Maine Politics

From the Piscataqua to the St. John

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Believe in Maine

This is something I've been hinting about for a while and it's finally ready for primetime.

Believe in Maine

This new weblog will focus on the anti-discrimination referendum and features some stellar contributors from all over the state.

It's based on the CivicSpace software architecture created by the Howard Dean campaign, and has a community rating system for comments that should keep out the crazy internet people.

This campaign, like most referendums, can be won through education and mobilization. I hope this site will help on both fronts.

For more info, visit

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Maine is Awesome

The response to Katrina here has been great to see. Baldacci is sending direct help to the affected areas. Snowe and Collins are pressuring Bush to open up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to make sure the hurricane doesn't lead to a spike in oil prices.

The most heartwarming thing I've heard, however, is that Stephen King's WKIT (100.3 FM) in Bangor is playing song requests in exchange for contributions to the Red Cross. Every dollar pledged is being matched by Stephen and Tabitha. Long live local radio.

You can contribute to the Red Cross online here.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Nowhere in this Kennebec Journal article, headlined "Closure could make Baldacci vulnerable" does it actually says that the base closure could hurt Baldacci. The closest it comes is this bit:
So Baldacci didn't seem to mind being asked Friday if the state's 2-and-1 standing in the latest closure round will help his quest for a second four-year term.

"The sun is shining a little brighter today," he said with a smile.

In fact, the exact same article in the Morning Sentinel is headlined "Bounce for Baldacci?"

The article discusses who should get credit for the good BRAC results and includes speculation on whether the good news will help Baldacci come election time, but nowhere does it discuss a downside for the Governor. This headline actually says exactly the opposite of what's written in the body of the piece.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Bigoted Bedfellows

It almost makes me rethink my opposition to casinos.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Happy Birthday Social Security!

August 14th was Social Security's 70th Birthday. To celebrate, I helped deliver some cupcakes to the Bangor offices of Senators Snowe and Collins.

Collins has refused to reject Social Security privatization, but chocolate can melt even the most Republican of hearts. Here's one of her staffers holding up a "say no to privatization" birthday card.

The Bangor Social Security office is in the same buidling as Collin's Senate office, so we stopped in and said thanks to the staff for 70 years of guaranteed benefits.

Next was Senator Snowe's office, just up the street. Snowe has been pretty good on the Social Security issue, unfortunately much of her staff took a strong anti-cupcake stance. We left them some anyway.

Finally we headed to the old folks' home where we partied late into the early afternoon and got a chance to talk with the residents. These ladies had some heartfelt stories about how important Social Security has been for them and their families.

Social Security is an anti-poverty program, it's an insurance program, and it's a safety net. It's a vital part of every community in this country. Here's wishing it another great 70 years.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005


PNS will stay open. BNAS will close.

Update: Defense Finance Accounting Service Center gains jobs.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

BRAC Coming to a Head

The BRAC commission will begin voting tomorrow on the Pentagon's recommendations for closing and realigning military bases including PNS and BNAS. The BDN suggests preparing for the worst.
It's too late to argue for these bases now, but it's not too early to prepare for life after their closure. Gov. Baldacci, whose work on this issue has been crucial since the base-closure list was released in May, will be needed even more after this week should bad news arrive here. The next couple of weeks, in the face of economic uncertainty, will demand strong leadership and lots of cooperation as Maine prepares for the worst and hopes for the best.

It is unknown what any closures will mean for Maine politicians, but the process has already had its toll on those from other states. For instance, here Robert Novak (Douche Bag of Liberty) laments the end of John Thune's reign as a Republican poster boy.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Business in Maine

A recent BDN editorial examines the results of a Milken Institute study on the costs of doing business in different states.
A surprising finding in the report is that Maine's tax burden (state and local taxes as a percentage of personal income) ranks only 11th highest in the nation, with the numbers, according to the institute, coming from the U.S. Census Bureau. The four other measures used to conclude that Maine ranks 19th overall on the cost of business were as follows: wages (ranked 40th highest); electricity costs (11th); industrial rent (30th); and office rent (36th). [...]

For those keeping score, the new state with the 16th highest cost for doing business is neighboring New Hampshire. (If only it were more like Maine and kept its taxes lower.) [...]

Whether Maine ranks 19th, 16th or 12th, a result of the Milken report should be to get Maine to stop blaming high taxes solely for its lack of business activity. Portland, with the same state taxes as everywhere else in Maine and relatively high local taxes but a vibrant business climate suggests the limits of focusing so heavily on tax burden.

On a very related note, Rep. Benjamin Dudley (D - Portland) has the numbers behind BETR.

[I deleted the overly-long quote that was here - go read the whole article, it's worth it]

Visit the new Maine Politics.

The Lobby

The PPH examines the role of lobbyists in state government.
The newspaper's survey of state records found that more than two dozen lobbyists each earned $40,000 or more over the last eight months. Eight lobbyists reported earnings that exceeded $100,000, and two of them pulled in more than $200,000 apiece. [...]

[A]s political scientist Marvin Druker of Lewiston-Auburn College noted, the best lobbyists have the time, the experience and the expertise to assure that their clients are heard in the halls of power and that their arguments are presented effectively.

"It does tilt the playing field, to some extent," against those who have less money and are less well-organized, Druker said. He noted, though, that lobbyists are only one group in a system of checks and balances, not the least of which is the importance of public opinion as elections draw near. [...]

In Maine, [Umaine political scientist Amy] Fried said, "state government is extremely accessible" to everyone. Even so, "the lobby" has one undeniable advantage that John and Jane Doe will never have. "Most of us," Fried said, "don't have the time to go hanging around the State House."

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Joining the 21st Century

I spoke with some folks from the Maine Won't Discriminate campaign yesterday. They've agreed to start up a weblog sometime next week. It looks like there won't be comments, but it's a step in the right direction.

If you live in the Bangor area, I've set up a quick and dirty voter ID canvass for the anti-discrimination referendum in Orono for tomorrow (Sunday, August 21). Email me here if you'd like to participate. We could use a few hands.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Lunch With Michaud

I had lunch with the MPA Bangor field canvass and Congressman Michaud today. We talked about Social Security, CAFTA and I asked him about his yea vote on the bankruptcy bill as well.

Michaud had some interesting insight into the tenacity that Republican leaders displayed in pushing CAFTA in the House and the tactics they used to secure their two-vote victory.

On Social Security, he predicts a hard fight as Bush pushes for privatization as a way to anchor his now lame-duck presidency.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Summer Poll

The Strategic Marketing Services Summer 2005 Omnibus Poll has been released. Here are some highlights:

61% would vote to uphold the anti-discrimination law, with 28% opposed

21.5% right direction - 60% wrong direction on the economy

53% / 41% Favorable / Unfavorable for Governor Baldacci and a 50% job approval rating

57% support and 37.5% oppose a Washington County Racino

69% approval of Dirigo, 19% dissatisfaction

37% support and 52% oppose expanding term limits

48% say the Red Sox will win the 2005 World Series.

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Marsupial in '06

If you've been waiting for a rambling, drunken critique of the 2006 Gubernatorial candidates; the wait is over.

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I Love Crotchety Old Mainers

From the MS:
An elderly man who stopped his car in the middle of the bridge was asked if he had an opinion of the vigil.

"I sure as hell ain't for Bush," he sputtered and drove off without giving his name.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Special Session for Tax Reform Looks Likely

I'm not sure what "key elements" of the proposal legislative leaders must find consensus on, but it looks like LD 1595 will be back this fall.
Ernie Marriner, chairman of the Tax Reform Committee at the Maine Chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons, said the proposal would bring tax relief to many Maine families.

"LD 1595 lowers income and property taxes for Maine residents - substantially for those who need it most - and pays for it by closing special-interest sales-tax loopholes," Marriner said in a prepared statement. "Our members believe this to be an essential step in assuring a stable revenue stream and protecting vital services."

As proposed, the bill would lower the state sales tax from 5 percent to 4 percent, but would raise taxes in numerous other areas including liquor and restaurant meals. The taxpayers group said the bill would further expand the circuit-breaker property tax relief program and fully fund the Homestead Exemption, which is now only half-funded by the state.

State Rep. Deborah Hutton, D-Bowdoinham and a member of the Legislature's Taxation Committee, supports the tax overhaul claiming Maine's sales tax base is "one of the narrowest in the nation" and is largely responsible for the state's "boom and bust budget cycles." She said the bill would attempt to bring stability to the state's tax structure, which now draws about 30 percent of its revenue from the income tax, 21 percent from the sales tax and 44 percent from the property tax. Leading economists long have recommended revisions that would equalize the burden to one-third for each revenue component.

I've talked to at least one legislator who was reticent to support the bill in June but says the time is right now. This kind of broad-based tax reform has been promised for decades and may finally be close.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Stem Cells in Maine

The politics of stem cells were examined on Monday, when leaders in the field of stem cell research came together in Salisbury Cove on MDI.
It's not the small minority of Americans who oppose stem cell research on religious grounds that concerns leading research scientists, secure in their belief that stem cells could be the key to curing such diseases as cancer, diabetes and Parkinson's.

It's the thousands of voters who simply don't understand the issue that keep scientists up at night, said Dr. Gary Gilliland, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a leukemia researcher at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who spoke Saturday night at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory Stem Cell Symposium.

The possible results from this kind of research are incredible.
If the ethical issues around embryonic stem cell research are resolved, sickle cell anemia and diabetes could be the first diseases "cured" in this way. Already, researchers know how to transplant the cells that can produce insulin or normal-shaped blood cells - if rare donor cells become available. With the procedure known as "nuclear transfer," doctors can simply make the cells they need.

Cancer could be next, according to research that Gilliland has published recently.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

More on Tobin

At least one local Republican thinks that spending more than $700,000 to defend the alleged mastermind of a Republican voter suppression effort may have been a bad move for the national party.
A New Hampshire member of the Republican National Committee said she has misgivings about the committee's role in defending a GOP operative accused of conspiring to suppress Democratic votes in the 2002 election.

Another interesting bit from this article is the attempt to keep this support out of the public eye.
The RNC tried to keep a lid on its support for Tobin.

Last month, RNC spokesman Aaron McLear refused to say whether the RNC was paying Tobin's legal bills when the New Hampshire Union Leader presented evidence that it was, the paper reported Friday.

McLear, after checking with RNC lawyers, refused to answer any questions about Tobin, the paper said.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Michael Heath Is Lonely

From his blog:
I don't understand why Christian pastors are attacking me. Yet, they are.

I have never in my twenty years of ministry leadership received such bitter and personal communication as I have in the past year. I sort of expect it from liberal pro "gay" clergy, but not from conservatives. I am taking criticism from conservative pastors now. This surprises me. It doesn't change my views one bit on all things "gay." It does make me wonder, however, whether Maine has what it takes to stop the homosexual agenda.

Update: Nemitz beat me to it.

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November 8th Ballot Questions

Here's the order, from the BDN:
Question 1 will ask voters whether they want to reject the new law that protects people from discrimination in employment, housing education, public accommodations and credit based on sexual orientation.

Question 2 will ask voters whether they favor a $33.1 million bond for improvements to highways, bridges, airports, public transit systems, state-owned ferry vessels and port facilities, bicycle trails and pedestrian improvements. The bond money would attract an additional $158 million in matching federal funds.

Question 3 will ask voters whether they favor an $8.9 million bond issue to draw down $31 million in federal funds to improve sustainable water sources and develop new irrigation systems. The bond would also make improvements to a veterinary technician facility at the University of Maine.

Question 4 will ask voters whether they favor a $20 million bond to stimulate economic growth and job creation in the state. The bond would draw an additional $44 million in federal and private funds for medical research and development and provide funds for the expansion of several facilities in the state university system - including a graduate school for biomedical science on the campus of University College in Bangor.

Question 5 will ask voters to approve a $12 million bond issue to purchase land and conservation easements to protect wildlife and fish habitat as well as provide access for outdoor recreation and hunting and fishing activities. The bond is expected to attract at least $7 million in public and private contributions and will also assist efforts to preserve farmlands and working waterfronts.

Question 6 will ask the voters to approve a $9 million bond issue for building renovations at several of the campuses of the University of Maine System.

Question 7 will ask the voters to amend the Maine Constitution to provide a different tax assessment level for waterfront land used for commercial fishing purposes. The waterfront property would be taxed much like farmland and forestland currently are.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Republican Party Bankrolling Tobin

From the AP:
Despite a zero-tolerance policy on tampering with voters, the Republican Party has quietly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide private defense lawyers for a former Bush campaign official charged with conspiring to keep Democrats from voting in New Hampshire.

[Bangor resident] James Tobin, the president´s 2004 campaign chairman for New England, is charged in New Hampshire federal court with four felonies accusing him of conspiring with a state GOP official and a GOP consultant in Virginia to jam Democratic and labor union get-out-the-vote phone banks in November 2002. [...]

Federal prosecutors have secured testimony from the two convicted conspirators in the scheme directly implicating Tobin. [...]

Since charges were first filed in December, the RNC has spent more than $722,000 to provide Tobin, who has pleaded innocent, a team of lawyers from the high-powered Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly. The firm´s other clients include Bill and Hillary Clinton and former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros.

Here is some background on the case. TPM, as always, has more.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Steve Rowe

I had a great talk today with Maine's Attorney General Steven Rowe. He spoke at a Democratic event and emphasized the importance of building the "bottom of the pyramid" and energizing progressive activism. His words and attitude really impressed me.

Afterwards, I told him flat out that he should run for Senate. I agreed with him that he probably didn't stand much of a chance against Snowe and her machine, but a campaign doesn't have to just be about winning.

Maine could use a statewide campaign with a focus on laying the groundwork for that pyramid. The current strength of the Democratic Party here may hide some future weaknesses. For instance, the exit polls from 2004 show George Bush winning the under-40 vote in Maine.

I was the youngest person at the event today, and the Attorney General agreed with me that that's a problem.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Susan Collins

The profile on Susan Collins in Down East this month paints her as a rising star and a vital moderate in Washington. But even this love poem hints at some of the real problems with her tenure.
she has agreed with the [Republican] party on issues ranging from the new bankruptcy bill to drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, for example

I was afraid that her vote (I believe Republicans call that a flip-flop) for drilling in ANWR might have passed under the radar. I'm glad to see it hasn't.

In other news, Scott Fish is still mad that he lost his job.
More importantly from Fish's point of view, Collins isn't helping the Republican Party. "Look at the number of [registered] Maine Republicans since moderates like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe have been in control," he argues. "We're third, after Independents and Democrats. If the moderates are the wave of the future, why hasn't the party thrived?

"What Susan and Olympia have done is cast votes that attract support from across the political spectrum," Fish says, which he admits makes sense in a state that favors political moderation in its U.S. senators, no matter what letter comes after their names. He predicts that strategy could backfire, though, because "I think the future of the Republican base is increasingly conservative, both nationally and in Maine."

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Municipal Map

This map from the cover of the MMA's Townsman shows which towns they project will provide property tax reductions or increases this year following the passage of LD1 and the budget.

Municipalities in blue are projected to have lower property taxes, red marks increases and white areas will likely stay the same.

Visit the new Maine Politics.