For my birthday, a friend bought me a baseball cap with the letters “TR” on the front. That stands for Templeton Rye, my favorite whiskey. But the first time I wore it, some idiot in a bar accused me of being a Texas Rangers fan.

I didn’t bother to explain. I just kicked him in the crotch.

And as serendipitously as that, I was struck by a brilliant idea. Also, the fist of a friend of the guy I kicked.

When I recovered from my concussion, I realized that “TR” could also stand for the name of a much-needed process to help politicians lacking the fortitude metaphorically associated with certain glands. And thus was born the enterprise known as Testicular Replacement.

So far, TR offers several versions: plastic, steel, and our cheapest and most popular model, paper maché (we’ve sold a gross each to the wimpy officials in Portland, Bangor and Augusta to help them deal with Occupy Maine protesters).

I mention this not to drum up business (we can’t keep up with demand, what with rush orders from the likes of Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins — her brass ones were received just in time for her decision to break with her party and vote to keep payroll tax breaks — and Democratic executive director Dale McCormick of MaineHousing — her custom-designed titanium implants reinforced her defense of logic-defying expenses for low-income housing projects).

Nevertheless, some potential customers have been utterly unresponsive to our sales pitch. I refer to members of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.

In November, this august assemblage met to decide how to revise Maine’s Clean Election Act in the wake of federal court rulings, including a U.S. Supreme Court decision, that said sections of the law were unconstitutional. Specifically, the justices said providing additional matching funds to Clean Election candidates who are outspent by privately funded opponents violates the First Amendment, because it discourages donors from contributing when they know their cash will generate a similar contribution from taxpayers. Even independent expenditures on behalf of a candidate trigger the Clean Election match. Chief Justice John Roberts said that was “impermissibly burdening,” both on donors and non-publicly funded candidates.

Maine voters approved the Clean Election Act in 1996. Since then, most candidates for the Legislature have taken advantage of it, grabbing a share of about $3 million during each biennial campaign. But without matching funds, the system doesn’t work. That’s because opponents would be aware in advance that the maximum a House hopeful could spend was about $5,000, and a Senate contender topped out around $21,000. In the late stages of a campaign, privately funded candidates and independent political action committees could flood the district with negative mailers and TV attack ads, knowing the publicly funded patsy had no more cash with which to respond.

In other words, leaving the Clean Election law in the, er, emasculated state the court ruling created makes no sense. No one would dare to use it, unless that candidate was an unopposed incumbent in a district with no unemployment, minuscule property taxes and free beer. So, the only sensible alternatives for the committee were to get rid of the law altogether, thereby saving $3 million, or revise it to include incredibly complicated re-qualifying provisions that would allow candidates to receive extra money if they were in danger of being drowned in opposition cash.

Each of those options has a political downside. Obliterating the entire program means reversing a vote of the people and going against polls that show Clean Election continues to enjoy broad popular support. It means putting your political career at risk, a move that can cause serious shriveling in the nether regions.

The revised plan means allocating more money for public funding, since virtually all candidates who opted for taxpayer funds would go through the process of qualifying for extra payments to deter last-minute blitzes by their opponents. In a time of fiscal austerity — looming cuts to Medicaid, aid to local government and substance abuse programs — calling for increasing the budget for lawn signs and brochures takes sizable reproductive organs.

The committee’s Republican majority did neither. It opted for the status quo, which is essentially unworkable. The GOP didn’t quite dare to kill the act. It didn’t have the gumption to spend money to repair it. It demonstrated a complete lack of…

Common sense.

What? Did you think I was referring to something else? That I was about to promote my new company’s product? Such a misuse of this space would be unethical. I’d even go so far as to say it’d be, um, nuts.

In the wake of the committee’s failure to address reality, the people of Maine can only hope the full Legislature has the necessary equipment to do the right thing.

The, uh, ball is in its court.

No need for euphemism when you email me at