Maine Politics

From the Piscataqua to the St. John

Thursday, March 31, 2005

House Profile: William Walcott

Rep. William WalcottRep. Walcott is currently serving his second term as a Democrat representing House District 72 in Lewiston. He received a B.A. in Political Science from UMaine and is the special projects coordinator for Support Solutions, a private non-profit agency that provides support to those with developmental and mental health challenges.

Walcott has been in the news recently as a result of his announcement on the floor of the house during discussion on the anti-discrimination bill that he was gay, something he says he did in order to put a human face on the legislation.

From his hometown paper:
After talking about the fear he experienced as a gay man in college, in the work place and in the Legislature, fellow members stood and applauded. And they passed notes to Walcott that praised and congratulated him. [...]

"Some think it's always someone they don't know" who is gay. It might be tougher to oppose the bill "when you know someone," he said. "It's not just those people who came up here and testified. It's people who sit here and work with you every day, lobbyists, constituents or other legislators."

Despite speaking in support for the gay rights bill, Walcott's focus as a legislator has never been on gay or civil rights issues and he is not a co-sponsor of the anti-discrimination bill. Walcott sits on the Health and Human Services Committee and the vast majority of bills he has proposed deal with health care or education. This year, among the many pieces of legislation he has submitted is a universal health care bill.

Walcott won his last election easily, earning twice as many votes as Republican Meesa Jones, a student at Central Maine Community College. This result is directly in line with Senator Kerry's 2-1 margin over President Bush in Walcott's district during the same election.

From an editorial in today's Sun Journal:
Walcott made a difficult and public choice to discuss his sexuality. It was courageous. He has weakened the foundation of hate by speaking out. It's hard to predict the consequences Walcott will face for making his private life public. The ramifications could extend beyond his political career and open him to the very discrimination that he was trying to defeat.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

New Tactics

"This act may not be construed to create, add, alter or abolish any right to marry that may exist under the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of Maine or the laws of this State"

That's a part of Maine's new anti-discrimination law. It spells out in detail the fact that protecting the rights of gay men and women in employment, housing, and education in no way legitimizes same-sex marriage.

This seems to be lost on the far-right groups that oppose the new law. It appears that the claim that this law attacks "traditional marriage" will be the mainstay of their new referendum campaign. Their website at doesn't contain a single word about discrimination or equal rights.

This is a very politically smart, if underhanded campaign. The Christian Civic League and their allies know that they can't win the referendum on its merits alone. Their only hope is to use this kind of scare tactic.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Snowe and Collins: Out of Clout

Slate's recent article, titled The Not-So-Fantastic Four examines the diminishing power of our moderate Senators. One paragraph was particularly interesting:
The ultimate defeat of the moderates, however, would be the successful activation of the nuclear option. Scuttling the filibuster for judicial nominees is an affront to everything the moderates have tried to promote: bipartisanship, compromise, and a check on the right wing's excesses. So far, the moderates' refusal to play along—along with the nervousness of traditionalists like Virginia's John Warner about the long-term effects on the Senate—have made it extremely difficult for Frist to corral the necessary votes. But the Republicans are close, and if Frist find a way to drop the Bomb, the moderates' lack of clout will be proved.

The showdown over the nuclear option will take place over the next few weeks. Snowe is against the elimination of the filibuster, Collins is on the fence.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Budget Achieves House Approval

The House voted 77-74 in favor of the budget plan early this morning. The tax on canoes and kayaks is out, and so is the study of fees for non-consumptive wilderness use. Many of the votes on amendments to the budget bill were close, including one which would have sent the borrowing plan to a public vote for approval. Two amendments that did pass eliminated tougher seat belt restrictions and prevented the hiring of new Senate staffers.

Today's newspapers went to print before the debate was concluded. Bonnie Washuk of the Sun Journal has the latest coverage, and the AP has a more recent report. The Budget debate will now move to the Senate where several Republicans are attempting to gather support for a proposal that would temporarily raise the sales tax in order to eliminate some borrowing from the budget.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with her positions, you have to admire the passion of Rep. Twomey (D-Biddeford). From the SJ:
Yelling and banging her fist on her desk, Twomey said it was a "bad budget" and that "we need to raise taxes." The mentally ill are going without housing, meat inspectors are being cut, and the poor aren't getting needed help, she said. "This party used to be the party of the people," Twomey said. Democrats "are carrying the water for those afraid to speak the truth to power."

[Update]: BDN article.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Gay Rights Bill Passes - No Automatic Referendum

From the AP:
The 88-62 House vote came after one member, Rep. Will Walcott, publicly acknowledged his homosexuality and told lawmakers, "It does happen to people you know ... friends, loved ones, co-workers."

The Lewiston Democrat urged representatives to "send a message that discrimination will not be tolerated in Maine," drawing applause from other lawmakers.

The House also joined the Senate in defeating an amendment aimed at sending the proposal to voters before going on to defeat a string of other amendments designed to weaken the bill.

Every major newspaper in Maine had an editorial or an op-ed supporting the bill this morning. PPH, BDN, SJ, KJ/MS.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Perry Voters Reject LNG Terminal

In a 279 to 214 vote, Perry has become the third Maine town to deny a liquefied natural gas installation.
As Perry voters left the voting booths Monday, many said the economic benefits of the proposed LNG project - including 1,000 construction jobs for three years and an annual payment to the town of $1 million - would have been outweighed by the intrusion of a large industrial installation on their small community of 844 people.

"I don't think an industrial complex of that magnitude has any place in an area like this," said Gary Guisinger, who has actively opposed the LNG project since its inception last year and picketed along Route 1 in the rain Monday outside the Perry Municipal Building. " We don't argue against jobs, we argue against those jobs," Guisinger said.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Gutierrez on WGAN

What Josh Marshall calls the third-string bamboozlepalooza tour is coming to Maine this morning. Tune in to WGAN at 8:08am to hear Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez shill for Social Security privatization.

Gutierrez will be following Governor Baldacci who's on at 7:30. The call-in number is 879-9426.

Info via the bad guys.

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Gay Rights Bill Passes Senate With Large Majority

AP Report:
AUGUSTA, Maine - A bill that would bar discrimination against gays and lesbians in Maine won a strong vote of approval Monday in the state Senate, moving the measure to the House where a vote could be held as soon as Tuesday.

The bill adding protections to the Maine Human Rights Act was approved, 25-10, after a debate in which supporters said Maine is lagging behind the other New England states by not having a law that bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. [...]

Republican Sen. Chandler Woodcock of Farmington said he´s confident the gay rights bill´s opponents will succeed in putting the issue before voters again.

"This bill, for me, isn´t necessary," Woodcock said.

71% of our Senate opposes discrimination.

[Update - March 29]: The Senate has rejected an amendment that would have sent the bill to a referendum. They also voted down an amendment that would have forced complainants before the Human Rights Commission pay for the costs of the hearings if their cases lost. The bill now goes to the House. You can track its progress here.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Hurdles in the House

From Bonnie Washuk's round-up.
On Wednesday, a Democratic caucus was called to talk about the budget, but before money talks got going, Rep. Lawrence Bliss, D-South Portland, stood up to urge members to listen to that afternoon's public testimony on a gay-rights bill, and to vote for L.D. 1196 when it hits the House floor.

"As of this morning, we have 22 votes in the Senate, we have 75 votes in the House. That's not enough House votes to pass the bill," Bliss said. "If you don't think you know any gay people, please come and talk to me," he said while everyone in the room laughed. "I am not the only gay member of this House. I'm not even the only gay member of the House on our side of the aisle, but I would be happy to explain to you why discrimination is not OK."

The Christian Civic League sees weakness as well. Today they issued an "action alert", saying "In the next three days we must shut down the House of Representatives phone lines."

Interestingly, in today's email, the League comes down hard on Maine's Catholic Diocese for refusing to oppose the anti-discrimination bill. Heath even goes so far as to publish an accusation that "30 percent of the Roman Catholic priesthood is homosexual."

Visit the new Maine Politics.

LNG Vote Today

600 or so voters in Perry today will decide whether or not they will allow a partnership of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Oklahoma City-based Quoddy Bay LLC to build a liquefied natural gas terminal on nearby tribal land. The vote is required because a condition of a land transfer agreement from the town to the tribe 19 years ago which stipulates that Perry residents must approve any commercial development.

From the BDN:
Bangor Daily News PhotoLNG is not a new energy source. It has been used in the United States for the past 60 years. Ships bring in the product from countries that include Algeria, Indonesia, Libya, Oman and Tobago, to U.S. terminals where it is processed. There are four terminals in the United States: Cove Point, Md.; Everett, Mass.; Elba Island, Ga.; and Lake Charles, La.

The gas is an odorless, colorless, noncorrosive and nontoxic substance transported by ships. To move it, the gas must be chilled to minus 264 degrees Fahrenheit where it becomes a liquid.

Locally, the past few weeks have been baptism by fire as area residents rush to learn all they can about LNG.

Opponents of the project have challenged the developers and the tribe on safety aspects of the project as well as possible impacts on the environment.

Plans call for one ship a week to sail past Head Harbor on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, navigating northwest of Eastport to Gleason Cove, adjacent to tribal lands. It will dock at a three-quarter-mile-long pier that is to be built from shore. LNG will be piped under the dock to possibly three LNG tanks. The gas would be heated and then compressed to be piped to the Maritime Provinces pipeline in Baileyville.

Upward of 1,000 people would be hired during the construction phase. When operational, the plant would employ 70 or more people.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Go Black Bears

I'll be away for Easter weekend, so no posting tomorrow. I figured I'd leave you with a reminder that there are other things in the world in addition to politics.
The Black Bears return to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh straight season when they go out west to Minneapolis to face Minnesota in the first round. Maine took regular season champion Boston College to two overtimes in the Hockey East Semifinals before falling 2-1 last Friday, while the Golden Gophers lost 4-2 to North Dakota in the WCHA third place game on Saturday. Maine is currently 20-12-7 on the season (13-6-5 in Hockey East, fourth) and are ranked twelfth in both the USAToday/USA Hockey Magazine and the USCHO/CSTV polls. Minnesota has a 26-14-1 overall record (17-10-1 in WCHA, third). The Golden Gophers are currently ranked seventh in the USAToday/USA Hockey Magazine and the USCHO/CSTV polls.

[Update]: I guess there's always next year.

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Friday, March 25, 2005

Christian Civic League to Sue Maine House Clerk

From the CCL daily email newsletter (take with a pound of salt):
Pro family activist Joan R. Gibson of Levant Maine took time off work yesterday to spend her day in the people's house, the State House. That was not, however, the only time she spent being a good citizen. She spent hours preparing multiple page handouts for all 186 elected officials who work in the building. Her Senate distribution yesterday went off without a hitch. Her distribution in the House of Representatives, however, was forbidden after it was labeled "hate speech." It was, of course, nothing of the sort. Her literature laid out an argument against homosexuality that cites a large number of sources, many of them homosexual writers or advocates. [...]

Joan was taken into the Clerk's office -- after a 90 minute wait -- and told by the Clerk, with a witness present, that her literature was "hateful." And the Clerk refused to allow the distribution.

The League's lawyer believes this case is actionable under both the Federal Constitution and the Federal Civil Rights Act. Joan Gibson has agreed to move forward with legal action. A letter is in the works to begin the process.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Democratic Online Communication

I'm sorry to see the announcement today that Rex Rhoades of the Sun Journal will no longer be updating his blog The Starting Point. His posts have been some of the most well-constructed, well-informed, and punctual of any blog I've read. Must be the newspaper mentality. He cites the head-banging-against-a-brick-wall nature of online opinion writing as one reason for his departure, saying "There isn't an argument in the world that I could make that would cause a conservative person to flip sides. And, of course, our liberals here are equally stubborn." Maybe you're right Rex. Thanks for trying though.

I was ready to write that the seldom-updated Maine Democratic Party blog was spiralling towards a similar fate when I checked it today and found that not only had they posted new material, but that it was my material. Their top post is currently a reprint of a letter to the editor I wrote to the Sun Journal about the bankruptcy bill.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Allen Fears Base Closures Imminent

From the AP:
"All three facilities are at substantial risk," [Congressman Tom] Allen, of Portland, told editors at the Kennebec Journal in Augusta.

Allen, who has been active in efforts by Maine´s congressional delegation to keep the military and shipbuilding installations open, said the military bases face the biggest threat of being closed.

Elected leaders from Maine have strongly criticized President Bush for not including anyone from New England on a nine-member commission that will recommend military base closures across the country this year.

Allen said he fears for the Portsmouth shipyard the most. The Kittery site has been on the list of possible closures before, and with no one from New England on the commission to defend the site, it might be put back on the list, he said.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Gay Rights Bill Passes Judiciary Committee

From the AP:
PPH PhotoA day after an emotional hearing on Gov. John Baldacci´s gay rights bill, a committee´s majority voted Thursday to support the bill when it comes up for House and Senate debate.

Nine members of the Judiciary Committee voted to add protections for gays and lesbians to the Maine Human Rights Act, while only one member voted against it. Three other members are supporting an option to send the bill to voters.

Here are the hearing highlights from yesterday:

Most unlikely speaker: The American Cancer Society representative who spoke about, among other things, how gay people have a higher rate of serious cancers.

Most emotional moment: When my representative, Emily Cain, broke down in tears describing how her teacher was murdered for being gay.

Weakest argument: Rep. Duprey claiming that the bill would give more rights to "white, heterosexual males" who don't need any more.

Name used most often as a synonym for bigotry: Michael Heath.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

John N. Frary

You might remember that 2 months ago, the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel began looking for a new conservative voice for their editorial page. The lucky winner of the "write from the right" contest is John N. Frary, a retired professor of military history who is a native of Farmington and has spent the last three decades teaching in New Jersey. It'll be interesting to see what he comes up with. His master's degree in Byzantine history might be useful in unravelling the state budget debate.

Also from the KJ/MS editorial page today, Brunelle has already decided who will win the major elections in Maine for the next few cycles.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Gay Rights

Today at 1pm, "An Act To Extend Civil Rights Protections to All People Regardless of Sexual Orientation" (LD 1196) will be heard by the Judiciary committee in room 438 of the State House.

Yesterday was a day of lobbying from both supporters and opponents, as the Christian Civic League and Equality Maine held press conferences and rallied supporters in Augusta. Only one of those groups will be at the hearing today, however. The League has announced that it will not testify against the bill, calling the entire proceeding a "mockery of the principles of our form of government".

The fact that the CCL has given up is a sign that the bill will pass the legislature. The real battle will now be their campaign for a "people's veto". It will be interesting to see if the Christian Coalition will once again bankroll their efforts.

Maine's Catholic Bishop Richard Malone made an announcement yesterday that the diocese will remain neutral and neither support nor oppose the anti-discrimination legislation.

[update] The Judiciary committee has switched to room 208, so click here to hear the audio.

Further Reading: 1 2 3 4 5

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Open Thread

I have some term papers and exams to work on, so no posts for today. Feel free to use the comments here to talk about whatever's in the news or on on your mind.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Duprey on the Daily Show Tonight

It's on at 11pm.
TONIGHT: Star of "Miss Congeniality 2," Sandra Bullock! Plus, Bob Wiltfong reports on "Gay Genes."

[Update] here's the link to the torrent for the whole episode.

And here's a link to video of Duprey's segment.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Is Snowe Beatable?

The PPH examines the risks and rewards for Democrats challenging Maine's most electorally successful politician.
Attorney General Steven RoweSandy Maisel, director of the Goldfarb Center at Colby College, doubts that Allen will take the bait next year.

"I don't think you take on a challenge like going after Sen. Snowe when the downside in terms of your current career is so high," Maisel said. "I think Sen. Snowe has nearly reached the stage of being an institution in Maine, where she's virtually unbeatable. I don't think Sen. Collins has."

For Rowe, a former speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, the equation is somewhat different.

Because Maine's attorney general is elected by the state Legislature, Rowe has never campaigned beyond his former Portland district. Even an unsuccessful challenge to Snowe would make him more visible statewide.

"It seems to me that Steve Rowe in particular is in a pretty good position," Maiman said. "Even if he loses, he hasn't knocked himself out of the box." [...]

Other potential challengers might be intimidated by Snowe's perfect track record. She's won 10 straight races since first running for Congress, though her re-election bids in 1990 and 1992 were nailbiters.

Every once in a while, a popular incumbent does go down in Maine. It happened in 1972, when William Hathaway ended the career of the legendary U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Social Security in Maine

Democracy for America, Dean's grassroots organization has been collecting stories from people whose lives have been affected by the safety net of Social Security. Here you can use a map of the state to navigate through stories from people from Maine. In reading these personal accounts, one sees how much more Social Security is than just retirement insurance that could be replaced by private investment and how deeply it has affected families in Maine. Here are a few examples.

Nelson from Skowhegan writes:
My oldest brother contracted polio when he was seven. There were seven other children in our family and there wasn't much money. When he turned eighteen, my brother began receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Thirty-two years later I can still clearly remember the effect this had on our family. Specifically, we were able to get a phone. More generally, the standard of living jumped. SSI was a turning point in my family's life. It had an enormously positive effect. Currently, both my parents are retired and living on Social Security, which is truly a blessing to them. I don't know what they would have done without it.

Denis from Augusta:
My father died in 1964 when I was 19. My mother had heart disease and could not work. I had two younger sisters 13 and 16. He had only $20,000 in life insurance (his heart disease made him almost uninsurable). Social Security was their only other source of support until I was able to graduate from college and contribute to their living expenses. It's much more than a retirement program -- my parents never lived to retirement age. One died at 44, the other at 50.

Joan from Phippsburg:
I have a sister nine years younger than I. She was just finishing high school when my father died after a long fight with cancer. Because he had started a new life in his 40s, his retirement accumulation was far less than it should have been. Thanks to Social Security, some part-time jobs, and financial aid, my mother, who was just 51 at the time, was able to support herself and put my sister through college.

As my Representative says, "Social Security is promise that should be kept."

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Maine Stations Reject "Packaged" News

An article in the New York Times last week once again brought attention to Video News Releases, clips created by government agencies that are designed to fit seamlessly into local news coverage. In a report today from the KJ, Maine's broadcasters swore off using these propagandizing videos.
"They need to go back to Journalism 101," [Jim Morris, news director at WABI in Bangor] said of the news directors who aired VNRs. [...]

"You have to have the ability to identify what is managed news and what is a hand-out," [WMTW news director George] Matz said. "(VNRs) could either be manipulating content, or they could be perceived as manipulating content." [...]

"We made value decisions years and years ago that we did not want to use (VNRs)," said Steve Thaxton, president and general manager at WCSH in Portland. "They've been peddled upon stations for eons."

I emailed Maine stations last week about this subject and got a similar response. This is what WVII general manager Michael Palmer had to say:
...honestly it is extraordinarily rare, despite what the NY Times may say, that any TV station actually uses the things. Oh sure, everyone gets them, but they, as a practical matter are RARELY used, and never here.

So, at least in Maine, you can trust what you see on TV.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

State Finances

It appears the state will once again pass a majority budget, but as the BDN notes, the legislative process this year has been much more congenial.
Democrats, who outnumber Republicans 8-5 on the Appropriations Committee, were expected to work late into the night Friday before issuing a final vote on their majority budget. The Democratic measure does not include Gov. John E. Baldacci's original plans for taking out a $250 million loan against future lottery revenues or refinancing the state retirement system debt schedule to save an additional $160 million. [...]

Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston and Senate chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said the bulk of her panel's work could not have been completed without strong bipartisan approaches to complicated problems.

"We were very disappointed at the end that, in spite of all the good work we had done together, there were differences that we were unable to overcome," she said. "I look forward to working in a bipartisan way in the future to address many outstanding issues before us. I know that's important to the people of Maine. Republicans and Democrats share that goal."

"And we're not talking in the past tense," added Appropriations Committee House Chairman Joe Brannigan, D-Portland. "We like Republicans and they like us. We just don't like some of their ideas and they don't like some of ours."

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Stupid Bill

Any time a law seeks to strip away some of our privacy, it must be closely examined. Rep. Randy Hotham's (R-Dixfield) bill to open children and teenager's library records to their parents does exactly that and a close examination shows it to be a contender for stupidest bill.

Hotham was the only supporter of his bill at a hearing on Thursday.
The Legislature should be making libraries "more, not less, available to children and adults alike," said Richard Thompson of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. He said Hotham's bill "discourages children from library use, making them think twice about what to read or whether to use the library at all."

The state should not violate the confidentiality of library records unless confidentiality poses "a true threat to citizens," but no one has shown that such a threat exists, said Anne Davis, who testified against the bill for the Maine Library Association and the Maine Library Commission, which oversees the Maine State Library.

In addition to the privacy implications, the bill would cost public and university libraries thousands of dollars and make kids less likely to read.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Third-Party Rules Change

From a story on Oden's run today in the BDN:
On Monday, the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously supported a bill that would remove a requirement that third-party candidates receive 5 percent of the statewide vote in the gubernatorial or presidential race to maintain the party's official status.

Under the proposed changes, which will go before the House later this session, a party could keep its status by maintaining a membership equal to 1 percent of enrolled voters. In Maine, that's about 10,000 people.

As of Jan. 1, 2005, the Maine Green Independent Party, the state's only official third party, had 19,006 members.

While the change would remove the necessity for the Greens to field a top-tier candidate - an expensive endeavor that proved a hardship in the party's early years - Green officials say times have changed. A run for the Blaine House, they said, is now manageable - and all but certain.

"We've evolved to a point where we have a much wider footprint across the state and can focus on a statewide race," said Matt Tilley, co-chairman of the Greens. "I assume someone will pick up the torch in 2006."

So will this make the Greens less likely to run candidates in statewide races (and take votes on the left) now that they don't need to run to exist, or will this just further entrench them as a party and increase their political presence?

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


I was shocked at the disingenuity of Snowe and Collins' letter today in the Sun Journal attempting a defense of their votes on the Bankruptcy bill. I couldn't understand how they could argue that this give-away to the credit card industry would ensure that wealthy individuals couldn't use bankruptcy to escape paying their bills or that it provided protection for service members, veterans, and those with severe health problems.

So I did what anyone in the internet age would do, I sent an email to one of the leading bankruptcy law experts in the world, Professor Elizabeth Warren of Harvard Law School.

Her response to the letter was the same as mine. "Just when I think I have seen everything, I see something else." was the beginning of the email reply I recieved five minutes later. She couldn't believe that Snowe and Collins had voted against so many amendments that would have helped those who need it most and were now claiming to have stood up for their constituents. "And now these two senators want to claim they are HELPING the military families?" she demanded.

Jason Spitalnick, one of her law students had more to say on the subject at the TPM Bankruptcy Blog:
If Maine’s senators were genuinely interested in these protections, they wouldn’t have voted against these amendments to protect debtors with severe health problems. And they wouldn’t have fought against Senator Durbin's effort to provide broad protection to active duty service members and their families. The truth is that Snowe and Collins voted for a weak amendment that provides rhetorical cover to senators instead of providing financial cover to distressed middle class families. These same families would be better off under current law; the bill, even as amended, just makes things worse.

Snowe and Collins are engaging in the politics of deception.

Michael Negron, also of TPM:BB, labels them hypocrites.

For me the scariest part of the Senators' letter isn't the lies about standing up for our troops, veterans and the sick, it's this part:
We find it curious that of all the votes cast in Congress on a variety of issues, the Sun Journal chose to examine political contributions regarding the bankruptcy reform bill, and to Maine's two Republican senators.

Here I'll quote one of their colleagues, Senator Feingold:
What is most disheartening is that so many Senators sent here to represent their constituents, to exercise their independent judgment for the good of their States and the country, have been willing to blindly follow instructions from the shadowy coalition of groups that are behind this bill--mainly the credit card industry--and vote down even the most reasonable of amendments. It is just sad when there is no debate on amendments, no discussion, no negotiation, just an edict from outside of the Senate, and the ``no'' votes follow every time.

As David Broder put it earlier this week, "Few policy battles... draw enough public and press interest for the legislators to feel real scrutiny. Most are in a netherworld where media coverage is cursory and interest groups' pressure determines the outcome. That's how bankruptcy reform made it through the Senate"

It is only public knowledge that will prevent this kind of craven politics from occurring. I find it incredibly disheartening to see the Sun Journal attacked for attempting to bring some attention to actions by our Senators that might otherwise go unnoticed by the people of Maine. That is their job as a newspaper and they should be commended for it.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Snowe Announces Campaign Team

From the PPH:
Leading the campaign will be Ted O'Meara of South Portland, managing director of Pierce Atwood Consulting. O'Meara was Snowe's chief staff person in Maine during her first term in the U.S. House, and has been involved in many local and statewide races.

O'Meara is a former Reublican State Party Chairman who lost the 1st district congressional race to Joe Brennan in 1988 with 36% of the vote. He also led the successful 1993 term-limits referendum campaign.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Nancy Oden Announces

Green Party activist, organic farmer, and Snopes subject Nancy Oden will announce today that she is running for Governor in 2006 as an Independent. (I assume this means she won't be running under the Green Independent Party, but as unenrolled). Oden will attempt to run as a Clean Election candidate.

Is it a Green Party custom to announce on St. Patrick's Day, or is that just an interesting coincidence?

Oden is the first official challenger to Baldacci. Several Republicans are considered possible contenders, including 2002 gubernatorial candidate Peter Cianchette, who has said he will not make a decision about whether to run again until September.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The vote will take place in a matter of minutes. You can watch it on C-Span 2. Both Snowe and Collins have been vocal opponents of drilling in the refuge, and it is an issue that many point to as proof of their moderate politics.

[Update]: After two minutes of debate and despite Yes votes by Snowe and Collins, the amendment to prevent drilling failed 51-49.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Challenging Snowe

The subscription-only Roll Call has an article examining possible Democratic candidates to take on Senator Snowe (R-Torture) in 2006. Unlike Snowe's last challenger, whose name Diamon reminds us can be rearranged to spell "Lance W. Remark", 2006 might offer some competition.
Two prominent Democrats, including one House Member, are eyeing the 2006 Maine Senate race — though the Congressman considering a run is not the one early rumors mentioned as a potential challenger to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) next year.

While Rep. Mike Michaud (D) does not plan to challenge the senior Senator from the Pine Tree State, Rep. Tom Allen (D) has not ruled out a bid, according to sources.

A spokesman for Allen dismissed the talk as premature but would not take his boss out of the running.

“It’s still way too early to start speculating about 2006,” said Allen spokesman Mark Sullivan, adding that Allen is “focused on the 109th Congress.”

The other Democrat most often mentioned at this early stage is Maine Attorney General G. Steven Rowe.

“I’ve been asked to consider running for higher office by a number of people; as of today I have not ruled anything out,” was all Rowe would say about his future political plans.

A Democratic operative, who did not want to be named, confirmed that Allen and Rowe are considering taking on what is certain to be an uphill battle.

“Both are seeing what the temperature is like out there,” the operative said.

Both would be preferable in the minds of party leaders to the only Democrat who has previously expressed an interest in the race. [...]

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

John Nutting, Patricia Blanchette and Johnnie Walker Propose Underage Drinking Law

Maine legislators have proposed a new law that would impose tougher penalties for those who buy liquor for minors.
Sen. John Nutting, D-Leeds, Rep. Patricia Blanchette, D-Bangor and Diageo North America, the makers of Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal and other types of alcohol, held a joint press conference to support "An Act to Strengthen the Penalties for Sales to Minors or Purchases by Minors of Alcoholic Beverages."

Nutting said he doesn't believe current state law, which comes with a $250 or $500 fine, goes far enough to discourage older siblings or adults from buying alcohol for minors. He wants to see a graduated penalty system that comes with a 30 day loss of license for the first offense, 90 days for the second, and one year for the third.

In other beverage legislation news, bitter and beloved Moxie is well on its way to becoming Maine's official soft drink.
"The committee members would like to thank you for the gifts of Moxie that they are consuming," said Sen. Elizabeth Schnieder, D-Orono, the panel's Senate chairman. "And they want you to know, though, [that] it won't influence their decision."

"Senator, my fear was it would influence their decision - in a negative way," Crocker replied...

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Maine's Delegation Responds to New EPA Rules

From today's PPH article on the new mercury rules:
Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican, called the rule "woefully inadequate and profoundly disappointing," and said it "will not address - and could even exacerbate - the formation of mercury hotspots."

Her Republican colleague, Sen. Susan Collins said that she "will review the proposal when it comes out, but I am concerned that it will not fix the core problem. I intend to continue to push for more stringent standards."

Collins was a co-sponsor of the Clean Power Act.

U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, a Democrat who represents Maine's 1st Congressional District, said the rule is "literally written by the polluters' lawyers and blatantly in violation of law." He said the EPA "has stained its own credibility."

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Monday, March 14, 2005

Duprey on the Daily Show

From the LSJ (registration required):
There will be a four-minute segment starring Maine's own Rep. Brian Duprey, R-Hampden, who is making a name for himself by sponsoring bills on the Christian right's two favorite subjects: homosexuals and abortion.

A crew of four from "The Daily Show" visited the State House on Thursday and interviewed Duprey about his legislation, especially one bill that would outlaw abortion of a fetus if it has a "gay gene." [...]

Duprey's segment is scheduled to premiere at 11 p.m. Thursday, and repeat at 10 a.m. Friday. The schedule could change.

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Who are you?

As I read a letter to the editor today in the PPH by a man who described himself as a "young worker" and was concerned about social security, I couldn't believe how riddled it was with misinformation. And I was amazed by the kind of disingenuous, debunked scare tactics he was using.
By 2018, Social Security will start to pay out more benefits than current workers are paying into it in taxes. By the time I retire, Social Security will be close to failure, and, if something isn't done to fix it, the tens of thousands of dollars I'll have paid in Social Security taxes will have been for nothing.

His idea for the "something" that must be done is (of course) carving out trillions of dollars from the program to fund private accounts, effectively destroying Social Security. The letter is signed "Dwayne Bickford, Topsham".

That name jogged something in my memory, but I couldn't remember where I'd heard it before. Thank God for google. Turns out Bickford was, until last month, the Executive Director of the Maine Republican Party, a post he held for the past 6 years. He also ran (and lost) for state rep in 1998, and was a delegate to the RNC last year.

Here's Bickford talking with former Governor Jock McKernan.

Here's a pic of Bickford with Republican Congressman David Dreier of California.

And here's Bickford getting leid with Jim Longley.

Nowhere in his letter does this "young worker" mention that he's actually a Republican stooge trying to make it look like working folk support Bush's plan to privatize Social Security

Visit the new Maine Politics.


Can Snowe and Collins (audio link) stop the draconian Bush budget? Can they save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Can they protect the poor, the sick, and our future? Stay tuned to find out.

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Saturday, March 12, 2005

How High Does It Go?

Josh Marshall has more on what might come out during Tobin's trial in June.
Keep an eye out, though, for what comes next. And whether it pulls in someone else with lofty ambitions in the next few years: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R) of Tennessee.

When Tobin organized this election-tampering scam he was working as the Northeast field director for the NRSC (the campaign committee of the Senate GOP). That was the cycle that Frist chaired the committee.

We hear that those involved in the phone-jamming scam are now claiming that the plan was aired with NRSC personnel in Washington in advance. If any of the key players are willing to testify to that effect when Tobin goes on trial later this year it could quickly open up a Washington dimension to this story.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Did M.D. Harmon mess up? Yes. Is he wrong on gay rights? Definitely.

I don't intend to make a habit of posting on Friday nights, but tonight I'm sick and stuck in my apartment, so I figured I'd spend a few minutes exposing ignorance and bigotry. I blame any typos on the medicine.

Harmon attempts the impossible today by trying to defend Christian Civic League head Michael Heath. He insists that those who criticize heath are making a huge deal about nothing, saying that they are "like gulls" and that "the flapping and squawking is furious, but there may be less to focus on than all the screeching might lead you to believe."

I found one bit of screeching from Mr. Harmon to be particularly interesting.
True, Heath certainly opened himself up to criticism when he asked his supporters to identify "gay rights" backers in the Legislature as a means of effectively countering their efforts.

This is a blatant misrepresentation. Heath wasn't trying to identify "'gay rights' backers", he was trying to out gays. Perhaps Harmon doesn't read his own newspaper. Here's the first paragraph of an article from the PPH published exactly one year ago today:
The head of the Christian Civic League of Maine apologized Wednesday for using the group's Web site to solicit information about the sexual orientation of lawmakers and other state officials.

The unconscionable actions of the League resulted in a Spartacus-like response from lawmakers of every party.
Heterosexual legislators went out of their way to join forces with gays and lesbians, buttonholing reporters and officials in the halls of the State House to "out" themselves as the House and Senate prepared to condemn Heath's actions.

"How many representatives came out of the closet today?" Rep. Sean Faircloth, D-Bangor, who is not gay, asked a reporter. "You can add me to the list."

Baldacci, who often shies away from using forceful language, pulled no punches Wednesday when he said the purpose of any list of gays and lesbians developed by the Christian Civic League "can only be to destroy careers, the most insidious form of discrimination.

"I was very outraged when I saw the headlines," Baldacci told reporters. "I say there's no defense for their remarks."

It was virtually impossible Wednesday to find anyone in the State House who supported Heath's attempt to compile a sexual-orientation list. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, lawmakers and lobbyists hammered away at him privately and publicly. Even his allies in the Legislature tried to distance themselves from Heath.

"When I found out (what the league had done) I called Michael Heath and told him what he did was wrong and he needed to apologize," said Rep. Brian Duprey, R-Hampden, who sponsored the failed same-sex marriage ban in the House. "It matters how people vote, not what their private lifestyle is."

"I was just disgusted when I saw that, and I probably agree with him on most of the issues," said Senate Minority Leader Paul Davis, R-Sangerville.

Heath's actions brought the bipartisan condemnation of every state Senator. Their public letter stated "Such attacks will harm all of us by lowering the level of public discourse." Obviously they didn't believe Heath's actions were simply "a means of effectively countering" gay rights supporters. What Harmon calls a "faux pas" Speaker Richardson referred to as "an all-time low in Maine politics."

After his misguided defense of Heath, Harmon goes off on another factually deficient rant.
Doesn't anyone else think it's strange that, when the Catholic Church is under great scrutiny for failing to protect young boys from homosexual predators, the Boy Scouts are under fire for wanting to protect young boys from the same danger?

Put another way, no one I know is suggesting the Girl Scouts send 10- to 14-year-old girls out on trips supervised by unrelated men, even if those men are paragons of virtue. But these folks are happy to have men who are sexually attracted to other men do it for teenage boys.

Obviously Harmon was never a scout, or he would know that adult leaders of either sex are never allowed alone with children. The "two-deep" leadership system ensures that two registered leaders, or a leader and a parent of a participant are present at all times. (regulations here). And of course men can be girl scout leaders. From the girl scouts website:
We're looking for volunteers who represent the diversity of the world we live in-men as well as women, senior citizens as well as younger adults, people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, and of course our treasured alumni-anyone who wants to help make a difference in the lives of girls.

So girls are allowed to go on trips with male leaders, as long as safeguards are in place. These same safeguards are in place with the boy scouts, so what's his problem with gay leaders?

His argument fails, but that's not what this passage is really about. Hiding behind this seemingly rational, if mistaken argument is a much more insidious message. Harmon blatantly links homosexuality with pedophilia here by using the phrase "homosexual predators". The whole reason why he posits this argument is as a subtle and malicious scare tactic. He wants people to equate homosexuals with child molesters.

There's more, but I should really get some soup and go to bed. I'll end with one last observation. I notice that in this column, Harmon uses the phrase "the Cult of the Imperial Self" a couple times (without attribution) to describe a dangerous ideology that promotes a "solipsistic worldview" and is hurting our civilization. That phrase was coined by the late Democratic Governor Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania, an avowed Catholic. Gov. Casey was referring to abortion, not gay rights when he wrote those words. Casey's son (who is opposed to a constitutional ban on gay marriage) will be challenging far-right homophobe Rick Santorum for the Senate in 2006 and I hope he kicks his ass.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Senator Nass a "flip-flopper"?

Chris at the MDP Blog has the quotes.

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A High Price

BDN Yesterday:
At some point in the budget debate in Washington you are likely to see a story that pits a few moderate Republicans, including Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, against the rest of the party on the question of whether to account for both new spending and tax cuts by offsetting them and keeping the deficit from getting any worse.

NYTimes Yesterday: (Headline: G.O.P. Senators Balk at Tax Cuts in Bush's Budget)
When asked if she would support extending the tax cuts, Senator Olympia J. Snowe, the Maine Republican who is an influential member of the Finance Committee, said, "Suffice it to say, I do have serious concerns with the fundamental priorities that are being constructed in the budget." She added, "It's exacting a high price from some of the programs that are critically important to the future."

Normally I'd have something nice to say about this, but I can't get over the fact that she sold us out.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Two Down

From the Sun Journal:
The former executive director of the [New Hampshire] state Republican Party was sentenced Thursday to seven months in prison for jamming Democratic telephone lines during the 2002 general election.

Chuck McGee pleaded guilty to conspiring to make anonymous calls to annoy or harass. He also was fined $2,000 and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. He faced up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. [...]

The man accused of orchestrating the entire affair is James Tobin of Bangor, Maine, the former Northeast political director of the national party committee working to elect Republican senators. Tobin has pleaded innocent.

Don't worry too much about McGee. He still has friends that will get him a job, even as an ex-con.
McGee asked to serve his sentence promptly. He must turn himself in by April 26.

"I'll be back in 2006 to help some good Republicans get elected," he said.

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

One Down

Things don't look good for Republican operative James Tobin of Bangor who is charged with jamming Democratic Party telephone lines in New Hampshire in 2002.

One of his alleged accomplices, Allen Raymond, who had plead guilty, was convicted last month. From the Union Leader:
John Durkin, Raymond’s lawyer, portrayed his client as an upstanding citizen who had been taken advantage of by James Tobin, then the northeast political director of the national party committee working to elect Republican senators.

“This was not Allen Raymond’s idea,” Durkin said. “Tobin called on Raymond to do this.”

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Mercury in Maine

On Tuesday, the Maine-based BioDiversity Reserach Institute released a new report on mercury pollution. Most media in New England covered the story. Here's a bit from the Boston Globe:
Mercury contamination is more pervasive in New England than researchers previously believed, according to a study being released today that indicates the toxic substance appears to be polluting the environment in ways that scientists previously did not think possible.

The four-year study in Northeastern United States and eastern Canada also indicates significant levels of mercury in forest songbirds and other animals that researchers did not suspect were ingesting mercury.

The study, comprising 21 papers being published in the journal Ecotoxicology, also identifies nine hot spots in the region, including in the lower Merrimack River area in Massachusetts and New Hampshire where mercury levels in animals such as brook trout, loons, mink, and eagles are alarmingly high. In some locations, the levels appear to be interfering with some species' reproduction.

"The impacts of mercury go well beyond what anyone would have envisioned yesterday," said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project in Vermont and cochairman of the state mercury committee, who was not involved in the study. "It doesn't look like there are any limits on mercury's reach."

So what political action should be taken? Here are some ideas, from the BDN:
The report was released just one day after three U.S. senators from New England - including Maine's Olympia Snowe - called on the EPA to develop stricter controls on mercury emissions. The agency is expected to issue its mercury rule next week.

The Bush administration disputes a determination by the Clinton administration that mercury should be regulated as a hazardous substance, which would require about 450 power plants to invest in new technology to reduce their emissions. Instead, the EPA now favors a proposal, supported by the power generation industry, that would cap mercury emissions nationwide but allow individual plants to buy "credits" from cleaner plants rather than reduce their emissions. The agency believes that its plan could cut mercury emissions from coal-fueled power plants by 70 percent nationwide by 2019.

and the PPH:
The EPA claims its rule would reduce mercury emissions from coal-burning plants 70 percent by 2018. The EPA's own inspector general, however, found that the rules were developed with too much input from the industry. It's likely that more can be done sooner.

That also shows there's a problem within the EPA that should be addressed. Both Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have pushed for better mercury controls, and they should push for a better rule-development process as well. Collins, in her role as chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is in a place to call hearings on the flawed rule-making process and should do so.

The latest scientific findings show that meaningful controls - and a strong agency to push for them - are more urgent than ever before.

The BRI website has more information and copies of all their studies.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Bad Credit

Thanks to the Sun Journal for having the most insightful coverage of the Bankruptcy bill. Today they published an editorial (registration required) that I believe is the first time during the discussion on this bill that the credit industry's massive contributions to our Senators have been mentioned in a major paper in Maine. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)
In all, credit card companies have spent more than $40 million since 1989 on political contributions. This, in part, is their payback. Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe has received more than $316,000 from them in the last 16 years. Sen. Susan Collins, with a shorter tenure in Washington, has received more than $175,000. Both supported cloture and are likely to support final passage. [...]

So often, they are among a handful of senators who are able to craft meaningful compromise legislation between Democrats and Republicans. Snowe has been a consistent champion for the poor and women, and Collins was the primary motivator behind the massive reform of the intelligence community. They've tried to bring fiscal discipline back to Washington, and are stalwarts in the fight to protect the environment.

But on the bankruptcy legislation, they are wrong, and the people who will be hurt are the ones who often depend on them as the last line of defense.

The PPH mentions yesterday in an article on the bill that MBNA contributed to Bush, but doesn't mention that Snowe has received more money from the credit card industry than any other Senator.

Here's an interesting quote from that article:
"I support this bankruptcy legislation and hope it goes forward," Snowe said. "But it doesn't preclude me from voting on other issues that are equally relevant to the issue of bankruptcy reform."

If that's true, I'd like to hear her explanation for voting against bankruptcy protection for the elderly, the sick and injured, victims of identity theft, and our troops and veterans. And that's not some snarky statement either, I really would like to hear an explanation.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Snowe, Collins "Fail the Test"

The Times Record notes that one of the amendments to the Bankruptcy bill that our Senators voted against this week was a raise in the minimum wage.
Neither Sen. Susan Collins nor Sen. Olympia Snowe joined fellow moderate Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., and three other Republican senators, to support the Democrats' bill, which sought minimum wage increases in three steps of 70 cents each, to $7.25. All the votes in opposition were cast by Republicans, and the bill was defeated 49 to 46.

"I believe that anyone who works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year should not live in poverty in the richest country in the world," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said this week. So do we. In fact, so do most Americans.

A 2001 Gallup poll showed 81 percent support an increase in the minimum wage; and a January 2005 report by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found 82 percent consider increasing the minimum wage an important priority and only 6 percent oppose it.

Their two votes would have passed the bill [amendment] and helped millions of Americans.

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Friends in the Legislature

SAM's George Smith laments the lack of real friendships in the Maine legislature.
At the Statehouse, friendship is fleeting. Successful legislators and lobbyists try not to make enemies -- because today's enemy might be the friend you need tomorrow on an issue of importance to you. But there are few friends here in the deeper sense of the word.

I have been around long enough to remember when legislators really were friends. They socialized together, enjoyed recreational activities together, visited one another's homes, knew one another's families, and traded legislative favors over drinks and cigars.

Smith suggests that legislators would be more likely to form deep bonds with each other if term limits were repealed. Rep. Chris Greeley (R-Levant), however, has a different idea that might make things more friendly. He wants to get rid of political parties.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Intervention Needed

Bill Nemitz's column in the PPH today is almost exactly what I said on Monday.

Interestingly, Heath is now waving the vandalism of part of the CCL website around like a bloody shirt. For him, the attack justifies his paranoia that the "homosexual movement" is trying to "take him out".

From WLBZ2:
Heath said he's very upset with what happened here, but he's not surprised. He said the Civic League's strong stand against homosexuality has made it a target for threats and vandals.

[Update] Here are some better quotes, straight from the CCL newsletter:
What happens if no one can refute Mike Heath’s arguments, and personal attacks on him fail as well? The answer is that the struggle then moves into a new phase, and the only remaining tactic is to silence your opponent. It becomes necessary to destroy their means of communication. In our case, it meant destroying part of our website, perhaps in response to our coverage of recent events in the homosexual community.

With this act of vandalism, our opponents have made it clear that they have complete contempt not only for our religion and our God, but for any conceivable standard of decency as well.

Unfortunately for Mr. Heath, there's no evidence that "radical homosexuals" were involved in the vandalism. The exploit used to gain access to the forum appears to have been known widely for weeks and could have been fixed with a simple software patch. Anyone that wanted to could have easily figured out how to "hack" the League's forum.

If you trace back the email used by the hacker, it takes you to the homepage of a European teenager going by the name "ChiLLiPePPeR". There, you can view photos of the guy, read his poetry, and even check his height (177 cm), weight (59 kg), favorite film (private save ryan) and sexual orientation (hetero).

The vandalism itself, with misspelled words and references to oral sex, also points more towards an internet-savvy teenager than a team of radical homosexual activists.

Of course, this could all be a clever ploy by the Homosexual Internet Strike Force™ to cast off suspicion.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Hopes Dashed

After one or both of Maine's Senators voted against every democratic amendment that would have restrained the Bankruptcy bill (which the Lewiston Sun Journal today described as "legislation that will sell you out to the credit card industry and write special rules for the wealthy"), Snowe and Collins took a step back from the brink and joined only two other Republicans in doing the right thing. This morning they voted for the Schumer Amendment to the bill, which would have prevented convicted anti-abortion terrorists from declaring bankruptcy to avoid paying their court judgements.

Last time the "sell you out to the credit card industry" bill was put forward, this amendment was included by the Senate and caused the entire piece of legislation to be rejected by the House. The vote today was probably the last chance to stop this bill from being passed. Unfortunately, even with the support of Snowe and Collins, the amendment lost 46-53.

Two hours later our Senators, along with every Republican and a few Dems, took a running leap into the abyss and voted for a cloture measure that ended debate on the bill and will bring it to a final vote in two days.

Here's a fun fact: Credit Card giant MBNA was the largest individual contributor to Republicans last year and was also the largest contributor for both Snowe and Collins during their last elections.

[Update] More fun facts from TPM:
The senator who has raised the most in her career from the [credit card] industry is Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Snowe has brought in over $316,000 from the credit industry, most of it from the political action committee of MBNA, the nation's top credit card issuer. To make matters worse, Snowe's husband, former Maine Governor John McKernan, has worked as a paid consultant for MBNA. [...]

Olympia Snowe is a moderate Republican who has, during her career, won victories for middle class women. Today she plans to sell [sold] them out for a measly $316,000.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Heath Freaks Out

It's been a longstanding rule of the internet age that you should never send an email when you're drunk or angry. Mike Heath of the Chrisitan Civic League was at least one of the two when he sent out a missive last night.

Heath is enraged that Equality Maine hosted a successful fundraising dinner, and that his organization could not.
Now, if homosexuals can get 450 people out to an "Equality" celebration with $1000 dollar level support from Hannaford can you please tell me why the League has to struggle to get 200 out to a fall banquet that celebrates common sense? And we don't even make money on our banquet.

He first turns to insults, declaring that "If you want money for a pathetic cause in Maine then celebrate sodomy". He then moves on to railing about how not discriminating against gays will cause an end to our civilization. So far, it's not that much different from his usual rants.

That's when things get interesting. He goes off on Hannaford and Norway Savings Bank, two organizations that made contributions to the dinner, and then turns his anger on Christians who are "too busy watching Survivor on television to care" about the homosexual menace.

From this point on, the email lapses into paranoia as Heath reveals his fear of gay assassination squads.
I am going to get up very early every morning that I can and I am going to do battle with the homosexual movement in Maine until either the League fires me or the homosexual movement takes me out.

The rant ends with this gem:
If Christians don't wake up and rally around the League then Maine will deserve the "creative economy" (read hippie communes) that Augusta wants to impose on Dexter, Millinocket and Ellsworth... We need help at the League. And we need it now.

I think it's obvious from this letter what kind of help Mr. Heath needs.

I would link to the full online version of this email, but apparently the Christian Civic League website has been "PWN3D!!" by a hacker calling himself Invictus.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Gay Rights and the People's Voice

The Blethen papers today have conflicting editorials. Both agree that the anti-discrimination legislation is needed, while the Kennebec Journal / Morning Sentinel piece advocates lawmakers deciding the measure while the PPH advocates another mandated referendum (but only because it would resolve the matter more quickly than waiting for a repeal petition).

I agree with this passage from the KJ/MS piece:
That certain voters in Maine oppose gay rights is not reason to put the bill to a referendum.

The bill's fate should be decided by lawmakers, who are elected to do what is best for their constituents and who are responsible for providing forward-thinking leadership for all of Maine.

While the voting booth is the right place to decide certain laws, the gay-rights bill is not one of them.

I'd also add that while it's true that this legislation will most likely be put to voters one way or another, I see no reason to do the Christian Civic League's dirty work for them by requiring a referendum on the bill.

In the last "people's veto" in 1997, it took a last-minute infusion of money from national anti-homosexual groups to get the required number of signatures. At the time, Mike Heath described the result as a miracle. With a bit of luck, their challenge this time around might fail. At the very least, a petition drive will tie up some money that would otherwise have been spent on opposing gay rights in other venues.

Visit the new Maine Politics.


The other day I mentioned that I didn't particularly enjoy the flash ad about Senator Davis. Obviously others disagreed.

Whether or not the ad was a smart move to begin with, I have to say that Democratic Chairman Pat Colwell has used the resultant publicity very well. First came a couple days of newspaper articles that served to highlight Edmonds and Richardson's optimistic bipartisanship, as well as increase in traffic to the Democratic Party website, and today there are a couple articles that profile Colwell himself in a positive light.

The Portsmouth Herald refers to him as a new sheriff in town, and the KJ traces his personal history and quotes members of every party that portray Colwell as an effective, if confrontational, Democratic leader. The piece ends with this quote from the Chairman:
"I'm not a shy guy and I'm going to make sure people know every day why we're here and why we're proud of why we're here."

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Political State Report

Yesterday I posted my first piece to The Political State Report, an online news source covering local political events in Maine as well as the other 49 less-important states. I'll be writing for them at least 3 times a month. My entry for Friday was basically this post stripped of my editorializing. Stories there are also indexed by google news.

The commenters at are a great bunch of people from all parts of the country and every ideological bent, and on a related note, the head editor there was kind enough to send me a copy of Election Studio interactive mapping software that I very much look forward to using.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

The FEC and Blogs

Jeff Tuttle has an interesting article in the BDN today on the possibility of increased regulation of the internet in the interests of campaign finance reform. I am quoted in the article and so is Simon Dodd of - 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.

While the threat of this kind of draconian regulation is scary, it doesn't seem to be a very likely scenario. The whole hubbub over this issue began when Bradley Smith, a hard-right republican FEC commissioner and opponent of McCain-Feingold gave an interview with CNet news and laid out a vision of the future in which forwarding an email from a political campaign to your friends would be an illegal contribution.

The Campaign Legal Center, a public interest group focusing on campaign and media regulations responded with a press release yesterday titled "Setting the Record Straight: There is No FEC Threat to the Internet".
Commissioner Brad Smith claimed that as a result of new campaign laws and and a recent court decision, online news organizations and bloggers may soon wake up to find their activities regulated by government bureaucrats. That would indeed be troubling, if it were true. Fortunately, Mr. Smith - an avowed opponent of most campaign finance regulation - is simply wrong.

The issue the FEC - and the courts - are grappling with is how to deal with online political ads by candidates and parties, and with paid advertising that is coordinated with those groups. As the Internet becomes a vital new force in politics, we are simply going through a natural transition as we work out how, and when, to apply longstanding campaign finance principles - designed to fight corruption - to political expenditures on the Web. Mr. Smith has advocated an extreme position that politicians, parties and outside groups can pay for Internet advertising with "soft money" - unlimited, unregulated checks from corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals. A federal court rightly rejected that position, saying that the new ban on soft money in our elections obviously applies to Internet advertising, too.

These laws are decidedly NOT aimed at online press, commentary or blogs, and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 was carefully drafted to exclude them.

MyDD has a more in-depth discussion here.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Morally Bankrupt

Today the PPH has an op-ed written by Lois R. Lupica, bankruptcy professor at the University of Maine School of Law.
It seems like an easy rule to live by: don't kick people when they are down. But that is exactly what Congress is contemplating doing as it deliberates the bankruptcy "reform" legislation this week.

As noted earlier, this legislation would be particularly detrimental to those who have experienced crushing illness or unemployment.

Lupica continues:
Under the proposed legislation, the door will be slammed on many of the people who most need the protection of the bankruptcy laws.

The bankruptcy system was originally designed to balance the interests of debtors and creditors, and for the most part, it has functioned quite well. But because the credit industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying for this bill, many in Congress have been persuaded that a problem exists where it does not.

Unfortunately, military families, working families with children, single parents, senior citizens and families experiencing the distress of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's, cancer or other debilitating disease - all people who will be adversely affected by this bill - have not had comparable resources with which to lobby Congress and tell their stories.

The credit industry claims that irresponsible and unscrupulous deadbeats are using the bankruptcy system to avoid debts they could otherwise repay. This is simply not borne out by the research data.

Moreover, since 1997, credit card companies have posted profits in excess of 160 percent. This astonishing number raises questions about the legitimacy of the credit card companies' claims of "bankruptcy losses."

Democrats have been trying to add amendments to stop this bill or provide some measure of relief for those who need it most. Here is how Snowe and Collins (R-MBNA) voted on a few of those amendments:

S.Amdt. 16 - "To protect servicemembers and veterans from means testing in bankruptcy, to disallow certain claims by lenders charging usurious interest rates to servicemembers, and to allow servicemembers to exempt property based on the law of the State of their premilitary residence."

Snowe: Nay   Collins: Nay

S.Amdt. 17 - "To provide a homestead floor for the elderly."

Snowe: Nay   Collins: Nay

S.Amdt. 15 - "To require enhanced disclosure to consumers regarding the consequences of making only minimum required payments in the repayment of credit card debt, and for other purposes."

Snowe: Nay   Collins: Nay

S.Amdt. 29 - "To provide protection for medical debt homeowners."

Snowe: Nay   Collins: Nay

S.Amdt. 32 - "To preserve existing bankruptcy protections for individuals experiencing economic distress as caregivers to ill or disabled family members."

Snowe: Nay   Collins: Nay

S.Amdt. 37 - "To exempt debtors from means testing if their financial problems were caused by identity theft."

Snowe: Nay   Collins: Nay

S.Amdt. 38 - "To discourage predatory lending practices."

Snowe: Nay   Collins: Yea

S.Amdt. 49 - "To protect employees and retirees from corporate practices that deprive them of their earnings and retirement savings when a business files for bankruptcy."

Snowe: Nay   Collins: Nay

I think it's obvious where their loyalties lie on this one.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


There's a reason why the tagline for this site references two rivers; Maine's waterways have often defined this state. They were a source of food and the preferred method of transportation for natives and the first Europeans, they became the highways that allowed Maine to dominate the lumber industry in the 1800s, they provided the power for and carried the waste from Maine's first paper mills, and they do the same today while also having become an industry in and of themselves for tourists and sportsmen. Just as importantly, since long before Thoreau paddled up the East Branch, Maine's rivers have been inspirational places of beauty and an important link to our past.

I know how powerful a river's influence can be. To the right is a view of the Stillwater Branch from my backyard. Ducks, fish, turtles, beavers and a dozen other creatures all inhabit the waters and shore and bald eagles patrol the sky. The iron rings that were once used to chain logs in place are still embedded in the rocks along the water's edge.

The influence of rivers on the politics of this state has been profound as well. Waterways often show the first signs of pollution, and the modern environmental movement in Maine has often been focused on preserving these fragile environments. Congressman Mike Michaud acknowledges that it was a river that got him into politics, saying "When I ran for the Maine House 23 years ago, it was because I saw what my mill was doing to the Penobscot River."

Today an editorial in the Bangor Daily News examines the effort to remake our river.
The Penobscot River Restoration Project proposes to purchase and remove two dams - Great Works in Old Town and the Veazie Dam- and to create a state-of-the-art fish bypass at the Howland Dam. In addition, the project proposes to increase power generation at six dams from Medway to Graham Lake so that up to 96 percent of power generation is maintained.

Removing the dam will allow fish, especially salmon and sturgeon, to again swim up and down river without impediments. Restoring the ecology is part of the project, which is estimated to cost $50 million and is backed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Restoring local economies is another.

The groups behind the project, which include American Rivers, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Penobscot Indian Nation and Trout Unlimited, want towns to think of the river as an economic development tool.

This is a monumental undertaking. Maine Rivers has announced that "The Penobscot River Restoration Project may be the most progressive and comprehensive attempt in history to rebalance hydropower production with fisheries and other ecological values on a major river." Senator Collins declared that "The effort to improve the Penobscot, a river that flows through the heart of our state, represents an effort to restore a portion of our heritage."

This project isn't just important for its goals, but also for its methods. Here is a model for how environmental and sportsmen's groups, industry, and all levels of government can work together to preserve our ecology, our history and our future. Penobscot Partners is seeking more community involvement and will be holding a meeting this Saturday in Veazie. They also have a blog.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Duprey '06: "Things with his name don't tend to go very far."

Diamon weighs in on Snowe's primary challenger.
Duprey is about as much of a threat to Snowe’s continued tenure in Congress as the football team from the School for Undernourished Children with Problems Following Directions is to the New England Patriots’ next Super Bowl championship.

This primary will be great for showing just how small a base conservatives actually have in Maine.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Cato Gives Baldacci a B

Rex Rhoades writes:
The libertarian Cato Institute has rated Maine Gov. John Baldacci the 7th best governor in the U.S. for fiscal restraint and curbing spending.

Baldacci is the second highest-ranking Democrat on the list.

The full report is here. (Rhoades accidentally links to the 2002 version of the report) edit: fixed.

The report finds that Baldacci is the third biggest tax-cutter in the country of either party and notes that "[Baldacci's] grade is much better than that of his predecessor, Angus King, who earned a D on the 2002 report card."

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Mainers Rally to Defend Social Security

The PPH has the article, and I notice it's been posted in its entirety on the new Democratic Party Blog. Panelists at the event included James Roosevelt Jr., grandson of FDR and former associate commissioner of Social Security, Reps. Michaud and Allen, as well as economists and representatives of the AARP, labor groups, and people with disabilities. I hadn't even considered the disproportionate negative effect that privatization would have on that last group.
Kim Moody, executive director of the Maine Disability Rights Center, said that investment accounts would be challenging for the general public but especially so for people with cognitive disabilities.

"I think it's unthinkable to expose (them) to fluctuations of the market," Moody said.

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