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Bill would limit lobbyist contributions year-round

June 14, 2019

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine could place a year-round ban on political candidates accepting contributions from lobbyists outside their districts under a bill facing Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.

Such bills have failed in past years but are gaining ground under the newly Democratic Legislature. The Senate sent the bill to Mills on Monday, and she has until next Friday to veto it, sign it or let it go into law. She hasn’t said what she’ll do.

An Associated Press review of state campaign finance reports shows that self-identified lobbyists gave at least $25,000 to legislative candidates and legislator-run political action committees last year. Maine’s biggest lobbying firms gave over $47,000.

Currently, lawmakers can accept contributions from lobbyists or their employers only when the Legislature is not in session. Supporters of the bill who want to restrict money in politics say that Maine’s existing law leads to a situation in which lobbyists jump to donate to lawmakers the moment the legislative session ends.

The latest bill would prevent gubernatorial and legislative candidates from accepting contributions at any time from lobbyists outside their districts. The bill wouldn’t apply to lobbyists who are eligible voters in a candidate’s district, or to contributions from these lobbyists’ employers.

Democratic Sen. Justin Chenette’s original bill, introduced in January, would have banned all contributions from lobbyists or their employers year-round.

But the bill received pushback from the Democratic attorney general’s office, which warned lawmakers that the original bill could infringe on lobbyists’ freedom of political association.

Attorney General Aaron Frey said year-round bans on all lobbyist contributions have been struck down in at least two states, Connecticut and Kentucky.

Frey said it’s unclear whether such a year-round ban would stand up to potential litigation in Maine.

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