"Clean" politicians pander for dirty money

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HDCC InviteHouse Majority Leader Seth A. Berry (D-Bowdoinham) and Assistant Majority Leader Jeff M. McCabe (D-Skowhegan), both of whom ran taxpayer-funded campaigns in 2012 — ostensibly to reduce “dirty” money’s control over Maine elections—are hosting an event for their supporters, with top spots selling for up to $5000 a pop.

HDCC Invite 2

Both Berry and McCabe received money from the Maine Clean Election Act (MCEA). Touted by supporters as a way to “reduce the influence of big money in government” and “eliminate corruption, and the appearance of corruption,” the MCEA provides public funding for candidates to run in State Senate, State House of Representatives, and, until very recently, gubernatorial races. MCEA beneficiaries are forbidden from accepting most private contributions to their campaigns.

Berry and McCabe’s fundraiser will circumvent this restriction by sending contributions directly to the House Democratic Campaign Committee, the Act Blue-aligned umbrella organization responsible for gathering and redistributing campaign funding to Democratic committees and PACs. From there, the money is spent on campaigns statewide, including those of local candidates such as Berry and McCabe.

An email from House Speaker Mark Eves (see above) invites supporters to a “fun evening in South Portland” on August 6th at the Salt Water Grille in South Portland. The invitation includes rankings for guests, ranging from penny-pinching “Friends” (those who provide $500 contributions) to more generous “Sponsors” (those who provide $5000 contributions). Big money begets big favors—a fact not lost on Eves, who bills the event as a chance for his two Democrat comrades and himself to thank supporters and their “clients.”

“Our work with you and your clients was critical in shaping sound and sensible policy for Maine people and I am proud of the work we did together,” wrote Eves.

Since the MCEA’s inception, concerns have been raised over its effectiveness and ethical implications. After the Citizens United decision, it has only become easier for politicians to circumvent the MCEA’s stipulations. To receive MCEA funding, a politician must acquire a certain number of $5 contributions as proof that they have grassroots support. They are then forbidden from fundraising for their own campaigns.

Accepting public funding through the MCEA lends candidates such as Berry and McCabe a veneer of grassroots credibility, and ostensibly allows them to run their campaign without being beholden to donations from dirty special interests.But special interests can still whisper into politicians’ ears at events such as the coming dinner at the Salt Water Grille.Together, the pair of Democratic leaders accepted $8,846 in public funding, while they also channeled $7,900 in privately raised PAC money to the HDCC.

Using the money generated by the fundraiser to finance their next electoral bid and not accept taxpayer funding would be a legitimate move by Berry and McCabe. Yet, chances are they will continue to do what they did in 2012 – let taxpayers subsidize their political ambitions while nonetheless pandering for dirty money.

Samuel Sabasteanski
MaineWire Staff Writer

9 COMMENTS

  1. Other legislators that ran as Clean Election candidates (MECA) that have leadership PACs include Republican Senate Leaders Mike Thibodeau (Paving the Way for a Prosperous Maine) and Roger Katz (Capital Leadership PAC).

    House Assistant Minority Leader Alex Willette also has a leadership PAC (Charting Maine’s Future), and while his campaign was privately financed in 2012, he was a MECA candidate in his first run in 2010. The same is true for former Speaker Bob Nutting (Pine Tree Fund). And Rep. Ryan Harmon also ran as a MECA candidate in 2010, and controls TWO leadership PACs (Harmon for Maine: Small Business, Farming, and Family PAC and Maine Republican Liberty Caucus PAC).

    I’m sure the MaineWire will update the story above.

  2. Too many citizens do not pay attention. State Government is following the Feds in largess, political favors, corruption, etc. We are circling the drain.

  3. Dirigo Blue’s objections are not invalid. Money and hypocrisy are as integral to politics as gonorrhea and syphilis are to the “sex trade.” This should make him sympathetic to those who look with suspicion on big government, but I doubt that it does.

  4. Good info and straight to the point. I am not sure if this is in fact the best place to ask but do you guys have any thoughts on where to hire some professional writers? Thx 🙂

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