Jim Fossel: Demand transparency from all political organizations

Regardless of how one feels about the proposal by Central Maine Power to build a transmission line through western Maine to funnel hydropower from Quebec to Massachusetts, it raises interesting questions about Maine’s campaign finance system and its transparency. One of the project’s main opponents, an umbrella group called Stop the Corridor, is made up of environmental groups and corporations that have come together to stop the project. That’s not so unusual.

What is unusual — at least in Maine — is that for the past year or more they’ve been waging a very public campaign against the project, rather than just lobbying behind the scenes.

This sign along a road in Yarmouth has a disclosure tag saying it was paid for by Stop the Corridor, which has a Westbrook post office box, but it's unclear who's behind the group. A spokesman declined to answer questions about who's in charge of the effort and funding it.
This sign along a road in Yarmouth has a disclosure tag saying it was paid for by Stop the Corridor, which has a Westbrook post office box, but it’s unclear who’s behind the group. A spokesman declined to answer questions about who’s in charge of the effort and funding it.

In fact, they’ve been behaving much like any referendum campaign, except that they don’t have anything on the ballot to advocate for or against. They’re essentially running a political campaign without a candidate or a ballot question, and because of that they fall between the cracks of our campaign finance laws. They don’t have to file campaign finance reports or reveal the size of their donations, the identity of their donors or how they spend their money. They’re running what appears to be a massive public pressure campaign, but we have no idea who they’ve hired as consultants, how much they’re spending on ads, or much of anything else.

This is a shame, because part of judging the fairness and accuracy of any campaign is taking a look at the source of its finances. We do it all the time with politicians (whether it’s fair…

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