Big Talk: Clean Elections

Suzanne and Al discuss Maine's Clean Elections system with Andrew Bossie, executive director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections.

Last week, Maine's Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee voted along party lines to strip out the matching funds provision of the Maine Clean Election Act without replacing it with one of several proposed alternative provisions, virtually gutting the act.

You can sign an MPA petition in favor of clean elections in Maine here.

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Wealthy Mainer Speaks Against Inequality

The congressional "super committee" has failed to reach an agreement to cut the federal budget deficit, but the battle over taxes is continuing. At least one Maine business owner says it is time wealthier taxpayers like himself step up and pay more.

Jim Wellehan is president of Lamey-Wellehan Shoes, based in Auburn and with six stores across the state. He has signed a letter to Congress, along with 99 others who are business owners, investors and wealthy individuals in the top five percent of the U.S. economy. The letter asks federal lawmakers to pay for most of the deficit reduction with higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations, he says.

"Some children are given great advantage and other children are given great disadvantage. It just makes no sense to worry about taxes rather than worry about what kind of society your kids will grow up in."

All of the signers have incomes of more than $200,000 and are willing to pay higher income-tax rates if the Bush-era tax break for the wealthy is allowed to expire.

Wellehan says the lack of political will in Washington is hurting the economy, job growth and efforts to build a green economic sector. He says it wasn't always the case.

"If you look back at anything, from the Tennessee Valley Authority to the Hoover Dam, they all required great cooperation to get things done, and they did get things done."

Those opposed to raising revenue through higher taxes say it will cost jobs and hurt business. However, recent polls indicate a majority of Americans strongly support higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Read more »

Big Talk: Election Aftermath

Big Talk host Al Brewer and I discuss the results of Tuesday's election, with a focus on the Portland mayoral race and Question One on the statewide ballot.

For the poll numbers we discuss, see these posts over at Down East.

For the full results of the mayoral race, including the IRV rounds, see this detailed spreadsheet courtesy of Jack Woods.

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Portland Mayor: Following the Money

My home city of Portland, Maine is having its first mayoral election in 88 years, the result of a successful ballot referendum and popular disgust with the city council's handling of a proposed development on the Maine State Pier. Fifteen candidates are on the ranked-choice ballot, making it especially difficult for voters to become educated about the would-be mayors.

As regular readers know, I'm a big proponent of following the money in politics, but under current law, mayoral candidates didn't have to file campaign finance disclosures until last Friday evening -- just eleven days before voters go to the polls. (An effort to change this law for future elections has been stalled in Augusta.) Media coverage of the content of those reports has, to date, been focused merely on how much money each candidate raised, rather than from whom these resources came.
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Big Talk: Food Politics

This week on Big Talk, Host Suzanne Murphy speaks with two members of the Portland Food Co-op, Communications Director Michelle Smith and Board Member Sean Cooper

The PFC is a newly developing local business. Though they do not yet have a physical storefront, the member-owners collectively purchase more than $6000 worth of food each month from both local and national producers.

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Big Talk: Occupy Maine

Here's a Big Talk show from two weeks ago that I'm just putting online now. Election season seems to have put me into quite the blogging debt. Let's see if I can climb out of it.

Big Talks hosts Suzanne Murphy and Al Brewer welcome into the WMPG studios members from Occupy Maine. Six protestors shared stories and reasoning behind why they are staking out in downtown Portland. We hear from Travis, Sarah, Jake, Holly, Shane and Jen.

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An Orwellian Moment From LePage

Preti Flaherty lobbyist Ann Robinson has been showing up frequently in my reporting this year. She served as co-chair of Gov. Paul LePage's transition team, compiled his much-maligned "Phase I" regulatory reform agenda, and serves as his key regulatory reform advisor, even as she maintains her day job as a corporate lobbyist. She also serves on the committee that recommends judicial nominees to the governor and -- as expected -- was just nominated to the board of MPBN by the governor.

This past week she's been under additional pressure from Democrats, after my Phoenix story revealed her to be the new state co-chair for the controversial American Legislative Exchange Committee. So, not surprisingly, the Bangor Daily News picked up on the story today, asking if it matters that corporations are writing many of the bills legislators introduce in Augusta.

But halfway down the story is a real shocker. Governor LePage's spokseperson, Adrienne Bennett, told the News that despite "Democrats' claims," Ann Robinson is not an advisor to the governor!

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Big Talk - Remembering Mother Warren

The latest Big Talk show is a reairing of a documentary produced by the show called "Remembering Mother Warren," which chronicles the labor history of the S.D. Warren paper mill in Westbrook, one of the nation's oldest. The piece won a first place prize for public affairs programming from the Maine association of Broadcasters in 2003 and was sponsored by the Southern Maine Labor Council, the AFL-CIO and the Maine Humanities Council.

"Remembering Mother Warren" unearths the culture of an industrial community, the drama of life working for a once-great employer, and probes the meaning of workers' memories in the face of disruptive industrial change.

You'll hear stories from generations of mill workers and managers, including Shirley Lally, a 30-year veteran who sorted reams of paper by hand, Phil LaViolette, who recalls the struggles of Warren's Franco workers, and Howard Reiche, a former mill manager who describes the mill's paternalism and the favoritism encountered by workers prior to unionization. Other workers tell the history of the S.D. Warren "family," of their experiences in the mill dating back as far as the 1920s, of the extreme heat, dangerous equipment and deadly accidents, a forgotten 1916 strike, unionizing in the 1960s, and of the mill's recent decline. University of Maine historian Charles Scontras, and University of Southern Maine economist and labor historian Michael Hillard provide analysis of the mill's unique labor history.

Download the show here. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Too Funny to Be President

A Maine political tidbit from this interesting piece on Romney's humor problem:

To be sure, a humor deficit like Romney’s isn’t necessarily a fatal flaw, because someone who is too funny can also come off as insufficiently serious. The Arizona congressman Morris Udall liked to tell a story about a response he got at a barbershop in Maine: He looked in at the door and, meaning to introduce himself, said “Mo Udall, running for president.” “Yeah,” the barber said, “we were laughing about it this morning.” Udall eventually titled his autobiography Too Funny to Be President.

Gov's Favorite Lobbyist is ALEC Co-Chair

The American Legislative Exchange Council is one of the most powerful -- and secretive -- lobbying entities in the country, a channel for corporations to literally write state laws for willing or naive legislators without anyone being any the wiser.

Or at least that was the case until last month, when many of their confidential members-only documents were leaked to the world wide wonderland. Journalists are just starting to dig into the model bills, donor lists, and rolls of participating legislators posted at ALECexposed.org by the Center for Media and Democracy.

But, as I report in tomorrow's Portland Phoenix, a fresh leak has added a new twist for Mainers. It shows that the new state co-chair for Maine is none other than Ann Robinson, the Preti Flaherty superlobbyist and gubernatorial advisor who has been at the center of several stories I've covered this year, including "LePage's Secret Puppeteers" and "The LePage Files."

And for you political insiders out there, here, as a blog-only DVD extra, are the relevant pages from the leaked source document (the agenda of ALEC's August meeting in New Orleans.) [PDF]

(Cross-posted from World Wide Woodard)

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