Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Clean Elections - Democracy's Essential Service

This morning A.J. Higgins reported on MPBN that the glut of candidates in the gubernatorial race threatens to drain Maine’s Clean Election Fund. One privately funded Democratic candidate commented that now was not the time to ask taxpayers to cut back on essential services in order to give money to political campaigns. This viewpoint presupposes an erroneous choice. Trying to score a political point by insinuating that properly funding clean elections will take away money from schools and nursing homes and hand it over to political operatives (i.e. opponents) is not a fair assessment of what public financing of elections are about.

Public financing of elections needs to take place in times when the state is flush with funds and in lean years to meet the goals of clean elections. Reducing moneyed interests or private funded campaign machine advantages to give wider opportunity for non-wealthy voices and office seekers to address the issues that affect our lives is not a luxury. Clean election funding is about protecting our democracy from unspoken quid pro quo expectations and providing equal access to the electoral processes. It is something that Democrats ought to stand behind through thick and thin. It is about leveling the playing field.

Maine has built a clean election model to be proud of with broad popular support and it is an essential service to Maine’s citizens that deserves to be protected in concert with many other essential services. We should be pleased that we have a large number of clean election candidates committing themselves to the reduction of money interests in the race for Governor. And we acutely need public financing in lean times to protect our elections from being bought during moments of economic weakness.

We need to reject the myth that Maine has bloated budget full of faceless bureaucrats and frivolous expenditures to hack away at to save taxpayers from being gouged with nothing in return. Maine has a both a temporary revenue challenge and a long term need to address revenue structuring. It is time to recognize that government is not a business nor at the unreasonable sole service of business but is a collection of vital public services, including public financing of elections, that deserve our creative energies and investment.

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