Judge OK’s Maine Clean Election Act
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) _ A federal judge Friday approved Maine’s Clean Election Act, which sets up public funding for candidates who agree to spending caps.
``This is the first decision in the country where the clean elections model has been challenged, and it was given a resounding vote of confidence by the federal court. This will be a landmark case,″ said Glenn Moramarco, senior attorney with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. ``It’s a complete green light for the clean election system.″
Under Maine’s law, candidates who agree to forgo private funding and abide by spending caps may draw from a special state election fund. They can receive up to 25 percent less than the average campaign expenditure in 1996 and 1998 for the office being sought.
The candidates can receive up to double that amount if they are outspent by privately funded opponents.
Arizona and Massachusetts have passed similar laws, and Moramarco expects similar measures to soon be on ballots in Oregon and Missouri.
Mark Lopez, who argued against the law on behalf of the Maine chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the ruling will hurt the political process ``because the amount of money distributed under the program is woefully inadequate.″
In his ruling, Judge D. Brock Hornby repeatedly cited the U.S. Supreme Court case Buckley vs. Valeo, in which the court found that limiting spending for publicly funded candidates does not violate freedom of speech. He also pointed out that Maine’s system is voluntary.