Bill to hurt elections

Legislators on Beacon Hill are currently working toward creating a watered-down version of the Clean Elections Law approved by voters in 1998. These lawmakers have proposed three new requirements that raise the minimum fundraising requirement for state matching funds and allow more leeway in the way that candidates can raise money for their campaigns.

This new version increases the fundraising minimum to $3,000 from $1,000 from at least 200 constituents for candidates to receive state funds for their campaigns. It also allows incumbents to exceed fundraising and campaign spending limits during non-election years if they use the money for constituents services. This spending could be spent on expenses like district offices and civic sponsorships and could further their chances of wooing voters, an advantage that the Clean Elections Law was specifically designed to prevent.

In his State of the State speech, Gov. Paul Cellucci promised to veto such amendments to the Clean Elections Law. Raising the fundraising minimum would make it harder for candidates to receive state money campaigns and thus would weaken its strength and original intent. The current law encourages a more diverse candidate pool.

This move will probably decrease public approval for those lawmakers who vigorously advocate adjusting this law. For politicians such as Senate President Thomas Birmingham, who has expressed an interest in running in the next gubernatorial race, a change in public opinion could mean a political mishap in the coming months. The law’s supporters are bowing to pressures by opposing legislators, instead of fighting for the interests of their constituents. By alienating the other supporters of the law, including public interest groups, these legislators are also turning their backs on their political allies.

The creators of this new version of the Clean Elections Law should reconsider what they would be losing in supporting a law that distances them from their constituents.

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