EqualCitizens.US Announces Maine Effort to Limit SuperPAC Contributions
Cambridge, MA – EqualCitizens.US today announced that it is supporting an initiative in Maine to limit contributions to independent political action committees — so called, “SuperPACs.” A signature drive to get the initiative on the November 2024 ballot has begun. Within three weeks, enough signatures to qualify will have been collected.
“Almost 80% of Maine citizens support this initiative to end SuperPACs,” Harvard Law Professor and founder of EqualCitizens.US declared. “And I am confident that when the United States Supreme Court finally gets the chance to rule on the question, it will uphold Maine’s law, and thereby change the law governing SuperPACs across the nation.”
Lessig’s prediction is based on an argument developed by Harvard Law Professor (emeritus) Larry Tribe and Chicago Law Professor (emeritus) and Maine resident, Al Alschuler. That argument has identified a core flaw in the lower court case that established SuperPACs. Once that error is corrected, Lessig believes it is “certain” that existing Supreme Court doctrine supports permitting limits on contributions to independent political action committees.
“SuperPACs have been with us for more than 13 years,” Lessig said. “So it is understandable that most lawyers believe the Supreme Court has upheld them. It has not. Likewise, it is understandable that many political organizations, including reform organizations on the Left and Right, have become dependent on the super-wealthy to do their work. Some of them now support SuperPACs, as do many of the most wealthy in America who use SuperPACs to influence American politics.”
“But we know,” Lessig declared, “that the vast majority of Americans on both the Left and Right hate the corruption of big money in American politics. And we will do everything we can to give those citizens the chance to get their democracy back.”
Data provided by OpenSecrets.org demonstrates that among itemized contributions to SuperPACs since 2010, 70% come from contributors giving $1 million or more; 90% come from contributors giving $100,000 or more.
The initiative in Maine is sponsored by the Ballot Question Committee “Citizens to End SuperPACs.” The committee is chaired by Maine citizen Cara McCormick, who was instrumental in the initiative establishing ranked choice voting in Maine. If the legislature does not enact the initiative once signatures are gathered, Citizens to End SuperPACs will conduct a campaign next fall to pass the initiative in November 2024. “We expect big money will do whatever it can to preserve its power,” McCormick said. “But we’re confident that when 80% of Maine citizens support something, even big money can’t stop it.”
EqualCitizens.US has been supported in its effort by the very people who would otherwise leverage SuperPACs for their own political gain. “So far,” Lessig revealed, “we’ve found support among business people and investors who are keen to spend their money to reduce the power of money in American politics.” “I’ve been in this fight since the beginning,” Lessig declared. “I can report that a decade ago, there were more among the most wealthy who were keen to end the power of money over our government. Today, it seems there are fewer who are still committed to restoring a democracy where citizens matter regardless of their wealth. But we’re confident that there will be enough support among all Americans to pass this initiative and end SuperPACs in America.”
EqualCitizens.US has also launched a video competition with a $50,000 prize, for the best video demonstrating the error in the lower court case that birthed SuperPACs. The competition was launched in September with support by Andrew Yang and Jason Alexander, and has garnered interest among thousands of video creators. Entries are due on Election Day 2023. A panel of judges — including Alexander and Yang, as well as Harvard Law Professor Guy Charles, social innovator Eli Pariser, and Fordham Professor Zephyr Teachout — will pick the winning entry by the end of the year.
“This will be a multi-year battle,” Lessig advised. “But once Mainers pass this initiative, if the courts move quickly, then by July 2026 — the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence — the Supreme Court could declare America free of SuperPACs. And a government ‘dependent on the people alone,’ as James Madison promised, where by ‘the people,’ he explained he meant ‘not the rich more than the poor,’ could again be possible for America’s democracy.”
For more information about the contest, visit the campaign website: CancelSuperPACs.com
EqualCitizens.US is a non-profit, founded by Lessig, that is committed to achieving political equality within the United States. More information on the case can be found at www.equalcitizens.us/equal-electors