- Associated Press - Monday, February 27, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A Republican legislator wants to ban taxpayer money from flowing to post-election celebrations.

The bill would prohibit candidates from using the Maine Clean Election Fund for parties following elections. The fund makes public money available to qualifying candidates and sets limits on how much money can be spent on post-election parties.

The Associated Press’ review of campaign finance reports found candidates said they spent more than $11,000 on food for campaign events and volunteers in the month after the November election. Publicly funded candidates made 70 percent of those expenditures.

Republican state Sen. Ron Collins is sponsoring the bill, which has received support from several Democrats.

“Expenditures of this nature abuse the Maine clean election system, and this bill will eliminate that abuse,” Collins said. “I don’t find post-election parties to be campaign related.”

Collins said his opponent in the November campaign used $500 for a post-election celebration.

State representative candidates can use a maximum of $250 of clean election funds on such celebrations, compared with $750 for state senate candidates and $2,500 for gubernatorial candidates, said Jonathan Wayne, the executive director of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

While thanking volunteers is seen as a “traditional part of being a candidate,” the practice of using public funds has been a “sensitive area that rubbed people the wrong way,” Wayne said.

There’s nothing in the rules that keeps candidates from using public funds for thank you notes or from using their own money for the parties.

Andrew Bosse, executive director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, said his organization supports allowing campaigns to celebrate their work together while waiting for results. But, he said on Monday, “we doubt this change would undermine the clean election program.”

A legislative committee will hold a work session on the bill Friday.

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