Commentary

Question 1 Buyer’s Remorse

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Today, January 21, is the anniversary of the Citizens United ruling which dramatically changed how elections are funded and prompted opponents to submit and ultimately pass Question 1 as a Citizens initiative on the November 2015 ballot here in Maine.

As you realize, Question 1 nearly tripled the amount of taxpayer money a publically financed political candidate may qualify for, as well as making minor changes on disclosures and penalties.

I would like to go on record that I strongly opposed Question 1 and feel the people of Maine were deceived by its promoters.  The proponents of Question 1 spent over 2 million dollars and the campaign was run by a highly professional and paid staff.  Their basic message and advertising slogan was that the passing of Question 1 would take the big money out of Maine politics.  Recently, they have actually changed the wording on their website and have reduced the exaggerated claims so prominent during the campaign and in their advertisements.

I find it totally disingenuous and hypocritical that the Yes on 1 campaign received over 80% of their funding from out of state sources with many donations exceeding $10,000, all while claiming their goal was to get big money out of politics.  Their fallacious claim, to want to “return the power to the people of Maine” while being funded primarily by out-of-state money does not pass the straight face test.

By comparison, the No on Question 1 campaign was a grassroots volunteer group who raised just shy of $50,000 in about 6 weeks.  100% of their money was generated from within the state.  If this initiative intended to get big money out of state politics, why were the big donors lining up to fund the passage?

After the final votes were tallied, Question 1 passed by only 21,649 votes with a total of 119,992 votes in favor, compared to 98,343 votes against.  The demographics of the vote clearly show most rural areas of Maine voted against the measure while most urban areas supported it.  Portland alone accounted for over 41% of winning margin.

One problem with the citizen’s initiative process is that it bypasses the usual checks and balances of the legislature and it relies on a highly informed voter.  A voter that ought to read all 13 pages of the legislation before casting a vote, not merely a watered down single sentence summary of it.

Anyone who has a true grasp on the mechanism of campaign finance knows that it is the PAC spending that constitutes the vast majority of spending and that Question 1 will have, ZERO effect on PAC’S.  For them to claim otherwise, that Question 1 will eliminate big money from Maine politics, is a scam.

My understanding is that the massive increase for Maine Clean Elections has already been funded and that for now the law will stand.  However, I wish to clearly state for the record that many voters are experiencing buyer’s remorse now that they understand they were misinformed of the true facts.

I do not believe that the true will of the Maine people was reflected by its passage due to the huge disparity in funding of the opposing campaigns, lack of truth telling by the proponents, and the lack of voter turnout last November.

About Paula Sutton

State Rep. Paula Sutton, R-Warren, represents House District 95.

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