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Ed Youngblood of Brewer is a retired banker who served in the Maine Senate. Jim Rubens served in the New Hampshire Senate and is a board member of American Promise.
Election spending in Maine just passed $100 million, mostly in the U.S. Senate race and mostly from out of state. In a debate, Senate candidates were asked about a constitutional amendment for limits on election spending. Such an amendment is supported by three out of four Mainers and organizations across the spectrum, including the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine-Institute of Legislative Action.
While other candidates support the amendment, Sen. Susan Collins said an amendment could take too long. As conservative Republicans who deeply respect and support Collins, we believe she can be a historic leader to make this constitutional amendment a reality now.
We understand Collins’ hesitation on this. She was a leader in the Senate for the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and criticized the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United that struck down that law. Yet, until recently Democrats dominated the conversation in Washington about this amendment. Now the conversation in Maine and the other States is very different. Republicans are getting behind this 28th Amendment, and here’s why.
Until 2018, Republicans won election spending battles. Now, the left dominates the right by two-to-one in dark money spending. Billionaires such as Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and big unions target millions to flip congressional districts and state legislatures. Bloomberg will spend $100 million in Florida alone.
Jim ran in the Republican Senate primary in New Hampshire in 2016. Any doubt about the urgent necessity of this constitutional amendment vanished after Super PACS and the campaigns spent over $130 million in that Senate race. Almost all that money came from an elite group of donors outside New Hampshire. Two years later, out-of-state money cost New Hampshire Republicans control over the state House, Senate and Executive Council.
Now it’s Maine’s turn in the big-money wringer. Based on current trends, Maine’s U.S. Senate race will exceed the $132 million New Hampshire contest.
Aside from losing elections, why else do conservatives support what will be the 28th Amendment? Three more reasons.
To defend federalism. Elite groups of people from places such as California and New York provide most of the money. These people determine which candidates are “viable” and which issues count. They overwhelm voters with a blizzard of deceptive, venomous ads. Elections get nationalized, pushing aside local people and issues while wealthy factions from away battle for control.
The 10th Amendment guarantees respect for the states. Yet, the big-money system is eclipsing federalism, our chief protection against one-size-fits-all policies imposed from Washington.
To defend capitalism. American capitalism has bestowed greater aggregate wealth and well-being than in all of human history. But pay-to-play politics has mutated free-market competition into crony capitalism. Instead of getting better products and services to customers, businesses compete by buying political influence or submitting to extortion. Crony capitalism is why we have the world’s highest drug prices, broad-band dead zones and ethanol subsidies.
To defend fiscal sanity. Big-money donors do not care about conservative philosophy. Big money is united around more spending and tax loopholes for favored programs. For every dollar of lobbying and political contributions, corporations receive 760 times that “investment” in tax breaks, loan guarantees and contracts, paid for by taxpayers. That’s why we have trillion-dollar deficits and crushing debt on our kids and our grandkids.
Collins has a profound opportunity. This amendment is correct about our Constitution and national values. It is correct about Maine’s needs. And it is smart politics: In Maine 73 percent of voters and 62 percent of voters still undecided in this election support the amendment.
We cannot know how long an amendment will take. But we do know we need it now. And we know Republican support and leadership joining with all parties to navigate the path of two-thirds of Congress and ratification in three-quarters of the states will make it happen. The sooner we get started, the sooner we will put the people back in the driver’s seat.