Will Maine Ban Foreign Corporate Spending in Elections?
Maine could become one of the first states to close a massive campaign finance loophole.
Political contributions from foreign nationals are illegal in the US. But after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision allowed unlimited money to flood our elections, foreign actors found a way to influence our elections through corporate contributions. Multinational corporations with partial foreign ownership, like Amazon and Uber, can spend money in our elections and therefore sidestep the ban on foreign interference. Just this year in Maine, the foreign-owned company Hydro-Quebec has taken advantage of this loophole to pour over $9.6 million into the CMP corridor referendum that will appear on the ballot next month.
Now Maine voters have the chance to close this loophole in state elections via a citizens’ referendum. The Protect Maine Elections committee is currently campaigning to get a question about foreign-influenced corporate spending on the 2022 ballot. Leading the committee are Democratic Representative Kyle Bailey of Gorham and Republican Senator Richard Bennett of Oxford.
"I think this is a unique issue that brings Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Greens, [and] Libertarians together because despite our differences we all agree that our political system isn't working and that money is an issue, but in particular, that foreign governments and their subsidiaries shouldn't be involved in our elections," Rep. Bailey said. "Maine elections should be for Maine people."
This isn’t a new idea in Maine. During this past legislative session, the bill LD 194, “An Act To Prohibit Contributions, Expenditures and Participation by Foreign Government-owned Entities To Influence Referenda,” passed both the Senate and the House, but was vetoed by Governor Mills.
Maine also isn’t the only state exploring a ban on foreign-influenced corporate spending in elections. Massachusetts is actively considering legislation, and New York’s Senate passed a bill earlier this year (the bill is currently on hold in the House). Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Oregon are also examining such bans.
As Rep. Bailey so plainly put it, Maine elections are meant for Maine people. Our democracy should not be bought and sold by corporations, particularly those with full or partial foreign ownership, to benefit their shareholders at the expense of our state’s needs. Mainers for Working Families proudly supports a ban on foreign-influenced corporate spending in our elections.
Protect Maine Elections has until January to gather over 63,000 signatures. Petitioning begins in mid-October. To learn more about the campaign and volunteer to collect signatures, visit Protect Maine Elections’ Facebook page.