sworn to uphold the law, is refusing to grant authority to disburse already-allocated funds for the last fiscal year, which ended on June 30, 2018. As a result, payments to candidates certified to participate in the Clean Election program were reduced to around 25% of the amount for which they qualified. The Clean Election Fund has sufficient cash to pay candidates the entire amount for which they qualified, but the governor's refusal to authorize the release of funds prevents the use of that cash.

This was the issue that went to court last week. On Thursday, June 28, our partners at Maine Citizens for Clean Elections took the governor to court. You can read the court documents for yourself at our web site. The oral arguments were heard by Hon. William R. Stokes on July 24 at the Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn.


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