Group sues Portland again over campaign financing

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The group behind a push for a clean elections requirement in city elections has sued Portland for a second time.

Fair Elections Portland, which in 2019 asked the City Council to schedule a referendum on a proposal to require public financing of municipal election campaigns, last week said 15 Portland voters have joined it in another lawsuit against the city. 

Fair Elections Portland wants an amendment to the City Charter. The council opted for a charter revision, which led to the continuing legal battle and creation of the current Charter Commission.

John Brautigam, an attorney for Fair Elections Portland, said in a press release that the suit is necessary to provide Portland residents a chance to vote on the issue.

“We are going back to court to protect their right, and that of others who care about democracy,” Brautigam said. “We refuse to let the city’s obstruction be the last word.

A Maine Superior Court judge sided with the city in the group’s initial lawsuit, but Fair Elections Portland appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court, which sent the issue back to the council for a formal finding of fact. 

In October, the City Council approved an explanation confirming its decision against holding a referendum. That action led to the new lawsuit, which was filed in Superior Court.

More than 6,800 people signed the petition two years ago to put the question on the ballot.