The Bangor Daily News Jan 7. editorial, “ Maine Democrats ride wave of campaign cash,” points out that in the 2018 elections, outside groups supporting Democrats outspent their Republican counterparts in Maine. But it should also consider what Democrats are doing to fix the broken campaign finance system once elected.
So far, Rep. Jared Golden, Maine’s newest member of Congress, is fighting to remove the scourge of special interest money in politics.
Since the 2010 Citizens United decision, outside groups, mega-donors and corporations have been emboldened to spend unlimited and often undisclosed money in politics.
But candidates cannot control these groups or their spending.
What candidates can do, once elected, is fight to fix the system by supporting legislation to limit the influence of these groups.
Golden understands how broken our campaign finance system is, and he has a track record of fighting to fix it. During his time in the state legislature, Golden served on the committee that handled Maine’s election laws and repeatedly defended the state’s Clean Election system to curb the influence of special interest money.
As a Member of Congress, he’s working to fix the system at the federal level. One of his first acts after getting sworn in was to cosponsor the For the People Act (H.R. 1), the most comprehensive democracy reform legislation in a generation. The For the People Act is the most sweeping package of reforms since Watergate. It’s designed to crackdown on corruption, reduce the power of big money special interests and strengthen our democracy. It specifically addresses the problem of dark money in politics by requiring groups to disclose their donors.
It’s no surprise that Golden is standing up for these crucial reforms. During his campaign, he showed he was willing to leave money on the table if it meant standing up for democracy.
The race for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District was a contrast between two very different ways of running for office: one dependent on big, special interest cash and one focused on grassroots donations and energy. Golden highlighted his commitment to reform by refusing contributions from corporate PACs in his campaign — a stark difference from his former opponent, Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who was backed by corporate special interests.
Golden earned End Citizens United’s endorsement early in the race because of his proven record on reform and focus on strengthening our democracy. Following his endorsement, ECU activated its grassroots network of small-dollar donors to help Golden fend off the flood of corporate money in the race. In 2018, ECU’s members made over 5,000 grassroots contributions through the small-dollar fundraising platform ActBlue, directly to Golden’s campaign, with an average contribution of just $12.
The race went down as the most expensive congressional race in state history, but the sources of those funds are important. Golden’s focus on small-dollar donors allowed him to campaign differently. He spent more time out in the communities he now serves and less time in an office building cold-calling big donors.
That commitment proved to Mainers that he’ll work for them and their interests in Congress, not for the special interests. It’s why he won in November.
Maine has long been a leader in innovative solutions to our broken democracy, from Clean Elections to ranked choice voting. Golden carried on that tradition in his campaign, and now he’s doing the same in Congress by cosponsoring the For the People Act. No one will disagree that the current system is broken, but what we need is leaders fighting to change it, and Representative Golden is at the forefront of that fight.
Tiffany Muller is the president and executive director of End Citizens United, the largest campaign finance reform organization supported entirely by small-dollar donors.