Thanks to Michael Sylvester, the executive director of Common Cause in Maine, for his letter clarifying some key features of his state’s revoutionary Clean Elections Act. I’m pleased to post it below and you can check out Common Cause’s website for more info. I’d also like to encourage further dialogue on this topic–and other issues that are addressed in this space–so please click here to send letters to Editor’s Cut.

Dear Ms. vanden Heuvel,

I appreciated your recent Editor’s Cut reviewing several progressive state initiatives. These laws are models for how we can create change at the local level even when national politics might not leave a very good taste in our mouths.

I wanted to point out, however, that you were mistaken about Clean Elections in Maine. You stated that the Maine State Legislature had approved the Clean Election Act when, in fact, the law is even more revolutionary because it was voted in by Citizen’s Initiative in 1996. You also stated that over 50 percent of candidates made use of public financing but the great news is that nearly 80 percent of all candidates used public financing. This number (a hair over 79 percent) includes over 50 percent of Republican candidates and all Green Independent candidates.

The Maine Clean Election Act is an enormous success story and Common Cause is working with our allies to pass a similar law in the state of Connecticut. Yet even the Maine Clean Election Act’s success has not stopped attacks on the law. In this legislative session, we will see bills to repeal MCEA and to allow loopholes in the law even as we fight to close loopholes in the current law and to continue to pass progressive legislation including a bill to limit all PACS to a $250 limit, to introduce Instant Run-Off Voting and bills to make election day a state holiday. Keep fighting the good fight in the states. Someday we’ll get the chance to roll it out nationally.


Michael Sylvester,Executive Director, Common Cause in Maine