ACLU to Challenge Maine Campaign Finance Law

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
September 29, 1999 12:00 am

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ACLU of Maine
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PORTLAND, ME — A state court will hear oral arguments tomorrow in the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine’s challenge to the campaign finance reform initiative passed by state voters in November 1996.

Advocating for the First Amendment rights of candidates, supporters of candidates, and political parties, the ACLU of Maine first challenged the campaign finance measure in March 1997.

In response to that challenge, U.S. District Court Judge D. Brock Hornby ruled that it would be premature to consider the matter until after the 1998 elections. Many of the provisions of the act go into effect either in 1999 or with the state legislative elections in 2000.

The ACLU said it is challenging the law on behalf of political candidates and others not because it opposes campaign finance reform, but because any reform measure must be constitutionally acceptable.

“It is our goal today, as it has been since we first filed in 1997, to correct the flaws in Maine’s law as quickly as possible so that new laws can be passed that don’t violate the First Amendment,” said Sally Sutton, Executive Director of the ACLU of Maine.

In the ACLU’s view, an effective and constitutional reform law should include:

  • public financing for all qualified candidates, without penalties for those who refuse it nor endorsement of those who accept it;
  • funding that provides a floor for campaign expenditures in an amount sufficient to ensure a fair public debate; and
  • timely disclosure of contributions so that voters can decide for themselves whether or not a candidate has been influenced by a contribution.

The ACLU is acting on behalf of the Libertarian Party of Maine; Libertarian Party candidates Mark Cenci of Portland, Jeff Weinstein of Yarmouth, Shawn Levasseur of Rockland; State Senator Beverly Daggett of Augusta; State Representative Elaine Fuller of Manchester; and Christopher Harte of Portland.

Their attorneys are Nathaniel Rosenblatt, a partner in the Bangor law firm of Farrell, Rosenblatt and Russell, and National ACLU staff attorney Mark Lopez of New York City.

The case was filed against members of the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, Secretary of State Dan A. Gwadosky, and Attorney General Andrew Ketterer.

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