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MPBN

Maine's Place in America's Nations

Author, journalist and frequent Maine Politics contributor Colin Woodard has recieved a great deal of national attention for his new book, American Nations, in which he examines what he believes are 11 distinct cultural regions within North America.

Woodard recently did a daytime call-in program on MPBN, now available online, in which he discussed not just his general thesis, but the place of Maine within our nation's cultural landscape.

LePage Taps Favorite Lobbyist for MPBN Board

Maine Gov. Paul LePage is no fan of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, which operates Maine's only statewide network of television and radio stations. On the campaign trail he expressed a desire -- on MPBN cameras -- to punch the network's State House correspondent. In office he tried to zero out state funding for the broadcaster.

Now he has his first chance to nominate someone to MPBN's governing board. As I report in the new Portland Phoenix, his first choice is none other than Ann Robinson, the corporate lobbyist who already serves as a trusted advisor and a member of the panel he uses to find judicial nominees.

As readers of this blog well know, Robinson has also overseen the compilation of the governor's regulatory reform agenda -- past and future -- including the cutting-and-pasting of language from industry and corporate memos into the proposals LePage submitted to legislators. That she does this while remaining the registered lobbyist of many interested parties apparently doesn't trouble the governor, whose press secretary has failed to respond to requests for comment on this point.

Robinson isn't alone. Another Preti attorney, Carlisle McLean, serves as LePage's natural resources advisor. Pierce Atwood corporate lobbyist Patricia Aho currently heads the Department of Environmental Protection. But at least McLean and Aho had to give up their day jobs.

(Cross-posted from World Wide Woodard)

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LePage vs. Big Bird

This week at Down East, I discussed the changing tone of the audiences at LePage's town hall meetings. What once were supportive crowds are now turning a bit more hostile to the governor and his policies.

I neglected to mention my favorite quote from LePage's most recent town hall, via the BDN:

“I absolutely believe the federal government should put people ahead of eagles,” LePage said. “We have gotten to a point in our society where humans don’t count and I think that’s unfortunate. I’m a big believer that people pay taxes and eagles don’t.”

A Hopeful Sign for Maine Politics

Mainers have been justly proud of their political culture which, compared to other parts of the country, has been remarkably civil, featuring lawmakers who often seem more interested in finding solutions that help the state's people, than getting caught up in partisan death matches, hyperbolic assertions, outright lies, and appeals to humanity's worst instincts. Augusta has many problems, to be sure, but nothing like those in Albany, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C.

But in recent years the worst pathologies of national politics -- elections awash in a sea of soft, difficult-to-trace soft money, the drafting of bills and gubernatorial policy being outsourced directly to corporate lobbyists and special interest think tanks, legislative initiatives that represent the interests of campaign donors rather than voters -- have infected the state. Gov. Paul LePage's administration has been a vector for some of the worst viruses, but plenty of others were quietly metastasizing in the body politic during the Democrats' long watch. Read more »

LePage's Transparent Hypocrisy

My column in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel today is about the LePage administration breaking its promises of transparency, particularly regarding the influence of out-of-state corporations and their lobbyists on proposed environmental rollbacks. It relies heavily on some great investigative journalism done by Colin Woodard and Susan Sharon.

Since I wrote the column, the LePage administration has announced that Carlisle McLean will be joining their team as Senior Policy Advisor. McLean also worked at the law and lobbying firm Preti Flaherty, where, according to current and past reporting from MPBN, she lobbied for the Toy Industry Association against the ban on the toxic chemical bisphenol A. McLean is not listed as having represented the organization in the state lobbying database.

LePage staffers Dan Demeritt and Dan Billings both emailed me today to push back on some of the examples of apparent dishonesty by the administration. Read more »

LePage's Corporate Puppeteers

My latest story in the Portland Phoenix is on how Maine Gov. Paul LePage is outsourcing the writing of his much-touted regulatory reform package to corporate lobbyists. They, not surprisingly, have the interests of their out-of-state corporate clients first in mind, the suffering small businessman: maybe not so much.

MPBN's Susan Sharon beat me into "print" on how the governor's official "Phase 1" regulatory reform document has PretiFlaherty document numbers stamped on it. In this story, the governor's communications director confirms Preti lobbyist's role in the drafting of the regulations, and I show what their clients have gotten out of it so far.

And its not just Preti. Pierce Atwood's managing partner was in on the act, and their clients wishes made the list as well. Will be interesting to see who benefits from "phase two" and beyond.

(Cross-posted from World Wide Woodard)

Scarcelli Caught in Lie

Former Maine gubernatorial candidate and prospective Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rosa Scarcelli has been caught lying about her knowledge of her husband's involvement in the Cutler Files website controversy. MPBN's AJ Higgins has it all on tape, although he doesn't explicitly connect the dots for his listeners.

In the interview, Ms. Scarcelli says she knew her husband, Thomas Rhoads, had "done some Google" on Culter, but that she didn't learn of his involvement in the Cutler Files website until shortly after Labor Day and, as she says, prior to the Ethics Commission investigation, which officially went forward Oct. 20.
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Political Adeptness

Al Diamon on Chellie Pingree:

"The fact that she wasn't smart enough to avoid the appearance of not only conflict of interest but more importantly of being a flaming hypocrite is a real strong indication that she's not as politically adept as we all thought she was."

LePage Gets Punchy

LePage on the set of MaineWatch, displaying his disgust for public radio reporters:

Not Exactly Impartial

Quote of the day:

"I'm obviously not exactly an impartial source in this because I give a lot more grief to Otten than I think an impartial person would,"
                                                                                                              -Matt Gagnon