Report #6: Tracking the Money: Private Money Surges in Maine's 2012 Legislative Races

About the Series

The Money in Politics Project is a series of twelve reports about the role and effect of money on Maine politics. The reports combine a review of publicly available campaign finance data with on-the-ground analysis of how money influences Maine's elections, government, and public policy. Maine Citizens for Clean Elections launched this project because money in politics is an issue of vital concern to the people of Maine, one that goes to the heart of our democratic system.
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Private Money Surges in Maine's 2012 Legislative Races

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Money in Politics Project Report #5 analyzed rates of participation in the Clean Elections public funding program in the aftermath of harmful changes to the program since 2010. While the report showed a decrease in participation, those candidates who did use Clean Elections continued to succeed at the polls.

Now that candidates, political action committees and the political parties have completed their financial reporting for 2012, a comprehensive analysis of the sources of funding for this election cycle – the most expensive legislative elections in Maine history – is possible. For the first time since the advent of the Clean Elections program, private money exceeded Clean Elections funds in 2012.

The analysis in this report shows that a significant amount of funding flows into Maine's legislative races from contributors with particular concerns and motivations that do not necessarily correspond with the public interest.

Our democracy thrives when candidates from all backgrounds have an opportunity to run and win without relying on special interest money. Since 1996 the Maine Clean Election Act has preserved and promoted that opportunity, but the rising tide of private funds threatens to reverse the successes achieved through this hard-won reform.

In this cycle $14,798,653 flowed through candidates, party committees, and political action committees from a wide variety of sources including individuals, businesses, associations, labor organizations, political action committees, and the Maine Clean Election Fund. A substantial sum -- $6,391,580 -- consists of transfers from one political committee to another. Discounting these transfers, the amount actually raised and spent to influence candidate campaigns was approximately $8,407,072.

That level of funding would not have been possible without substantial contributions from many entities with a vested interest in the decisions to be made by the 126th Legislature now in session.

Highlights

  1. For the first time since 2000, private funds (including candidate funds and independent expenditures) surpassed Maine Clean Election Act funds in legislative races.
  2. Political action committees played a dominant role. The top five PACs distributed a total of $3.9 million to other PACs, party committees, and candidates. Each of the five was aligned with one of the political party legislative campaigns.
  3. Organizations that employ lobbying firms and lobbyists gave generously to support the candidates who would soon become lawmakers in the 126th Legislature. Entities with hired lobbyists contributed a total of $1,953,073.
  4. Financial, real estate, and insurance interests were the largest contributors within the business sector, giving $439,707 or almost 20% of the total of $2,247,590 received from businesses.
  5. Total contributions associated with the labor sector were $1,212,772 – 46% less than business contributions. The largest amount of labor-related funding came from the public education sector, followed by other public employees, and then by unions representing the crafts and trades.
  6. A majority of the funding for Republican candidates for the House of Representatives came from private sources. For all other caucuses a majority of funding came from the Maine Clean Election Act.

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