In 1995 a group of concerned citizens came together with a goal in mind - break the ties between wealthy special interests and our elected leaders. Hundreds of volunteers worked to gather signatures to put the MCEA on the ballot. In 1996 Maine voters passed the MCEA by a significant margin.
The Maine Clean Election Act had its first run in 2000, with candidates for State Senate and House both using the new program for the first time. The results were that half the Senate and 30% of the House members were elected without any special interest money. In 2002, those numbers rose to 77% of the Senate and 55% of the House. Clearly, Clean Elections was working.
However, there were some issues with the program that required attention. In some races with Clean Election candidates, another group would run "sham issue ads" that clearly were intended to influence the election, but did not trigger matching funds for the Clean Election candidates because the ads did not expressly say "Vote for" or "Vote against" anyone.
So Maine Citizens for Clean Elections led the effort to change that. We won the enactment of a first-in-the-nation law that requires disclosure of – and triggers matching funds for – all communications that name or depict a candidate during the final 21 days of an election. MCCE also succeeded in fixing the Clean Elections gubernatorial funding formula. As a result, three major candidates for Governor used public funding in 2006. Finally, MCCE protected the Clean Election Fund against any further raids and fought off a conservative campaign to change the law's name to "Publicly Financed Elections."
The road ahead has some twists and turns for Clean Elections. MCCE will be working to restore Clean Elections, enhance disclosure, and close other loopholes. The grassroots activists who make up Maine Citizens for Clean Elections will keep fighting to keep big money out of politics and keep the legislature where it belongs - in the hands of the people.