Legal Library

Daggett v. Webster


In Daggett v. Webster, the Maine ACLU refiled its constitutional challenge to the Maine Clean Election Act. This law lowers campaign contribution limits, creates a voluntary system of full public funding for statewide and state legislative candidates, and strengthens state election laws. Maine voters passed the Clean Election Act with 56 percent of the vote in November 1996. According to the law, candidates have the option of accepting full public financing in exchange for renouncing private fundraising. Non-participating legislative candidates will be free to spend as much as they wish, but will have to raise funds under the $250 contribution limits. (Prior to 1996, individual donations of $1,000 per election were allowed; a candidate running in both a primary and a general election could accept a total of $2,000 in contributions from one individual).

Seeking to defend the law, the Institute represented the Maine People's Alliance, a statewide nonprofit citizen action organization with 16,000 dues paying members. Read the amicus brief filed in federal district court, and the amicus brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. On March 7, 2000, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld the 1996 Maine Clean Election Act in its entirety. This ruling marks a major victory for the clean elections movement across the country. In a footnote in its ruling, the court recognized the contributions of the amici in this case.