Center for Constitutional Government Director David Crocker joined Inside Maine with Phil Harriman to discuss a lawsuit he has filed against the Maine Municipal Association (MMA).
The lawsuit, which was filed in June of 2010, alleges that MMA inappropriately used taxpayer funds to engage in political activity supporting or opposing various ballot initiatives.
The initiatives on which the MMA allegedly engaged in improper use of property tax dollars include the 55% School Funding Initiative (2002-2004), the Palesky tax reduction initiative (2004), TABOR I (2006), TABOR II (2009) and (5) the Auto Excise Tax initiative (2009). The MMA’s total expenditures (monetary and in-kind) from 2002-2009 totaled nearly $2 million dollars.
“In each case, what the MMA did was, they decided that the initiative was something they wanted to support or oppose. So they organized a political action committee,” Crocker told Inside Maine host and former State Senator Phil Harriman.
“But it wasn’t just the MMA in these PACS,” said Crocker. “It was their political allies who also had a stake. These were not governmental actors. They were typically the state employees association, the teachers union, the AARP, the Maine People’s Alliance, and the Engage Maine crowd of course, which is the gaggle of non-profit organizations that all or mostly receive funding from the state of Maine.”
“It wasn’t general advocacy,” said Crocker. “If it was simply the MMA saying, ‘Hi, we’re the MMA. We think TABOR is a bad idea and here’s why,’ that would be completely unobjectionable.”
“In this case, they crossed the line very badly into actual work with their political allies in the trenches running a political campaign to support or oppose various initiatives,” he said.
“The implications are of course, just how far can government go in actually participating in a political campaign,” said Crocker.
“So this has far reaching implications,” said Harriman. “This will be a precedent for instrumentalities of government to tax me more to go and get involved in partisan outcomes of elections to perpetuate the growth of government,” he said.
The Center for Constitutional Government is a project of the Maine Heritage Policy Center.