It is clear to me that the average Mainer doesn’t have the money to hire a lobbyist to advocate for their interests in Augusta. However, big money and special interests do. 

On a day-to-day basis, I see far more lobbyists walking the halls of the State House than I see constituents. Their clients’ money guarantees that their perspective will be heard every single day. Those same lobbyists regularly hand checks to lawmakers during fundraisers for their campaign committees or PACs.

Due in part to the 2010 Citizens United case in the Supreme Court, the amount of money in politics has reached record levels. It is critical that we stop the flow of special interest money into lawmakers’ pockets once and for all.  That’s why I am supporting a bill sponsored by my colleague, Sen. Justin Chenette of Saco, that would ban lobbyists from contributing to candidate campaigns or PACs run by elected officials.

Between 2014 and 2015, more than 400 companies hired 229 lobbyists and spent nearly $5 million to lobby legislators. That’s small change compared to the contributions made by those same lobbyists and the firms that hire them directly to lawmakers’ political action committees and campaigns.

 
 

These contributions aren’t illegal, but they undermine the public trust and leave the door wide open for pay-to-play corruption.

The current system makes it possible for legislators to receive money through their PACs and campaign committees directly from industries they are supposed to be regulating. While these contributions may or may not influence a lawmaker to vote in a lobbyists’ favor, their existence alone causes uncertainty around the legislative process. Such donations add to the appearance of corruption that undermines our public institutions. 

Can we really blame the public for this perception? A recent Portland Press Herald report found that between 2015 and 2016 lobbying firms, big pharma, insurance companies, and banks were among the top contributors to dozens of legislator-led PACs. This represents hundreds of thousands of dollars directly to legislators that could sway policy favorably in their direction.

People in my district don’t hire lobbyists, and they shouldn’t have to. The fishing family in Rockland can’t afford to hire a lobbyist to do their bidding in Augusta. Neither can the school teacher in Hope, the farmer in Warren, or the shop owner in Camden.

I ran for office because I believe in public service, and I hate that the presence of so much money in our political system undermines the public’s trust. That is why I have been a clean elections candidate every time I have run for office — a system that funds campaigns with $5 donations from regular people in my district in Knox County. 

I want my constituents to know that when I’m in the Senate, I’m representing their interests, not the interests of whoever has the fattest checkbook.