Every once in a while, there comes along a public policy idea that is so bad only shameless sophistry, distractive fireworks and gobs of money could possibly save it.  Such is the lot of the CMP “Clean Energy Corridor.”

With a few weeks left to go before Question No. 1 goes before voters, it is already the most expensive referendum campaign in Maine’s history.  Of the $60 million already spent, the vast majority of funds — nearly $40 million — have gone into arguing for a “No” vote.  That’s because a “Yes” victory would throw a big monkey wrench into power transmission project to pipe Canadian electricity into Massachusetts.

Mere geography implicates us in the scheme.

Cynically named a “Clean Energy Corridor” in its promotional advent, this transmission super-highway would scar parts of the upper Kennebec Valley.  Most likely its backers knew it would be about as popular as a turd in a punchbowl.  This is probably why they tried to brand it with environmental flair.

Undeterred by the powerful support the corridor has enjoyed from two successive Blaine House administrations, opponents of the Maine-marring scheme, whom I’d like to simply call stateriots (get it, patriots and stateriots), managed to overcome various barriers and get the question put on this November’s ballot.  The question asks if you, the Maine voter, believe projects like specifically this transmission corridor, should require the support of the Maine Legislature.

As the Maine Sunday Telegram’s Bill Nemitz skillfully unpacked in a recent column, opponents of this question — namely CMP, the Canadian power company, and other beneficiaries — have put their collective wit into yet another branding device to attack the question: retroactivity!  If you’ve turned on a car radio in the last several months, you’ve heard their warnings of what horrible things will happen in Maine if Question 1 passes.

In doing so, they are playing on an even more cynical well of fear than the whole environmental red herring.  They know we are worried about how bad the business environment can be in Maine, so they’re trying to trick us into thinking that allowing a foreign company to have its way with us will make us attractive again to businesses from away and open the doors to prosperity.  All by defeating that boogeyman “retroactivity.”  Do they really think we’re that stupid?

Apparently, yes.

There’s another wrinkle here.  Foreign spending in Maine elections is still legal.  Last spring, I wrote in support of a bill that would have closed a loophole in the law that allows companies outside the U.S. to influence elections in our state.  The bill passed the Legislature, but Gov. Janet Mills vetoed it because she feared it would limit corporations’ right to speech, according to the AP.  Sparks flashbacks of Mitt Romney saying corporations are people too, but never mind.

Last I checked, allowing foreigners to influence our elections was supposed to be a bad thing — even if some think Justin Trudeau is cute.  If Question 1 is defeated, it will be largely because of foreigners.  As someone who was convicted of being an unregistered foreign agent, even I have to wonder if this really is a thing.

But somehow, like Franz Kafka’s fevered imagination once was, it is a thing.

It’s hard to find anyone in Maine who likes the “Clean Energy Corridor,” unless you’re just polling CMP employees (and even some of them probably don’t like it).  And yet it is one of those bad ideas that just won’t seem to go away.  Kind of like the Iran Deal, or programs about the Kardashians.

The good news is that we’ll have a chance to begin undoing this November.  Hopefully the Yes on Question 1 prevails.  Unless, that is, you’re still worried about retroactivity, or predatory environmentalists.  I’ve looked up “retroactivity” — it would allow me to have done much better in school than I did.  And as for the environmentalists, they may have a point when it comes to the corridor.

It may just be dirty after all.  And even if it’s only ugly, stateriots and patriots can agree it’s a bad idea.