It was in the fall of 2004 when the student campaign finance reform group Democracy Matters filed into the legislative office buildings in Albany dressed in our finest. We were a little nervous but nonetheless jubilant in our mission to gain cosponsors to the clean elections bill- a bill that would provide full public financing for political campaigns.
To this day I remember distinctly the conversation we had with, you, Mr. Kirwin. We studiously explained to you how an optional, full, public financing system for political campaigns was enjoying widespread bipartisan support in Maine and would drastically reduce the undue influence of money in politics while creating more opportunities for those without access to wealth to be able to run for office. You laughed at us, said that it sounded like a good idea, and superciliously proclaimed, “I’ll tell you what, you find one Republican in the State Assembly who is willing to cosponsor and I’ll sign onto your bill.”
Our youthful eyes saw your response for what is was- a thinly veiled attempt to save face with no intention of ever signing onto the bill that meant the world to us.
For some of the students that were in that office, this would be the last time that they would try to make change. Why would politicians ever support campaign finance legislation that would level the playing field when their re-election was all but guaranteed because of their fund-raising advantage?
For others, your response was enlightening.
We marched down to the State Board of Elections and registered a multi-candidate committee. For the last six years we have been going door by door, block by block, district by district, building up the Clean Elections Voting Bloc in competitive districts across the state.
Now, Mr. Padavan and Mr. Kirwan, with clean elections supporters occupying your former seats, I have the right to say we are having the last laugh. But I am not laughing.
With campaign contributions leading to a devastated economy, tens of thousands of families in bankruptcy because they can’t afford health care, and polluters writing environmental legislation, my sense of humor has been snuffed.
Let this be a lesson to proponents of the plutocratic status quo.
You may run again, but heed my words: “We will make it impossible for you to hide your opposition to campaign finance reform.” You, self-serving politicians and the super rich who profit from the current system, are in a shrinking minority. For it is we, the people struggling because of the current system of campaign finance, who occupy the vast majority.
It’s just a matter of time and commitment. I’m 28 years young and, especially after these electoral victories, have no shortage of commitment. The Clean Elections Voting Bloc will only grow.
Co-Director, Voters for Clean Elections