No rules

Politics and other mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  September 25, 2008

The state of Maine doesn’t give away money. Well, except for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Economic Development, the Department of Transportation, and the state treasurer.

But if you want cash from the rest of state government, there are strict requirements to be met. Like, for example, at the Maine Clean Election Fund.

To run for the Legislature on the public’s dime, you have to abide by a whole bunch of rules. Such as the one that says you can’t use $2000 of the state’s money to outfit your campaign with a global positioning system, a truck cap, a roof rack, and an electronically temperature-controlled drink cooler — even though all this gear is absolutely essential for connecting with voters. (“Lost? Thirsty? Need something moved? Vote for me, and I’ll take care of it.”)

After independent state Senate candidate Dana Kadey of Princeton went on a little publicly-financed shopping spree for these items, he was ordered by the state ethics commission to refund the dough. Kadey did so, but then he took some of the $21,000 in Clean Election funding he’d received and purchased something the law allows: a newspaper ad claiming one of his opponents, Republican state Senator Kevin Raye of Perry, was fiscally irresponsible because Raye had sponsored bills that would have increased the state’s debt and was “not concerned about increasing Maine’s tax burden.”

I felt good, knowing I’d helped pay for Kadey’s message, even if I couldn’t cover the cost of his GPS.

Nevertheless, the day may be approaching when there’ll be fewer rules governing the Clean Election Fund. A federal judge in Arizona recently declared a key provision of that state’s public-financing law unconstitutional. Maine has an almost identical provision in its statute.

Like Maine, Arizona gives extra money to Clean Election candidates who are outspent by privately financed opponents. Judge Roslyn Silver decided that’s too similar to a section of federal election law that’s already been thrown out by the US Supreme Court because it unfairly penalizes rich people. The “Millionaires’ Amendment” was supposed to prevent the wealthy from spending as much of their own money as they wanted on their campaigns. Silver said boosting spending for publicly financed candidates amounted to the same thing as restricting spending by the affluent classes.

Judge Silver’s legal opinion appears to have resulted from the same keen reasoning employed by Senate candidate Kadey in resolving his conflicting fiscal policies on taxes and publicly-funded truck caps. Fortunately for them, there’s no rule against stupidity.

No deliverance
The Christian Civic League of Maine is no more.

That’s bad news for those of us in the ridicule industry. Few political entities in the state were as easy to satirize as the league — with its fanatical opposition to booze, gambling, sex, and fun. If there were extreme stands to be taken on social issues, CCLM and its executive director, Michael Heath, could be counted on to carry those positions well past the point where the last bus from the real world turns around.

Fortunately for the political comedy community, the league’s puritanical legacy endures under a new name. Henceforth, the organization will be known as the Maine Family Policy Council.

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