Last week the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices voted to release up to $3 million in public financing owed to 120 Clean Elections candidates. The funds were previously held up by a drafting error in the state budget, which House Republicans refused to fix. However, in a decision earlier this month, a Superior Court judge found that Gov. Paul LePage had no right to hold up Clean Elections funds and ordered his administration to release the $1 million in disbursements to candidates. In a letter to the commission last week, the nonprofit Maine Citizens for Clean Elections argued that the decision should also apply to the funds held up by the drafting error, and a majority of the commission agreed.

“The commissioners reviewed the reasoning of the court decision that related to supplemental payments in June and found that the same reasoning applied to their duty to make supplemental payments in the next three months through October,” said Maine Ethics Commission Director Jonathan Wayne. “It was a request from Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, but the commissioners considered it and decided that the organization was correct and the commission had to follow the court’s reasoning.”

The decision applies to 120 candidates who collected additional individual $5 checks to qualify for supplemental funding under the Maine Clean Elections Act, as well as six candidates who are replacing candidates who dropped out after the June primary. In a statement, House Speaker Sara Gideon (D-Freeport) hailed the decision, but chided House Republicans for their obstruction tactics. During floor debate in June, Rep. Jeff Timerlake (R-Turner) said he knew about the drafting error as a member of the Appropriations Committee when both parties agreed to a budget compromise last year, but didn’t say anything because he knew Republicans would get another chance to defund a program they don’t support.

“The Republican members of the House who refused to support a simple extension back in April also refused to honor their own previous vote on Clean Elections — as well as the votes of their constituents at the ballot box,” said Gideon. “Their unsuccessful attempt to weaken Maine’s Clean Elections system was also aimed at giving themselves an unfair electoral advantage. While I’m pleased at the decision of our Ethics Commissioners today, let us remember that this delay was wholly unnecessary and entirely preventable.”