Maine Media Organizations Oppose Foreign Electioneering Ban

Bangor Daily News
September 13, 2023

Question 2 on Maine’s November ballot asserts that corporations owned or controlled by foreign governments do not have the same rights to political speech as companies here in the U.S. and that foreign governments should be prohibited from electioneering in Maine referendums. While polling has shown that the concept behind Question 2 is broadly popular, Maine Governor Janet Mills and media organizations in the state stand in opposition. Mills has already vetoed two previous attempts to pass similar legislation, once in 2021 and again in July 2023. According to Mills, “It tries to regulate the activities of the press in very significant ways [and] requires the media in Maine to become like a police office — it gives them a policing authority over who contributes to referenda campaigns."

An Excerpt

Sig Schutz, an attorney who wrote to Mills on behalf of the press association, said the provision attempts to regulate the press by requiring news outlets to find and block the political advertising Question 2 seeks to ban. “From a First Amendment standpoint, the issue is that the legislation is directed at news outlets and forces them to become an arm of the government, to effectively police and censor spending by foreign influenced entities,” he said. Schutz has described this as a censorship regime that would impose unworkable — and unconstitutional — standards affecting not just advertising departments, but possibly newsrooms as well.