When I was a youngster around ten years old - not too many moons ago to have lost its impact but enough of them - my Mom took a few of my friends and me to McDonald's in celebration of my birthday. Maybe it was $2 each, but I think on a single dollar apiece if memory serves we were each able to order a full meal (we won't get into the nutritional aspects, that's another topic). I was pleased. A dollar meant something to me. I had a good time with my friends and also was fed.
$5 may not sound like much. But this is what I believe it can get you today:
Some people (not too many) say that I am high falootin (don't even know how to run the spell check on that one) or overly optimistic in regard to political ideals. In my 1/10/06 column "This Great State" in the Magic City Morning Star, I repeat the expression "If you shoot for the stars and miss you may still hit the moon". I believe in hope, and then working hard to make one's ideals real. We may or may not accomplish what we seek even if we try. But one thing is certain. If we don't try, our probability of success creeps along near zero.
What is democracy? No, I'm not going to try and answer that here. Although in the simplest terms I could turn to a dictionary and so could you. What I am talking about here is opening up the political process of the United States, and in this case Maine -- another big idea.
But wait, this idea has already happened. While they debate political reform in regard to lobbyists and scandal in Washington, Mainers have already had the foresight - which has been emerging in a few other states and I believe may (hopefully) now become accelerated (though things could return nationally to "business as usual", sometimes it's two steps forward and one step back in this world). Anyway, in Maine we have the Maine Clean Election Act.
G-d bless it (in Judaism I was taught we use the hyphen here - I don't think one's personal beliefs, spiritual, religious, agnostic, atheist or whatever are necessarily anybody else's business, I mention it here frankly in case anybody cares in the interest of disclosure).
Imagine a system in which special interests are taken out of elections.
We have it (although not all candidates participate in the Maine Clean Election Act most now do).
Please don't think that Maine is too small a state to draw special interests into political battles. Look it up for yourself. I do realize that ending special interests in elections is not the same thing as ending it in politics. I do personally believe that there is an important and positive role for responsible lobbying to play, with the emphasis on responsible.
As a Maine Clean Election Candidate, one can ONLY ONLY ONLY (wanted to say this a few times to emphasize it) use public financing (outside of a limited amount of initial seed money that also has very strict limitations). You may argue with me (and some will) but only Maine candidates that are running as Maine Clean Election candidates can, I believe, claim with any believability that they are only beholden to the people of Maine and no one else (see the ONLY's repeated above).
This fundamental fact alone in my view is a huge moneysaver also if you want to look at just practical financial aspects. How much money do you think it costs to be beholden to special interests? I don't have a dollar figure to give you on that one, but think about it for a moment.
Some people, even some in Augusta, say that the Maine Clean Election Act is a waste of taxpayer money. The following is my own belief out of personal opinion only, but I believe that some people do say that out of true conviction but others as a convenient smokescreen.
The $5 donations to the Maine Clean Election Fund that need to be secured by candidates to secure public financing is a financial safeguard to insure that one has a legitimate base of support. For the Governor's race, each Maine Clean Election candidate must receive 2,500 of these check donations. It's not easy. And realize that most people don't even carry their checkbooks around with them on a regular basis (a signature and other information is also required with each check!).
If it was easy more candidates for Governor would have been able to have accomplished it previously. Even if a few more do in this election, I believe that is due to the backgrounds of the campaigns or candidates themselves. And some people think that as many as perhaps five publicly funded candidates in the November general election for Governor is too many. For a race of this importance (and we don't yet know how many will qualify) I do not see it that way.
In the support page within our general campaign website (www.Hammer2006.com) we discuss the Maine Clean Election act and also provide a link to the official website where the Maine Clean Election Act is administered for candidates, www.maine.gov/ethics. And here's just a little more plug for www.Hammer2006.com. Do you know that we have a blog, Op-Eds, and even links to our major competitors websites to facilitate informed decision-making whoever your selection might be.
It's probably self-evident, but we're not claiming that the Maine Clean Election Act, as truly valuable and important as it is, is going to solve all of Maine's challenges. In fact, to extend that, certainly no Administration, no matter how beneficial, is going to solve every problem. We're realistic also and do recognize that middle ground.
But don't let them diminish the value of your $5 and tell you that the Maine Clean Election system doesn't mean anything and doesn't do any good.
And it does.
I'm proud to be in a state that has a program of this kind.
Now if only I could remember what I ordered during that birthday at McD's.
Alex Hammer is an Independent candidate for Governor residing in Bangor.
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