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Rep. Janice Cooper proposes cap in consulting salaries for staff of candidates using ‘clean elections’ funds

AUGUSTA – Rep. Janice Cooper, (D – Yarmouth) has introduced a bill that would cap the use of taxpayer funds by candidates using the Maine’s Clean Elections system to limit the salaries of campaign managers and campaign consultants to be no more than the salary of the Governor of the state of Maine.

In her testimony during the public hearing, Rep. Cooper pointed to the campaign of candidate Terry Hayes, who ran for Governor using Maine Clean Elections funding.

Cooper said that one individual on the Hayes campaign had been paid about $110,000 for less than a full year of work for the Hayes campaign.

Cooper said she wants to ensure taxpayer funds are used wisely, and while she supports the clean elections program, she sees working for candidates for public office as a public service, and doesn’t think staff and consultants for a campaign should be paid with taxpayer dollars at a higher rate than the top public official in the state.

Cooper, in her testimony, provided figures but urged the committee to double check her math, saying she would not promise the absolute accuracy of all her calculations, “I can’t even keep my checkbook straight,” Rep. Cooper joked.

When asked by Rep. Kent Ackley if limiting the amount of money clean elections candidates are allowed to pay their staff or consultants would create an “un-level” playing field versus privately financed candidates, Rep. Cooper said, “You can’t make everything even with taxpayer funds,” said Cooper. “You can do the best you can. I don’t defend the notion that it could be uneven, but that’s the nature of the beast.”

Maine Citizens for Clean elections opposed the bill, saying it is “unwise to micromanage clean elections candidates and statutes.”

Rep. Cooper’s proposal, L.D. 929, is titled “An Act Regarding the Use of Maine Clean Election Act Funds for Salaries”

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