Challenge to Maine Clean Election Act

For almost a year, Maine's campaign finance laws were subject to a challenge in Cushing v McKee. The lawsuit, filed by plaintiffs Andre Cushing (Assistant Minority Leader of the Maine House of Representatives), Harold Clough (Donor to campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage), and Respect Maine PAC (Andre Cushing's leadership PAC), aimed to:

  • Eliminate Maine's Clean Election matching funds system,
  • Eliminate the contribution limit for donors to gubernatorial candidates, and
  • Eliminate reporting requirements for independent expenditures.

Filed in August of 2010, just three months before Election Day, the plaintiffs aggressively pursued a temporary restraining order so that the laws in question would not be in place for the election. The federal courts denied the case at every level, including the final appeal to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled just two weeks before Election Day that the laws would remain in effect.

Read MCCE statement on the lawsuit - (8/6/2010)

In June of 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on an Arizona case, McComish/Arizona Free Enterprise Club v Bennett, and overturned a similar Clean Election matching funds provision. Consistent with that decision, Maine Federal District Judge George Singal ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in Cushing v McKee on the matching funds question. The other two elements of the case - gubernatorial contribution limits and reports of independent expenditures - were dropped.

MCCE was a Friend of the Court in Cushing v McKee, and filed amicus briefs on behalf of our organization and several candidates.

Today, MCCE is working with a broad group of stakeholders to repair the Clean Election Act in the wake of the court ruling. The goal is to ensure that any changes strengthen the program and are consistent with its intent, and to make the changes before the 2012 elections are underway.