An application to qualify a citizen-initiated campaign finance bill to go before Maine's voters was presented to Maine's Secretary of State last Friday, July 19. The legislation aims to reduce the role of special-interest money in state elections and government by strengthening the Maine Clean Election Act, increasing transparency and closing loopholes in Maine's campaign finance laws.

Ann Luther, president of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, submitted the application and was joined by several of the people who signed the application.

Maine's "clean election system, successful for more than a decade, has been compromised by court rulings, legislative action, budget raids, gubernatorial vetoes and more," said Luther.

Much of what is included in the application for a citizen-initiated campaign finance bill was part of a bill approved by Maine's Legislature this session, but several elements were vetoed by the governor and funds weren't appropriated for one part.

Senator Youngblood (R-Penobscot County) sponsored legislation this session to replace matching funds with an alternative system of optional supplemental funding. "We passed this legislation with a bipartisan majority," said Youngblood, "but the failure to provide adequate funding means that the Clean Election system has been diminished once again." According to Youngblood, if the application is approved, the initiative means that "citizens will have a chance to reverse the growing role of private special-interest money in Maine politics and restore the stystem they put into place back in 1997."

The Secretary of State has 15 days to review the application. If the application is not rejected, Luther predicts that petitions to get the initiative on the ballot would begin circulating in September.

"We expect there will be a lot of interest in this initiative," Luther said. "Every Maine person has a stake in a government that is transparent, accountable, and free of corruption and undue influence. It will be a lot of work to collect the necessary signatures, but I know that Maine voters are up to the challenge."