In this Nov. 29, 2018 file photo, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, poses in the House Chamber at the State House in Augusta, Maine. Gideon is challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in the 2020 election. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

Next fall’s U.S. Senate election will be the most expensive in Maine history. An avalanche of money will pour in to twist the facts and drown out the voice of Mainers. Much of this spending will come from unlimited contributions that will never be disclosed to the public. Reports show Sen. Susan Collins has already “ shattered” records, while relying on corporate PAC special interests. She has benefited from secret donors, and Mitch McConnell has promised that she will be “well-funded.”

This did not have to happen. Partisan court decisions and politicians, including Susan Collins, have allowed outside spending to explode since the 2010 Citizens United decision. In the 2018 midterm elections, over a billion dollars was spent across the country by outside groups.

Campaign spending sprees like what’s about to happen in Maine have corrupted Washington. The money has created a government of, by, and for special interests — not the people. End Citizens United is endorsing Sara Gideon for U.S. Senate because we need a leader to fix the rigged system that Sen. Collins has helped create.

Maine was the first state End Citizens United worked in, supporting the ballot initiative that reinstated the state’s groundbreaking Clean Elections law. Sen. Collins helped pick the judge who struck down the original law, while Sara Gideon has championed efforts to shore up the law in the State House.

Sen. Collins wasn’t always this way, but over the last 22 years, she’s walked away from the commitment she made to Mainers to take on special interest spending — apparently in favor of her commitments to Mitch McConnell and corporate donors. She has embraced “dark” or undisclosed money from special interests to fuel her reelection. She has voted to confirm judges, including Brett Kavanaugh, who ruled to create this rigged system and the Super PACs that can spend unlimited money in elections. And she voted against common-sense reforms, like the DISCLOSE Act, that could help fix the problem.

Sen. Collins says she dislikes how vile our political discourse has become, but refuses to support reforms that would make a difference. And when confronted over her broken promises, Collins’ team blames “the vast sums of money that outside groups pour into Maine.” Collins rails against the same spending she helped keep secret, and says she needs to break her promise to Mainers because of the system she helped create. That’s what Washington politicians do. Mainers deserves to get their voice back, which is why we’re endorsing Sara Gideon.

Sara Gideon is already demonstrating she is the kind of independent leader Maine has long been proud to send to Washington. As a candidate for U.S. Senate, she is refusing to take the special interest corporate PAC money that fuels so many Washington politicians. She says thousands of Mainers have already made small, grassroots donations to her campaign. Gideon’s record in the State House shows she is not a partisan bulldog, but someone who can faithfully represent her constituents.

Gideon is a proven reformer, who has fought special interests and tried to repair a democracy damaged by the corrupting influence of big money. Under her leadership, Maine will now have automatic voter registration, something Sen. Collins has refused to support at the federal level. Increasing access to the ballot will help keep politicians accountable to people, and not to special interests. And, back when Sen. Collins was voting to confirm judges who would end up opening the door to more secret, unlimited money, Gideon was supporting a local push to overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision.

Maine deserves a senator who is willing and able to listen to their constituents and represent the people’s interests, not the special interests. Sen. Collins is no longer the leader who can bring Maine’s fierce voice to Washington. Sara Gideon has the grit and independence to fix what’s become a rigged system.

Tiffany Muller is the president and executive director of End Citizens United.