Maine Politics

From the Piscataqua to the St. John

Monday, January 31, 2005

"The war between education and Medicaid."

That's how Senator Peter Mills (R-Somerset) describes the current battle in the state house as quoted in this Portland Phoenix article examining where the money will come from to pay for the increased state funding of education. The list of programs cut is long and still incomplete but it includes services for the mentally ill, those on MaineCare, and foster parents. There was another interesting quote from this article as well:

The cuts allow the department, [DHHS deputy commissioner J. Michael Hall] says, to make reforms such as consolidating programs, putting them out for competitive bid, and bringing payments to service providers in line — by lowering them — with what other states do.

People who now get cared for in group homes will move into cheaper "community settings," he says.

Such as?

"Live in friends’ houses," he suggests.

That's how one reporter characterizes these cuts. Just for fun, let's see what the Maine Chamber of Commerce has to say. In their weekly newsletter sent to Maine businesses, they spend three pages discussing the new budget, the closest they come to mentioning cuts in services is this paragraph:
State government reorganization
Significant savings are projected in this budget for savings related to reorganization and restructuring of state government services. Consolidation is projected in many state offices, leading to more efficient and less costly administrative functions.

By the way, we've already discussed why cutting these kinds of services might cost us more in the long run.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

[Insert Candidate Here] in 2006!

The BDN examines some of the "maybes" to run against Baldacci in 2006.

So far away from Election Day, the potential cast of contenders is long.

On the Republican side, the "maybe" list includes the party's 2002 nominee, Peter Cianchette, former 2nd Congressional District candidate Brian Hamel, Senate Minority Leader Paul Davis, and even U.S. Sen. Susan Collins... and many more names have been bandied about, including Kevin Hancock, the president of Hancock Lumber Co. in Casco, as well as state Sens. Kevin Raye of Perry and Carol Weston of Montville...

Whoever decides to run - unless they are independently wealthy - will need to make up their minds by September of this year in order to raise enough money to be competitive against a sitting governor, Hodgkins said.
In the 2002 governor's race Baldacci, Cianchette and Carter spent more than $3.2 million combined.

The only thing, besides Baldacci's candidacy, that seems certain is the potential for a three-way race, with Maine's Green Independent Party poised to lose its official status unless it fields a candidate who earns more than 5 percent of the vote in either the governor's race or the race for U.S. Senate - the only statewide contests on the 2006 ballot.

Several names have been mentioned as possible Green candidates for governor, including preservationist and Burt's Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby and Pat LaMarche, the Green vice presidential nominee in 2004.

In other news, ("Lessons taught by Muskie desperately needed today") Washington needs to be more like Maine.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Help Wanted

Conservative? Unemployed? The Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel have a job for you!

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

DNC Chair

The Eastern Regional Caucus for the DNC was today, the last forum for the candidates before the vote on February 10-12 and a chance for our Maine DNC members to meet them and hear their plans for the party. DNC Committeeman Sam Spencer will be writing a report on the convention on his blog. (Where you can now read comments made by Donnie Fowler and Simon Rosenberg as well as Howard Dean). Maine DNC member Jennifer DeChant will be there as well, and like Sam and Marianne Stevens, she still has an open mind. She wrote in a recent email:

As you may know, there is Eastern Regional Meeting of the DNC this weekend in NYC. I am going to attend. At this point, I am undecided. I am gathering information and feedback. Please let me know your thoughts.

If any of Maine's DNC members want their voice to be heard, now is probably the best time to endorse a candidate. Here's how the race stands right now via MyDD via The Hotline:

Votes     Percentage (50% + 1 needed)
Howard Dean4810.5
Martin Frost154
Wellington Webb102.5
Donnie Fowler92
Simon Rosenberg      41
Tim Roemer41
David Leland20.5

Ickes backed Dean today.
"I think all the candidates who are running have strong attributes, but Dean has more of the attributes than the others," said Ickes, who considered running for chairman himself before dropping out in early January. "Many people say Howard Dean is a northeastern liberal, he is progressive, but his tenure as governor of Vermont was that of a real moderate."

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Environmental Focus

The PPH reports today that more than two dozen Maine environmental groups are banding together to focus on six crucial issues that will come before the legislature this year. The big six are:

  • Reducing childhood exposure to lead

  • Restoring water quality to the Androscoggin and St. Croix rivers

  • Instituting sales goals for low-emission cars

  • Slowing the spread of urban sprawl

  • Increasing funding to Maine state agencies that deal with natural resources

  • Passing a land bond for the Land for Maine's Future Fund

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Have you seen this man?

Serial polluter Harry J. Smith Jr. is now one of the top fugitives on Maine's Most Wanted List. From the PPH:

Maine has good reason to want the 64-year-old junk man behind bars. His chronic disregard for environmental regulations as he stockpiled everything from calcium carbide and PCB-laden transformers to 1.6 million used tires has already cost taxpayers $5.2 million in cleanup funds.

From the Maine attorney General's Office:
Information suggests Smith may still be involved in the salvage/recycling business and frequenting the Kittery, Maine/Portsmouth, NH area motels. He may also be in contact with a former business associate and friend who works at a Portsmouth metal business.
Smith is believed to be traveling in a white Ford van with New Hampshire plates and may be crossing into New Brunswick, Canada to travel to Quebec & Nova Scotia.
There is a current active warrant on Smith out of Washington County Sheriff's Department that authorizes nationwide extradition.

The BDN has an article as well.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Baldacci Running for Reelection

(As if there were any doubt)

He announced on a Maine Public Radio call-in program today.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Term Limits

Three political science professors from the University of Maine have written a book on the effects of Maine's 1993 law enacting term limits for members of the legislature. Their research has exposed some major flaws in this kind of legislation.

One of those consequences is an abbreviated learning curve for new legislators, who must very quickly learn their way around the institution. They need to make a mark, particularly if they have leadership ambitions. They sometimes are impatient with the give-and-take of the legislative process.

[Professor] Moen observes that new legislators often reintroduce legislation rejected in previous sessions, often unaware that such bills already had been considered. From 1995 to 2000, for instance, the number of bills introduced in the Maine Legislature rose by 43 percent. As each bill must be researched by the legislative staff and prepared for formal introduction, the redundancy consumes valuable time and resources, can extend the length of legislative sessions and, additionally, can distract legislators from more pressing legislative matters, according to the authors.

Perhaps more significant is the loss of seasoned legislators, which effectively increases the political power of other policymakers, such as executive branch officials or legislative staff. Elected officials, the authors suggest, seem to have ceded at least some political power to these non-elected officials, who often serve, through necessity, as the institutional memories for legislators.

Al Diamon recently wrote a column on the subject, his conclusions:
Guess we showed them.

By "we," I actually mean "you." Because I didn't vote for the term-limits referendum back in 1993. And by "showed them," I mean "didn't do diddly." Because the term-limits law for state legislators hasn't accomplished what proponents promised.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Maine as an Ideal

There are values that all Mainers ascribe to. We see ourselves as tough, independent, resourceful, open and community-minded, and as responsible guardians of our rich environment. Our geography and culture have shaped a proud and self-reliant people.

This spirit of uniqueness is often taken advantage of by people like Mike Heath, head of the Christian Civic League and leader of the 1998 pro-discrimination referendum. In his rhetoric he claims that, among other things, ouiji boards, Feng-shui and yoga are destroying our state.

Mr. Heath is obviously wrong and possibly certifiable, but the reason why his words resonate with some Mainers is that he recognizes our collective state identity as something unique, good, and fragile.

There are genuine threats to our way of life (and they aren't yoga). Today, a man wrote a letter to the Kennebec Journal about one of them.

Growing up along the Maine coast, I remember vividly fishing for bluefish with my father on Casco Bay. We often caught some really large bluefish and stripers. In fact, somewhere in my parents' house, among other forgotten memories, lies a photo of me at 9 years old, holding a bluefish that was taller than I.

My memories are not unique. Up and down the beautiful Maine coastline, fathers and sons woke up early on hot summer mornings and walked down to the town pier or steered their boats for open water, casting their lines into the bay. At sunset, they would triumphantly take home their catch and roast it over a grill or baste it in the oven.

They still rise early and brave the summer heat to catch the big fish. However, now stories of the fish's magnitude must suffice, since they have to throw the fish back. Mainers have not lost their desire to eat bluefish, but rather mercury levels make it impossible...

The EPA website describes mercury as "a toxic persistent, bioaccumulative pollutant that affects the nervous system and bioaccumulates in fish" and goes on to warn that it may cause cancer, damage the brain, lungs, heart, stomach, intestines and kidneys, and permanently harm unborn children. One tablespoon of mercury is enough to contaminate all the fish in a 1,400 acre lake. The Bush administration and Republicans in Washington are working to gut the clean air act, allowing five times as much mercury to be pumped into the air over the next few years. Their Orwellian "Clear Skies Act" is being debated in congress right now.

The significance of this threat to our state is made obvious by the fact that our entire congressional delegation opposes this legislation, but as long as Republicans control the House and Senate that might not make a difference.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Freedom of Information

Here's a new nominee for stupidest bill; this one from a democrat. LD 90 would shield the work of the Gambling Control Board from the public eye.

A Sun Journal editorial today states:

The Maine Freedom of Information Coalition, which the Sun Journal supports, says that LD 90 would take records that are public at the state or federal level and make them confidential once the Gambling Control Board gets them. As an example, the criminal records and litigation histories of racino employees would be off-limits for disclosure. Information that is public and available from other sources would be denied to anyone petitioning the board...
The issues at stake are not whether Maine voters approved slot machines at harness racing tracks: They did. The issue is whether the Gambling Control Board should be allowed to subvert the laws of the state that guarantee public access to information. It should not.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

State of the State

The full text is here

Two of my favorite parts:

Here in Maine we’ve worked hard to protect healthcare and jobs. The time has come to protect all Maine citizens against discrimination. How can we say we support Maine’s economy, when we do not protect against workplace discrimination. Maine is no place for discrimination and I intend to offer legislation to protect basic civil rights for all citizens.

Tonight I am announcing “Connect Maine,” a broad and aggressive telecommunications strategy for this state. Connect Maine will give nearly every Mainer the opportunity to plug into the global economy from their community. It will ensure that:
90% of Maine communities have broadband access by 2010; 100% of Maine communities have quality wireless service by 2008; and
Maine’s education system has the technology infrastructure that leads the nation.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Prisoner abuse at Abu GhraibAlberto Gonzales has done more to destroy the international standing and the moral authority of the United States than previously thought possible by a single, unelected person. In January of 2002, as White House Council, Gonzales recommended reversing a half-century of international law, abandoning the Constitution and condoning the torture of human beings. His word for the Geneva Convention: “quaint”.

His arguments provided the legal basis for the atrocities of Abu Ghraib and we will be seeing the backlash in the Middle East for generations. His only excuse is that he claims didn’t understand what he was doing at the time. His actions (or his ignorance) are about to be rewarded. In a few days the full Senate will vote on whether to confirm him as the next Attorney General of the United States.

From a staff editorial in the Bangor Daily News earlier this month:

The Senate must decide whether it agrees with President Bush that Judge Gonzales would make an able attorney general. That is, it must vote on whether a lawyer and former judge who failed to anticipate the effect of his opinion in this important instance is suitable to be the nation's top law-enforcement officer. The offices of Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins do not yet have public positions on the issue

Our Senators are poised to take a stand with torture. They are not representing the values of the people of Maine.

Office of Senator Snowe
Office of Senator Collins

Visit the new Maine Politics.


Maine state legislators this year have submitted more than 2000 separate pieces of legislation for consideration. One question seems obvious: Which is the stupidest?

Here's our first nominee, a bill that would seize Acadia National Park from the federal government.

Feel free to nominate your own favorite piece of stupid legislation. Here's a handy list of titles by member.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The Way Life Should Be

The BDN this weekend had two very interesting pieces comparing the state of Maine and its tax level to other parts of the country. The first item was an article comparing Maine and our only U.S. neighbor. It examined the relative tax rates and the differences in political cultures in Maine and New Hampshire.

New Hampshire spent roughly $2 billion - when factoring in money from the state's educational trust fund - to pay for its state programs in 2003. Maine, by similar measures, spent $2.4 billion that year, according to a National Association of State Budget Officers State Expenditure Report.
The vast majority of Maine's general fund money came from its sales and personal income taxes. New Hampshire, having neither, relies more heavily - to its detriment, some say - on business and property taxes to fund major programs…
Like many, [UNH political scientist] Schuman laughs at the takeover attempt and jokes with his New Hampshire colleagues that he lives in Maine "because he wants some services for his tax dollars."

The second was an Op Ed written by a Maine native who has spent the last 32 years in Oklahoma. It’s worth reading in its entirety and can be found here.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Jobs and Seniors

On Thursday, Representative Michaud wrote a column on the subject of the latest EPI working paper on our trade with China.

Over the past 14 years, this study finds that our trade deficit with China has risen more than 20-fold to a record high $60.3 billion. A total of 1.5 million American jobs were lost because of our trade deficits with China between 1989 and 2003. The rate of American job loss soared after China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001. The pace is accelerating, and the trend looks permanent…

The new report finds that Maine lost more jobs to China as a share of total state employment than any other state. These devastating trade numbers add up to one conclusion: that too many Maine workers are losing their jobs because of crippling and unfair trade practices.

He calls for hearings on whether China breaks WTO rules by subsidizing its industries and for restoring import duties in cases where illegal subsidies have occurred.

I’d also like to point out the column Michaud wrote last month in which he rips into the plans to privatize Social Security and declares that there is no crisis. This week he went a step further and submitted a constitutional amendment that would prohibit any privatization of Social Security.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Going Nuclear

Wampum has a great post today about the “nuclear option” through which Republicans could change Senate rules to allow a filibuster to be broken by a simple majority. Frist hasn’t gone nuclear yet, and for good reason.

In recent interviews and statements, four Republican senators have expressed deep reservations about the "nuclear option." At least two others appear to be leaning against it, although less definitively, and several have refused to state a position publicly…
"At this point, it's too close to call," Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way, which opposes Frist's proposal, said Friday. If pushed to the wall, said Neas, who previously worked for two Senate Republicans, a slim majority of senators probably will rebuff Frist because they want to preserve the Senate's uniqueness and not make it "just like the House." …
If five Republicans joined a solid bloc of Democrats, Cheney could break the 50-50 tie in favor of banning judicial filibusters. If a sixth Republican defected, Frist would fall short.
The GOP leader appears perilously close to that breaking point. In recent weeks, four moderate Republicans have criticized the nuclear option in published remarks that their offices confirmed or did not challenge.

Two of those moderates are ours.
Friday. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) told the Portland Press Herald, "I just don't see how it's going to benefit us, even in the majority, to change it to a simple majority [vote] because ultimately it could create more wedges and political wounds." Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) "doesn't think the nuclear option is a great idea," her spokeswoman, Jen Burita, said.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Property Tax Reform

Today, Governor Baldacci signed L.D. 1 into law. Speaker John Richardson explained today in the BDN what this will mean.

Blethen Maine News Service by Joe Phelan (PPH)These measures will bring the average taxpayer more than $200 in immediate property tax savings. The same estimates show a typical single elderly homeowner can expect to save $882, and a married couple with two children will save $314. In total, more than $86 million in additional tax relief will go directly to Maine citizens through the Circuit Breaker and Homestead programs. And because of the tax reform package, $250 million more in school funding will flow to local schools - the largest increase in the history of the state. That money, coupled with the spending caps we established in the plan, will result in lower local property taxes necessary to support schools.

To critics, he writes:
I have heard some critics in recent days say the plan passed by the Legislature doesn't provide enough tax relief, and doesn't provide it fast enough. I marvel at the criticism, really. What is the alternative they would prefer? That we should actually vote down the only tax relief package we have been able to find agreement on in six years of trying? Would no relief this year be better than some?

A front page article today in the Bangor Daily "Tax vote offers hope for session" gives some evidence that the partisan divide that categorized last session is a thing of the past. A staff editorial at the Sun Journal echoes this sentiment, declaring:
The outcome of the tax relief measure offers a good omen for the rest of the legislative session. The House and Senate, the Democrats and Republicans, were able to work together on a complicated and significant issue. The results don't please everyone, but the players have shown they can work with one another.

Let’s hope this is true. The discussion of Baldacci’s $5.7 billion state budget begins on Monday.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Friday, January 21, 2005

No Initiatives

All five citizen initiatives that gathered signatures during the November election have failed to turn in enough votes to get their measures on the ballot in 2005.

Mary Adams will now be attempting to get her spending cap on the ballot in 2006 (where it might have more of an impact on the other elections). The Chamber of Commerce abandoned their own tax reform proposal, instead choosing to back a version of Baldacci’s tax reform package.

WLBZ2 states that the other three proposals “would have imposed a tax on bottled water drawn from Maine aquifers; promoted passage of an [U.S. Constitutional] amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman; and banned slot machines at commercial harness-racing tracks”.

The PPH reports that “No Slots for ME!” has collected fewer than half the required signatures, Dick Dyer of “H2O for ME” is unsure of the number of signatures collected but claims there has been a lot of interest. The progress of the anti-gay marriage campaign is unknown.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Choosing a Chair

Last week I emailed all four DNC members from Maine and asked if they had a preference for DNC Chair. I received two responses.

The first was from State Vice-Chair Marianne Stevens. She wrote:

Hi Mike,
Thanks for your note.

I have not yet decided on my choice for DNC Chair. I've been talking with many of the candidates and will talk with the remaining ones before our February meeting. In fact, I'll be attending the Northeastern regional DNC meeting in New York City next weekend where all the candidates will address us. I'm looking forward to hearing their presentations and then making my decision.

Do you have a preference?

Thanks for asking.

Marianne Stevens

The second was from DNC member Sam Spencer, who not only made it clear that he was open to advice, he announced he would soon be setting up a website to better understand the opinions of democrats all across the state. (That website was the subject of this post and has since been mentioned at the American Prospect.)

I know State Party Chair Pat Colwell and DNC member Jennifer DeChant are busy folks and I don’t mind that they didn’t reply to my emails, but I’d like to commend Marianne Stevens and Sam Spencer for their responsiveness to a member of their party. By the look of Sam’s site, he might have some aspirations beyond his current post. That’s probably a good thing for both the party and the state.

Here are the updated results from the comments on Sam’s website:

Of 165 comments, 94 people made a case for a single candidate. There are quite a few double posts and I tried to catch as many of these as possible so as not to count their opinions twice. This is probably a sign that many of the people expressing their opinions there are not familiar with weblogs, which seems to indicate that the site is getting the attention of a wide range of democrats.

Howard Dean: 88 (94%)
Simon Rosenberg: 3 (3%)
Wellington Webb: 1 (1%)
Martin Frost: 1 (1%)
Wesley Clark (who isn’t running): 1 (1%)

Personally, I'd be happy with either Dean or Rosenberg. They both represent the kind of energy and the commitment to reform that the party needs. What I really love is all the attention this race is getting from people that have never before cared about the leadership of the DNC. Bloggers are even expressing their opinions about Vice-Chairs now.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

DNC Chair

Yesterday, Sam Spencer, the DNC Committeeman for Maine, launched his website with an email to Maine Democrats asking for their input in who should be the next DNC Chair. The response has been incredible and the message has been clear.

As of 10:18am today, there were 114 comments on Sam’s weblog. Of these, 68 were from individuals expressing a single choice for DNC Chair. Here’s how the votes break down:

Howard Dean: 63
Simon Rosenberg: 2
Wellington Webb: 1
Martin Frost: 1
Wesley Clark (who isn’t running): 1

There was also one post from Howard Dean himself (which I haven't counted in the rankings). Dean writes:

Sam, Great website. This fits in well with what I hope to accomplish as DNC chair. Strong grassroots organizations in every state party, with financial support from the DNC so that we can beat the right wing on the ground! Keep up the good work. Howard Dean

There were two interesting and consistent themes in these responses. The first is that nearly every single person posting, whether they support a candidate or not, makes it clear that they want to see a drastic change in the Democratic Party. The second is that many of those who throw their support behind Dean add that they didn’t support him for president but think he is the best man to run the DNC.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

More on the "Crisis"

Josh Marshall, who has been doing some of the best reporting on the attempt to gut Social Security, notes today that both Newt Gingrich and George Will admit there is no crisis.

He also lists Snowe as a member of the Conscience Caucus.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Fiscally and Ethically Irresponsible

Psychologist Ronald L. Breazeale wrote an excellent letter to the editor that appears in today's PPH. He writes in part:

This year, the Legislature, to save money, passed a shortsighted law that could have extremely negative consequences for MaineCare clients receiving mental health services from psychologists in private practice.

This law limits to 16 the number of visits that someone with MaineCare can have each year with a psychologist.

While most clients don't need more than 16 visits in one calendar year, some chronically mental ill patients do. They are often the most at risk and rely on regular visits to their psychologist to help them stay out of the hospital and function in society.

According to the Department of Human Services, the cost savings associated with this law to the state is $104,000 a year. Just a few hospitalizations will eat up those savings, and at what emotional cost to the chronically mentally ill and their loved ones?

This is a law that will send people who could potentially be stable members of society to mental institutions or to the streets and will cost us much more in hospitalization and policing than it will ever save in cutting treatment. This is a stupid and dangerous law.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Creating a Crisis

Social Security is an incredibly important issue for Mainers. We have one of the highest percentages of our population over 65 in the country and about one in five people in this state receive SS benefits. In addition, our Senator Snowe is a member of the Finance Committee and has a direct voice on any changes in this program.

Weakening Social Security is the political Holy Grail for Republicans. If they can chip away at this popular institution they can set back Democratic progress in this country by 50 years.

The first step in this process is creating the perception that Social Security is in trouble and needs “reform”. To this end, conservative groups will soon begin spending $100 million in a nation-wide campaign and the administration will be using money from the very fund they claim is in danger of shrinking to push their arguments despite the objections of SSA employees.

However they try to spin it, there just isn’t a crisis. As Center for Economic and Policy Research Co-Director Dean Baker explains:

President Bush has been working hard to promote belief in a Social Security crisis. Unfortunately for him, the numbers refuse to cooperate. The latest numbers from the Social Security trustees show that the program can pay all scheduled benefits through the year 2042 with no changes whatsoever.

An independent assessment from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows that the program can pay all benefits through the year 2052.

Even after 2042 or 2052, the program won’t be in trouble, according to Laura D'Andrea Tyson, Dean of the London Business School:

According to the most recent report by the Trustees of Social Security, even under the cautious assumption that the U.S. economy grows at the anemic rate of 1.6% a year, the revenues into Social Security from the current level of payroll taxes will cover promised benefits for another 38 years and will be enough to finance about 70% of benefits through 2078.
Now, even if there were a crisis right now, (which there isn’t) creating private accounts would do nothing to solve it, and would in fact make the program worse-off. As Tyson says:

President Bush is using the specter of an impending crisis to justify allowing workers to divert up to 4% of their payroll taxes into private, individually controlled retirement accounts. This would reduce payroll tax revenues available to cover promised Social Security benefits by as much $2 trillion to $4 trillion, transforming an imaginary crisis into a real one.
In fact, just today, Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La, the Republican’s point-man on Social Security in the house confirmed that the new privatization bill might mean a raise in taxes.

So why would Republicans be pushing this non-solution to a nonexistent problem? This Time article sheds some light on that.

Those who believe in it most deeply say it could redefine politics itself, putting Republican principles in a position to dominate for the next half-century

Republicans believe they can change how Americans see every question from free trade to capital gains-tax cuts. "If we succeed in reforming Social Security, it will rank as one of the most significant conservative governing achievements ever," Bush's strategic-initiatives director Peter Wehner wrote in a private memo to Republican allies two weeks ago.

Democrats have darker views of Bush's motives, saying it has been a long-standing Republican goal to dismantle the vestiges of the New Deal and the basic contract it struck between the government and its citizens.

It’s a fight for the soul of our country and Mainers have a real stake in the outcome. Luckily, our two moderate Republican senators will have a real voice in this issue, and both are wary of privatization.

“I don't think there's any consensus on what the problem is or the extent of the problem,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine and a member of the Finance Committee that will debate the issue. “I have serious concerns about undermining the fundamental principles of the Social Security Trust Fund.”

Snowe focused on the risks of stock investment. In what she called “an inherent contradiction,” advocates on the one hand suggest investment is the way to win a better return, but on the other hand, consider it too risky for the government to pursue.

Feel free to let her know if you agree.

The PPH is right to compare the Bush administration’s claims about a social security crisis to their assurances about WMDs in Iraq. They are again manufacturing a false crisis and the cost to America will be high if they succeed.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


The Portland Press Herald today has an editorial examining the need for Bath Iron Works from the standpoint of national security.

Though the needs of today's war on terror might focus on other military equipment, that's not to say the needs of a future war wouldn't include more naval vessels. The conflict in Bosnia, for instance, had a strong need for planes in the air. Who's to say a future conflict wouldn't require lots of ships in the sea?

It also would cost the Pentagon more money to re-establish a shipbuilding program if it eliminates one now.

Say, for instance, that it cut funding for DD(X) destroyers to the point where only the facility in Mississippi could stay open. The skilled labor at Bath Iron Works would be eliminated, too, and those workers would move on to other things.

What if, some years later, the Pentagon finds it necessary to boost its destroyer fleet? If it would even be possible, it would cost more to bring those workers back to BIW or to train new, less-skilled employees.

Also, what if, God forbid, an attack should occur at the one facility that makes all the destroyers for the Navy's fleet?

Bath Iron Works shouldn't be kept open for the purpose of saving jobs. It should be kept open, however, for the purpose of saving lives.

One Arleigh Burke Class AEGIS Destroyer, of which Bath currently produces one or two a year creating around 6,400 jobs for skilled craftsmen, costs the equivalent of 3 days in Iraq.

Three days from now, 137 people will be laid-off at BIW.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Representative Duprey of Hampden probably thinks he has pulled off a pretty clever political maneuver. This session he introduced LR 991 “An Act to Legalize Same Sex Marriages”. He personally opposes the bill and claims unconvincingly that he submitted it at the request of a constituent that he refuses to name. His hope is obviously that gay rights advocates will champion the measure and that the anti-discrimination legislation that Baldacci will soon introduce will seem more extreme if it can be linked with a discussion of same-sex marriage.

Duprey did succeed in forcing gay rights proponents in Maine make some tough decisions. Equality Maine expressed their concerns in a letter sent to members discussing the group’s legislative agenda:

The question about Rep. Duprey’s same-sex marriage bill is not whether we support, but what to do with it? Do we put our weight behind it, leaving fewer resources to defeat the constitutional amendment? Do we not put our weight behind it and come out looking like we don’t support same-sex marriage?

EM decided last week to oppose the bill, and so will the governor and the democratic leadership, making it certain to die a quick death.

Before it dies, however, the legislation will be discussed, and along with Strimling’s bills it will increase the public debate on the issue. In a cultural issue such as this, the more times “same-sex” and “marriage” appear in the same sentence, the better for gay rights advocates.

So Duprey’s bill will most likely have little real political impact. It did accomplish one thing, however. It showed the people of Hampden that their representative is either 1) willing to submit any bill, however much it goes against his own principles if they ask him to or 2) a liar. Some of his constituents should draw up a resolution condemning Duprey’s conniving, ask him to submit it, and find out which one is true.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Sunday, January 16, 2005


Two weeks ago, Randy Bumps, the new chairman of the Maine Republican Party wrote a rambling critique about what was wrong with the last ten years of state government. He lamented the increases in the budget, panned Baldacci’s plan for property tax reform, and touted a spending cap that would require a two-thirds majority in the legislature to increase state spending.

Today, Democratic chairman and former speaker Patrick Colwell responded with a much more optimistic view. Here's the good stuff:

The fact is Maine is a great place to live, and many signs point to prosperity in the future. Here are a few economic indicators that won't be in opinion columns authored by Republicans:

Maine's personal income grew 5.4 percent for the first three quarters of last year, out-performing the rest of New England and the nation.

The Maine economy has added 4,700 new jobs through November of last year.

Annual average total wages rose 6.4 percent from 2001 to 2003, far outpacing the 0.8 percent growth in New England and 2.8 percent nationally.

Under the Baldacci administration, state budgets have grown at their slowest rate in over 30 years. Under Baldacci, the average rate of budgetary growth is at 3.5 percent.

Compare this to 5.5 percent under independent Angus King and 5.9 percent under Republican John McKernan.

He goes on to tout the Budget Stabilization Act passed last session and to criticizes the hypocrisy of republicans for pushing to immediately increase education funding to 55% while at the same time lamenting the size of the budget.

Bumps' groundless criticisms ring even hollower today than when he wrote them. On Friday, the special committee on property tax reform voted 11-3 to support Baldacci's plan, showing that it has exactly the kind of bipartisan support that Bumps claims legislation of this kind needs.

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Campaign finance law seeps into cyberspace; Federal judge's ruling alters frontier for 'blogs'

As published in the Bangor Daily News
Saturday - March 05, 2005
Deep in cyberspace, Mike Tipping of Orono muses about Maine politics.

But his Internet site, - and thousands of similar sites around the country - could be forced to undergo drastic changes resulting from a federal judge's ruling that campaign finance laws should be extended to the Internet.

The changes, which will be considered by the Federal Election Commission this month, potentially could mean fines to sites that improperly link to official campaign sites or forward candidates' press releases to its members.

Tipping's "Maine Politics" site, just 2 months old, is typical of political "Web logs," in which visitors, known as "bloggers," comment on the political news of the day, which on Friday included discussions of Maine Democrats' recent political ad lampooning state Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville.

"The Internet is the only place anyone can own a printing press," Tipping said Friday from Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he studies political science at Dalhousie University and runs the site from his apartment. "We have to protect that right."

As it stands, Internet communications are exempt from the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, formally known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

For instance, blogs were allowed last year to direct visitors to the official Web site of any presidential candidate without that link being considered a contribution to the campaign.

But should the proposed changes take effect, such a connection, as well as "Maine Politics'" current link to the Maine Democratic Party Web site, could be considered coordinated political activity - and potentially illegal donations.

But how much would that link be worth? A penny? A thousand dollars? These are some of the questions the FEC is expected to answer this month when it reconsiders the Internet exemption.

"[The commissioners] will be taking it up sooner rather than later. I don't think there's any question about that," FEC spokesman Ian Stirton said Friday of the coming discussions, although they have not yet been scheduled.

The review comes after a federal judge ruled that any coordinated political activity over the Internet must be regulated. The decision essentially overturned the FEC's 4-2 vote in 2002 to exempt most Internet communications from the law.

"The commission's exclusion of Internet communications ... severely undermines" the purpose of McCain-Feingold, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her decision last fall.

Over the past two years, the Internet has become an indispensable part of political campaigns, most experts agree. Candidates such as Democrat Howard Dean raised millions of dollars in cyberspace, and political blogs became useful forums for campaigns to gauge public opinion on some issues.

Simon Dodd, who this month launched his own Web site,, seeking to draft U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, to run for president in 2008, said he would closely watch the debate over applying campaign finance law to the Internet.

"I'm not entirely sure what the status of this one is," Dodd, a 25-year-old networks engineer from Indiana, wrote in a Friday e-mail. "But I'm very certain that it's a can of worms."

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Northern Muse

As published in the Portland Phoenix
Thursday - February 9, 2005
This outsourcing thing may be getting out of hand.

First, it was shoe and clothing production being shipped overseas. No big deal, unless your job happened to go with them. Then, domestic TVs and stereos disappeared over the horizon. But the prices were so cheap my conscience hardly bothered me at all for supporting slave labor. Next, the customer-service representative I called when somebody screwed up my insurance policy turned out to be located in some third-world backwater like Rubato or Dyspepsia. But he was every bit as skilled as the American he replaced at not solving my problem.

Now, however, the situation seems to be spiraling out of control.

Recently, I came across a new Web site called "Maine Politics" ( The author, identified only as Mike, offers daily updates on everything from how Maine’s representatives to the Democratic National Committee planned to vote for a new party chair (a story ignored by the local media), to synopses of political pieces from the state’s newspapers, to witty and insightful analysis.

For instance, when former state Senator Phil Harriman announced he had taken himself out of consideration for the 2006 GOP gubernatorial nomination, Mike noted, "That’s bad news to any of you who had Harriman at the top of your roster for the Maine Republican Politicians Fantasy League." He then provided a link to the fantasy league’s Web site, which — sad to say — does not exist.

Mike is obviously a liberal Democrat, but he’s unpredictable. While he sticks to the party line on social and environmental issues, he labeled Democrat-sponsored legislation to restrict public access to gambling-license applications as "a new nominee for stupidest bill."

After Democratic Governor John Baldacci proposed a genetics-research facility near Bangor and promised more effort to attract big corporations to the state, Michael Heath, executive director of the conservative Christian Civic League, distributed an email screed claiming those projects would damage Maine’s essential character. The new blog had this reaction:

"[Heath] claims that, among other things, ouiji boards, Feng-shui, and yoga are destroying our state. Mr. Heath is obviously wrong and possibly certifiable, but the reason why his words resonate with some Mainers is that he recognizes our collective state identity as something unique, good, and fragile."

I began visiting "Maine Politics" daily, eager to see if there were any ideas I could steal. (As this column shows, there were.) I also found the site to be a refreshing change from the state’s other on-line blatherers, such as the dozen or so right-wing nuts debating the minutiae of conservative policy on "As Maine Goes" ( or the tiny coterie of left-wing kooks still trying to prove Kerry won the presidency with their postings on Maine Indymedia (

I decided to get in touch with Mike to find out why he was doing all this work without getting paid. Which is when I discovered "Maine Politics" had been outsourced.

The Web site’s author is 20-year-old Mike Tipping, a third-year political-science student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. That’s in Canada. Or, possibly, Scotland.

Tipping does have a Maine connection. He’s from Orono and is still registered to vote there. He spent part of last year in the state volunteering for the Kerry campaign. When he returned to school, he decided to start his own blog because his classes had nothing about politics in his home state. He got on the Internet, scanned the state’s news media, made contacts who emailed him tips and set out to demonstrate how such a site could be a tool for activism, even from a long way off.

"Democrats in Maine really aren’t making much use of the Internet," he said. "In the last election, the Maine GOP site was much better designed, easier to use, and updated more often. The Democrats have nothing like that. Even the [Maine] College Republicans have a better site."

For now, Tipping is content to post his observations and happy when he has some impact. He says he got a big response after he urged readers to email the state’s US senators to oppose Alberto Gonzales’ nomination as attorney general. "I’m doing this because I hope this can be a place where people can talk about issues, organize, get informed," he said. "And there’s a healthy dose of ego, of course."

Tipping is not being as coy as Phil Harriman about his political ambitions. "I’d like to work in politics," he said, "and I’d like to live in Maine, but I don’t know where or when." For the record, he won’t be old enough to serve as governor until the election of 2022.

Tipping may be producing his blog in a foreign land, but if imported opinions have the same impact as outsourced TVs and footwear, guys like me could soon be looking for work. I wonder if the Democrats need help improving their Web site.

Will blather for food. Email donations to No veggies, please.

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

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