Federal Suit in Maine Challenges Contribution Limits - State and Federal Communications

July 8, 2014  •  

Federal Suit in Maine Challenges Contribution Limits

MaineA federal lawsuit was filed July 7, 2014, challenging certain provisions of Maine’s campaign finance law. Sections 1015(1) and 1015(2) of Chapter 21-A of the Maine Revised Statutes limit political contributions to a gubernatorial candidate from an individual, political committee, corporation, or business entity to $1,500 in any election. Therefore, a candidate can collect a total of $3,000 from each contributor because there are ordinarily two elections – a primary election and a general election.

The lawsuit, filed by four supporters of gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler, alleges this provision of law is unconstitutional on First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds. Cutler is running as an independent and therefore did not participate in the state’s June 10 primary election. As a result, the law only allows contributions of $1,500 per contributor because Cutler will only participate in one election. The suit alleges minor parties, including independent candidates, are at a disadvantage under the existing scheme.

Defendants named in the case include the Maine Ethics Commission, Walter McKee as chairman of the commission, and Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. The suit seeks a permanent injunction ceasing enforcement of the $1,500 per election limit as applied to independent candidates.

If granted, the injunction would apply to the 2014 election cycle.

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