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Dueling Trump, Obama speeches show just how different they are

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from my couch in Gardiner, where I’m recovering after the much-anticipated day of Donald Trump in Bangor.

Here are our reports from inside the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s rally and outside, where there were confrontations between supporters and protesters and a Trump-unrelated fight between passers-by near the Paul Bunyan statue.

A few demonstrators were removed from Trump’s rally to cheers from his supporters, but what was most striking about the New York City billionaire’s speech was his message and how he would be a sea change from President Barack Obama if he can beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in November.

The same day that Trump appeared in Bangor, the Democratic president was speaking to the Canadian Parliament.

Setting the tone for Trump’s address was an adviser, Stephen Miller, who laid out the candidate’s policy of “Americanism” — which, as later defined by the candidate, means a hard stance on global trade.

He said he’d try to renegotiate the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico and pull the U.S. out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a deal with Pacific rim nations. This is a popular stance in Maine, which may have lost hundreds of manufacturing jobs under NAFTA and is reeling from major mill closures.

But it bucks the usual Republican line and has been criticized by the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which Trump ripped as controlled by “special interests” who “don’t care” about Mainers.

On this issue, the chamber aligns with Obama, who addressed anxiety around trade deals head-on in Canada, calling it “tempting” to think that “if we draw a line around our borders that it will give us more control,” but that “we can’t seal ourselves off from the rest of the world” in the modern economy.

“And so, for those of us who truly believe that our economies have to work for everybody, the answer is not to try and pull back from our interconnected world,” he said. “It is rather to engage with the rest of the world, to shape the rules so they’re good for our workers and good for our businesses.”

Trump’s and Obama’s differences are myriad, but their visions of America’s place in the world may be the most stark.

I discussed Trump’s visit with the CBC’s Hance Colburne on Thursday. You should be able to listen to that interview here today. — Michael Shepherd

Trump miscellany: The Republican’s chances, war whoops and LePage

A few tidbits lost in the chaos of Trump’s visit:

Quick hits
  • The Maine Ethics Commission won’t investigate the finances of an unsuccessful ballot question committee supporting a referendum to allow a new casino in southern Maine. The request came from an Oregon-based firm that claimed that it was not paid about $119,000 for signature-gathering efforts. But commissioners staff unanimously backed their staff’s recommendation of not pursuing a probe on Wednesday. — Darren Fishell
  • LePage and Attorney General Janet Mills — usually foes — will appear together at a news conference on Thursday. They’ll release a report from a state panel on preventing domestic violence homicides. The Republican governor and Democratic attorney general have been pugnacious foils to each other, making this joint appearance a must-see event. — Michael Shepherd
Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist

Happy Independence Day, Great Britain!

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

“When I came here 17 years ago and I said that I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union, you all laughed at me,” said British politician Nigel Farage in a speech to the European Union this week. “Well I have to say, you’re not laughing now, are you?”

They still were. The smug, smiling faces behind him told the whole story. The professional bureaucrats and Europhiles who make up the European Parliament are, as Farage put it, in complete denial over the increasingly failed project that is the European Union.

Even as the supranational organization crumbles around them, and member states begin looking for the exit door, they fail to realize that what they have created is a failure, and that they themselves are to blame for what happened in the United Kingdom last week.

The European Union began with a simple, rational dream. After suffering two devastating world wars that took place mostly on the European continent, leaders in the western world wanted to ensure that no such conflict ever happened again.

And so, after the war, attempts began to economically integrate western Europe into a free-trade zone. The European Economic Community (EEC) was therefore established to do just that in the Treaty of Rome of 1957.

The benefits of the EEC were obvious. It promoted growth and economic expansion, and increased trade and interdependence between nations drastically decreased the likelihood that another war would take place.

Free trade zones and common markets were not the ultimate dream of the architects, however. They hatched ideas of monetary union under a single currency, as well as political union into a European governing body, including a judicial function, a common security network, and the free movement of all peoples within.

It sounded good at the time, and the EEC formally transformed into a supranational political confederation, the European Union (EU), in 1992.

But as the EU moved the continent toward a federalized United States of Europe, many of the supposed benefits turned to ash, morphing into an unwieldy, uncontrollable bureaucratic monster.

The evolving EU, particularly after the 2002 introduction of the Euro currency, dramatically curtailed national sovereignty, and left a large, prohibitively expensive leviathan in its wake as a door prize.

The EU beast pursued a never ending parade of interventionist programs and central planning schemes in the areas of industry and agriculture, and promoted a continent wide welfare state that put America’s to shame.

John Nazca | Reuters

Membership dramatically expanded, including a number of economically weak countries in eastern Europe. These countries have since been constantly propped up, subsidized, and bailed out by the EU’s more productive nations, incentivizing idiotic public policy and failing to make any of these countries more prosperous.

The single currency experiment has clearly failed, with the Euro generally regarded as a disaster.

And the free movement of people, a laudable and noble concept, has turned into a preposterous threat to all EU countries, as Europe has permitted an influx of millions of people from war-torn countries who cannot be vetted properly and now have free, unrestrained access to any EU country.

Concerned member states have no control over their own borders. Free movement within Europe is part of the deal.

Britain, tired of the loss of its sovereignty, tired of subsidizing failed states, tired of dealing with the avalanche of red tape that comes with EU membership, decided last week to say, “thank you very much, but we’ll be leaving now.”

Upon leaving, Britain should be able to negotiate a deal much like Switzerland, with participation in European free trade, but without the entanglements of the continental superstate.

Free trade is a universal, mutually beneficial system that requires no responsibilities of a nation, outside continuing to guarantee the free movement of goods and services. One need not participate in a political union to share in trade’s mutual benefits.

Yet German Chancellor Angela Merkel is already drawing a hard line in the sand, signaling her opposition to Britain leaving the EU without being punished for doing so, ironically proving exactly what the European Union really is — a corrupt cartel intent on full economic, political, and military unity.

Merkel’s threats, if realized, would actually hurt the EU more than Britain, essentially for no other reason than spite, and to bully the remaining countries into staying put.

But when you have to threaten countries to stay in, is your union really worth a damn?

What the remaining Eurocrats want is control. The British people have decided they would like that control back. Good for them.

As Trump arrives in Bangor, more Republicans step away

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (Creative Commons)

Donald Trump’s trip to Bangor comes at a time when many in his own party have distanced themselves from him.

This is a national phenomena.

Trump is so toxic that Republicans are deciding not to go to the Republican National Convention and turning down speaking roles. Funding for the convention is low because sponsors don’t want to be associated with Trump. There is a NeverTrump effort to try to derail Trump from getting the nomination.

As the Washington Post recently reported:

Dozens of well-known Republicans aren’t showing up. There’s no word yet on who will speak. A growing number of corporate sponsors are taking a pass. Groups of white supremacists and other agitators are on the way, while the official protest routes are frantically being redrawn after being thrown out in court. And then there’s the fight to dethrone the big star. [source]

In explaining why he won’t vote for Trump, John McCain’s former chief of staff wrote:

He’s an ignoramus whose knowledge of public issues is more superficial than an occasional newspaper reader’s. He casts his intellectual laziness as a choice, a deliberate avoidance of expert views that might contaminate his ill-informed opinions. . . .

He possesses the emotional maturity of a 6-year-old. He can’t let go of any slight, real or imagined, from taunts about the length of his fingers to skepticism about his portfolio. So shaky is his psyche that he’s compelled to fits of self-sabotage to defend his self-regard, as was the case in his racist, politically devastating attacks on U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel. He views the powers of the presidency as weapons to punish people who’ve been mean to him – reporters, rival candidates, critics. “They better be careful,” he warns.

Trump’s comments about Judge Curiel were the last straw for long-time conservative pundit George Will, who announced he cannot support Trump and has unenrolled from the Republican Party.

Will is by no means alone among Republicans in finding Trump’s remarks unacceptable. In fact, a Morning Consult poll found that 56% of Republicans agreed the comments were either racist or “not racist but still unacceptable,” views shared by 69% of all those polled.

And what about Maine Republicans?

Gov. Paul LePage, who has made some lists of potential vice-presidential picks, will be with Trump at the Bangor rally.

There surely will be other elected Republicans there. It also would not be surprising to see former state Representative Alex Willette, a Maine National Republican Committeeman who is part of a group trying to thwart a rule that would unbind delegates at the Republican National Convention. Passing such a rule would enable the convention to pick a nominee other than Trump.

But incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin won’t be there

One poll has shown a slight lead for LePage in Poliquin’s congressional district. Yet Poliquin has kept his positive comments about Trump to events held behind closed doors.

Rep. Poliquin was elected with strong support from voters who are evangelical Christians, and this group backed Cruz over Trump in the Maine caucuses. While such voters are not likely to support Hillary Clinton, some might choose to simply not vote for any presidential candidate or to instead vote for the Libertarian Party candidate.

The most popular political figure in Maine, Sen. Susan Collins, will not be attending Trump’s event.

These absences are telling.

Poliquin won’t attend Trump rally in his district

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where lovers of politics are focused on today’s visit to Bangor by Donald Trump.

What kind of reception Trump will receive in the Queen City remains to be seen, but the GOP is doing what it can to be hospitable. Gov. Paul LePage has postponed his planned town hall meeting in Greenville this evening so he can be at Trump’s rally “with bells on,” as he told radio hosts on Tuesday. The governor’s visit to the Moosehead region will be rescheduled.

The conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center had planned the unveiling of a new report about direct primary care in Maine at midday today but led a press release on Tuesday with “We’ve Been Trumped.” The rollout will be rescheduled.

The Maine Republican Party voiced enthusiasm for the visit and the general election campaign to come, in which Trump vies to have Maine vote red in a presidential after several cycles of backing the Democrat in the race. Party Chairman Rick Bennett has already sent his regrets and won’t be at the rally because of a speaking engagement.

One question that has been lingering ever since Trump became the presumptive nominee is where 2nd Congressional District Rep. Bruce Poliquin stands and whether he’ll be at today’s rally.

UPDATE: On Wednesday morning, his staff said he would be at a meeting in Lewiston and unable to attend the Bangor rally.

The Maine Democratic Party will be there and has scheduled a news conference outside the Cross Insurance Center at 1 p.m. According to a press release, the rally will be led by party Vice Chairwoman Peggy Schaffer, Attorney General Janet Mills and legislators from the Bangor area.

Trump will be well-fed when he arrives and presumably better funded than he is right now. At noon, he’s hosting a $2,700-a-seat fundraising luncheon at the Langham Hotel in Boston. Every penny helps. The Trump campaign reported just $1.3 million in cash on hand at the beginning of June. That’s a lot of greenbacks compared to what’s in my bank account (and probably yours) but presumptive Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton reported $42 million in the bank and has been spending it liberally (see what I did there?) in battleground states.

I don’t know what’s on the lunch menu in Boston. Maybe taco bowls shipped in from one of his restaurants. Here’s a soundtrack.

What will Trump discuss this afternoon to a roomful of Mainers? Who knows, but it’s a pretty safe bet that history won’t repeat itself in this regard. During a visit to Portland in March, Trump’s rambling speech centered on a fiery condemnation of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who had just launched attacks against Trump. Trump described Romney as a “choke artist” and said Romney would have “dropped to his knees” for a Trump endorsement in 2012 if Trump had asked for it.

No, these days Trump is trying to look more presidential and focus on policy. On Tuesday in Pittsburgh, according to the New York Times, Trump visited a recycling plant to discuss how he’s overhaul trade pacts with China. (I learned a new word in that New York Times report. “Shibboleth” basically means long-standing but outmoded beliefs of a particular group of people. Thank you NYT. I’ll begin working that word into my coverage immediately, providing I can find some outmoded beliefs.)

Here’s another nugget for you: The Washington Post reported this morning that a move is afoot to make sure delegates to the Republican National Convention vote the way they’re supposed to, based on the results of their states’ primaries and caucuses. The Trump campaign has formed a five-member committee focused on stopping efforts to unbind delegates. Why should you care about this? RNC committeeman Alex Willette of Maine, a former legislator, is on the committee.

I know, I know. You’re thirsty for more about Trump’s visit. You’re STARVING for a taco bowl. Check out the reading list below for more stage-setters and watch for bounteous and dilatable coverage coming your way today from the Bangor Daily News. (I tried to teach the New York Times a couple new words right there but I doubt they’re impressed.) The Bangor Daily News all-day live blog is already humming; check it out.

Are you sick of reading about Trump’s visit already? Don’t worry, it’s not all about him today, which brings us to our next item. — Christopher Cousins

Maine Ethics Commission mulling ‘house party exemption’

In May accusations of improper campaign finance practices in a Portland-area Democratic primary for the Maine Senate were as thick as black flies. The Maine Ethics Commission’s deliberations revealed what is seen by some as a loophole in election law: the house party exemption. That nugget of statute allows campaign volunteers to spent up to $250 per election for “invitations, food and beverages” for “campaign-related activities.”

The commission, which convened today at 9 a.m. in Augusta (there will still be plenty of time for commissioner to attend the Trump rally if they make their deliberations speedy), will take a closer look at the house party exemption today and consider re-opening an investigation into a prior complaint against Democratic Rep. Ben Chipman, who won the Democratic nomination in a three-way race.

Also on the commission’s agenda is a request to investigate the Horseracing Jobs Fairness Ballot Question Committee, which collected signatures in a failed attempt to permit a casino in York County. The complaint alleges that the committee improperly disclosed expenditures. Yup, the BDN is covering that, too. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hit Reading list Be grateful if you don’t have an editor

Most every writer will tell you he or she has a few words or phrases with which they struggle. This morning, my editor had to remind me for probably the 100th time that fundraising is one word, not two. I’m clearly still recovering from a different editor I had years ago who was in the “fund raising” camp.

OK, I get it. But then came this shot across my bow: Live blog is actually THREE words. Really?

“It is short for live web log but we treat it as two words,” wrote my smartypants editor, who ignored my question about whether “smartypants” or “smarty pants” is correct.

I don’t know how he sleeps at night. — Christopher Cousins

Editor’s note: Is “black flies” one word or two? Discuss in comments.

Will other big-name Republicans join LePage at Trump’s Bangor rally?

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where reporters and Gov. Paul LePage have something in common: We’re all preparing for Donald Trump’s Wednesday rally in Bangor.

Maine’s Republican governor was one of the first major office-holding endorsers of the billionaire who is now the party’s presumptive nominee, so it’s only natural that LePage would be there, as he was in March when Trump came to Portland.

On Monday, after Trump announced his rally at the Cross Insurance Center, LePage postponed a planned Wednesday town hall meeting in Greenville. That suggests the event was planned hastily.

However, his office didn’t answer questions on whether or not he’d be at the rally on Monday. But on his regular Tuesday appearance on WVOM, LePage said he’d be there “with bells on.”

So far, LePage is the only big-name Maine Republican to say he’s going to the event. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who hasn’t endorsed Trump and has criticized him, will be in Washington, D.C., for Senate votes, according to spokeswoman Annie Clark.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District who has only praised Trump’s trade stances and status as “a job creator,” will be in Bangor for a forum on addiction on Tuesday. But Brent Littlefield, his political adviser, didn’t respond to a Monday message asking if Poliquin would be at the rally.

A Portland Press Herald poll published Sunday gave mixed signals for Trump in Maine: It showed him trailing Democratic counterpart Hillary Clinton statewide, but the race was virtually tied in the more rural and conservative 2nd District.

That’s the obvious read on why Trump’s headed to Bangor. But while he may enjoy support around there, it’s worth noting that Republicans not named LePage continue to sense political risk in tying themselves to his divisive brand of politics. — Michael Shepherd

LePage says funding dispute could lead to Riverview hiring freeze

LePage also said on WVOM that his dispute with the Maine Legislature over funding for four bills passed earlier this year will lead to a hiring freeze at the embattled Riverview Psychiatric Center.

He issued an executive order on Monday saying he’d take money from the Low-Cost Drugs for Maine’s Elderly Program, the Fund for a Healthy Maine and other accounts, while possibly resorting to a hiring freeze in the Department of Health and Human Services to fund the bills.

Democrats said this was unnecessary because funding sources were outlined in the bills, one of which funded raises to workers at Riverview, the state-run psychiatric hospital in Augusta.

Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said LePage is using “manufactured chaos” to slash funding of programs he has opposed in the past. But LePage said taking money from salary accounts will just mean more vacancies at Riverview.

That’s something the hospital can ill afford. It was decertified by the federal government in 2013, which put millions in funding at risk.

Earlier this year, Daniel Wathen, the former Maine Supreme Judicial Court chief justice overseeing the settlement over a 1989 lawsuit against the state over mental health services said vacancies were endangering staff and patients there. It’s unlikely that he’d welcome any further freeze. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits
  • Recount kicks off: The recount in the Republican primary for Maine’s 1st Congressional District begins today in Augusta between apparent 40-vote winner Mark Holbrook and Ande Smith. Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s office says it may not wrap up until Friday.
  • Why not every year?: Collins, U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, and other New England senators introduced a resolution today that would set a “National Lobster Day” for Sept. 25, 2016. They got this passed in 2015.
Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist

How stiffing small businesses, giving counterfeit cufflinks define Donald Trump

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

When you ponder the candidacy and purported authenticity of Donald Trump, give a thought to what he did to a Pennsylvania cabinetmaker.

Back in 1984, Edward Friel Jr.’s cabinet making operation was over 40 years old. His father founded the company and his son worked in it, too.

It must have been exciting when Friel got a big contract for a Trump casino in Atlantic City. Unfortunately for this business owner, Trump never paid his final bill of $83,600, undermining its cash flow. As John Friel, Edward’s son, told a reporter, “That began the demise” of this family business.

Donald Trump didn’t just cheat this cabinetmaker. As revealed in an extensive report by USA Today, Trump stiffed many small businesses, generating hundreds of liens against him. As that report noted, “The actions in total paint a portrait of Trump’s sprawling organization frequently failing to pay small businesses and individuals, then sometimes tying them up in court and other negotiations for years.”

Not paying his bills while profiting has characterized Trump’s business model and career.

Take Trump’s casinos, a type of business that rarely loses money because owners literally set the odds so most customers lose. Trump drove his own casinos out of business while pocketing millions. According to an analysis by The New York Times, Trump “shifted personal debts to the casinos and collected millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and other payments.”

Meanwhile, others lost out big. Investors lost a whopping $1.5 billion. Small businesses were forced to settle for small payouts, threatening or ending their existence. One was a company called Triad Building Specialties.

“Trump crawled his way to the top on the back of little guys, one of them being my father,” Beth Rosser, who runs her father’s business, Triad, today, told the Times. “He had no regard for thousands of men and women who worked on those projects. He says he’ll make America great again, but his past shows the complete opposite of that.”

Donald Trump in Palm Beach, Florida, in March. Carlo Allegri | Reuters

Trump’s campaign comments and operations have shown the same lack of concern for others as long as he personally profits.

After the United Kingdom passed a referendum on leaving the European Union and futures predicted rapid declines in the nation’s currency, Trump arrived in Scotland to inspect and tout Turnberry, his new luxury resort and golf course. In response to a reporter about the impact of Brexit, Trump said, “When the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly.”

Similarly, through the end of May, Trump had spent more than $6 million in campaign funds on various Trump businesses, according to Fortune, including nearly $425,000 at the Florida resort where he makes his winter home. By arranging accommodation for the traveling press at Trump properties, the presumptive Republican nominee brought in more funding for himself.

In addition to Trump’s cheating in business and in bogus ventures like Trump University and Cambridge Who’s Who, which ripped off middle class and low income Americans, Trump has a history of personal fakery.

Trump stiffed veterans’ groups $1 million in donations he said he gave until the press reported on this.

Then, there are the tales of the counterfeit cufflinks, which might seem funny if they were not so revealing of the character of the man who is the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

Years ago Trump gave lawyer Roy Cohn what were purportedly “diamond-encrusted cuff links,” but when they were appraised after his death, they turned out to be fake. Something similar happened to actor Charlie Sheen. He was at a dinner party where Trump pulled off his cufflinks and gave them to Sheen, telling him they were made of platinum and diamond. Later, a jewelry appraiser told Sheen they were knockoffs. “They’re stamped Trump,” Sheen said, according to The Weekly Standard.

All of this cheating should be remembered when evaluating Trump and his opponent, Hillary Clinton. While noting Clinton has sometimes showed poor judgment, investigative reporter Jill Abramson concluded, “Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy. . . There are no instances I know of where Clinton was doing the bidding of a donor or benefactor.” And while Politifact determined that 61 percent of Trump’s statements were “false” or so off they ranked “pants on fire,” 12 percent of Clinton’s were in that category.

Add to that Trump switching positions more than typical candidates, and the Republican candidate — who is visiting Bangor this week — appears to be authentically something. But it’s not authentically honest.

GOP sources: Donald Trump to rally in Bangor on Wednesday

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Gov. Paul LePage after the governor introduced him at a March rally in Portland. (REUTERS – Joel Page)

Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump will hold a rally in Bangor on Wednesday, according to two Republican sources.

It would be the New York City billionaire’s second trip to Maine after a Portland rally just before the state’s presidential caucuses in March, where he was introduced by Gov. Paul LePage, who has been a surrogate for Trump since a February endorsement.

The news was first reported on Twitter by WMTW’s Paul Merrill and then confirmed for the Bangor Daily News by two Republican sources under conditions of anonymity because plans weren’t finalized.

One source said the likely venue is the Cross Insurance Center. Bangor wasn’t listed on Trump’s online schedule at 1:30 p.m. on Monday. He’ll hold rallies in Pennsylvania and Ohio on Tuesday.

The rally’s setting in Bangor is telling: While Democrat Hillary Clinton has led two statewide polls since March, Maine is one of two states to split Electoral College votes by congressional district and Trump’s chances are better in the more rural and conservative 2nd District.

poll released Sunday by the Portland Press Herald found the race virtually tied in that district, with 30 percent of voters supported him to 28 percent for Clinton.

The same poll found that both candidates are highly unpopular statewide, with 62 percent having an unfavorable view of Trump to 57 percent for Clinton. This lines up with national figures on the race, which features the most unpopular candidates in at least 10 election cycles, according to FiveThirtyEight.

This post will be updated.

Marijuana legalization question to lead off Maine’s 2016 ballot

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

The campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine drew the coveted Question 1 spot on the statewide 2016 ballot during Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s random drawing on Monday.

The November ballot will be a crowded place for referendum efforts, with five citizen-initiated ballot questions and a bond question.

The marijuana legalization question will be followed on the ballot by efforts to:

Picking the ballot question order is usually a perfunctory step that allows campaigns to finally start printing literature that educates people on their question, but that could have added importance in such a big year for referendums.

“I think it definitely helps,” said David Boyer, the campaign manager for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the pro-legalization effort backed by the national Marijuana Policy Project. “Every campaign would probably agree and everyone wanted Question 1, so we’re happy that we got it.”

Study: ‘Dark money,’ ‘gray money’ pour into Maine

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where pristine early summer weekends have the power to shut down developments in Maine politics — however briefly.

With the primary behind and the heart of summer still ahead, candidates across Maine are forming callouses on their knuckles and cracks in their voices as the knock-and-talk at households throughout Maine. A local candidate stopped by my place on Saturday (yes, I’m voting for you but shouldn’t you be on a boat or hiking a seaside trail?).

Fundraising is also experiencing a crescendo — or at least attempts at fundraising are. With the Federal Elections Commission’s quarterly fundraising deadline on Friday, my email inbox is full of donation requests. (No, I’m not donating to your campaign. Shouldn’t you be on a boat or hiking a seaside trail? Here’s your soundtrack. Don’t make me remind you.)

One interesting development over the weekend was the release of new political polling data by the folks over at the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. Yesterday we learned from their poll that Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump in Maine, though the race is tight in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District and voters aren’t thrilled with their major-party choices.

The Maine results mirrored two national polls which appeared to show Clinton pulling ahead of Trump, fueling more speculation that maybe Trump’s appeal is finally fading. Don’t count on it. Polls are useful only after a list of caveats is considered and whenever I see across-the-nation presidential polls my inclination is to provide some reminders, after burying my face in my hands and shaking my head:

  • A single poll is but a snapshot in time — and almost never a gauge of current events, such as England’s vote last week to leave the European Union. “The trend is your friend” is just about the best advice there is when reading polling data. It means you should look at numerous polls taken over a period of time if you want to discern anything valuable.
  • National polls in presidential races don’t mean a lot. While they may give some indication about how the popular vote might turn out, they don’t take into account the Electoral College, which of course how the United States elects its presidents.
  • The more local the poll and the smaller the survey, the more unreliable the data can be.

But as a follower of politics — which as a Daily Brief reader you are, and thank you — you probably already knew all that.

The PPH is out with more of its polling data this morning, focusing on immigrants. It shows that 32 percent of Mainers — and more than 50 percent of Republicans — see immigrants as “a burden on our state.”

What’s the value in that? Well, it affirms what we already knew: Immigration policy is the subject of a long-simmering debate that will weigh crushingly on this year’s elections. — Christopher Cousins

Dark money in politics increasing

The New York Times on Sunday unveiled a new study on dark money in political campaigns by the Brennan Center in which Maine plays a central part.

The study showed that secret spending in political campaigns — known as dark money because its origins are concealed — jumped from about 24 percent of all expenditures in 2006 to 71 percent of expenditures in 2014. The study also found a new “gray money” phenomenon in which organizations that are required to disclose donors route their money through a web of political action committees to conceal the money’s origins.

Read the New York Times’ report on the study by clicking here. Right up top, you’ll read how social welfare nonprofits and trade associations have tripled their spending in this year’s election compared with this time period in 2012.

What about Maine? There’s not a lot of state-specific data in the study. Maine was one of six states whose data were studied in order to extrapolate national estimates and trends. The other states in the study were Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado and Massachusetts. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hit
  • Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin announced today that he will hold a congressional town hall meeting Tuesday at Easter Maine Community College’s Maine Hall in Bangor, beginning at 6 p.m. The meeting, called “Operation Community SAFER (Supporting Area Families to Enable Recovery),” will double as a prescription drug take-back event run by the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department.
  • Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, who finalized the wording of five 2016 referendum questions last week, will randomly select their order on the November ballot this morning. Now you know.
Reading list My budding superstar

I was preparing my boys for day care today and no matter what I said, they kept chanting this new song made up by my 5-year-old:

Oh we will hum, hummmm

And we’ll eat plums, plummmms

Because we’re dumb, dummmmb

Over and over again they recited it in deep, mesmerizing voices. All I could think of was a tribe deep in a rain forest, locked in ceremony around a smoldering fire. Honestly, it wasn’t the first time I’ve envisioned my kids in a jungle (though usually it’s because of their monkey tendencies).

In the car, my older kid asks my younger kid: “Lucas, are you going to grow up and record that song and be famous?”

“No. I’m going to do that with my bum stink song.”

He’s got the instincts of a pop icon already. — Christopher Cousins

Will ballot order matter for Maine’s five referendum questions?

Mike Tipping - Bangor Daily News -

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap holding a drawing for ballot order for the November, 2015 election.

Today at 11 a.m. in the atrium of the Maine State Archives, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap will engage in a quirky ritual of Maine democracy. He will determine, through some kind of random drawing, the order of the citizen initiative referendum questions on November’s ballot.

As far as I can tell, Maine is the only state to employ this method for determining ballot order. Most other states with initiative processes place questions on the ballot in the order they are approved.

While this ordering may not have as much of an effect on the outcome of these initiatives as the campaigns for and against them, or even the way the questions are worded on the ballot (a determination made just last week), there is a small chance that where a question appears on a ballot will make a difference in whether or not it passes.

With five citizen initiatives this year, more than ever before in Maine history,* which of them comes first on the ballot and which comes last could be more consequential than usual.

What we know

It’s long been received political wisdom that questions higher on the ballot do better. In 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown even went so far as to change state law to make sure a tax measure he backed was placed higher than a rival proposition. The referendum he supported won and the later-listed measure failed.

Political scientists, however, don’t yet agree on whether such a general effect actually exists.

There have been several studies of concepts like “downballot drop off” and “choice fatigue” among voters. One study, for instance, looked at natural experiments in California (where there are many referendums and they sometimes appear at different places on the ballot in different jurisdictions based on the number of races in various precincts). The authors found that “Facing more decisions before a given contest significantly increases the tendency to abstain or rely on decision shortcuts, such as voting for the status quo.”

Another study, however, which examined some of the same data in California and similar results from Texas, and which used a different methodology, found “the absence of evidence that being listed at the top compared to the bottom of the ballot has any effect on approval.” The authors concluded that it was actually the overall number of propositions, and not their order, that affected approval rates.

Field experiments have been similarly mixed. One study actually examined those 2012 California tax referendums by commissioning a poll in another state (Florida). They asked about a set of hypothetical referendums, including two that were similar to the two California propositions, and rotated the question order. They discovered a small benefit when one of the questions was placed before the other, but no effect that rose to the level of statistical significance.

What we might assume

Altogether, the research seems to indicate that the effect of question order is probably small, and is based on a more complex set of circumstances than just a single question’s position.

The ordering of specific questions on related issues might have some impact. For example, If voters first encounter (and vote in favor of) the Stand Up for Students measure to increase taxes slightly on the wealthy to increase school funding, they may be less worried about revenue shortfalls when they encounter the marijuana legalization question and less likely to be swayed by the idea that it would bring in new tax dollars.

Strength of support, rather than just overall preference, may also play a role for some measures. Public opinion polls often show that only a minority of voters are opposed to gun safety measures like Maine’s background check referendum, but that they often hold those beliefs more fervently. If that question is at the bottom of the ballot, perhaps opponents will be more likely to seek it out, experience less drop-off than supporters and have an outsized influence on the final results.

On the other hand, that same kind of dropoff could be beneficial for the ranked choice voting referendum. If it were at the bottom of the ballot, fewer voters that aren’t as interested in voting (and potentially also less interested in passing new voting reforms and more likely to default to the status quo) may vote on the question.

The potential effects of ballot position may even be mitigated or enhanced by the campaigns for and against other measures. If supporters or opponents of the initiative in the fifth position on the ballot mount a massive turnout operation, perhaps drop-off would decrease for the first four as well.

Then, there’s the elephant and the donkey in the room. It’s not yet clear what voters Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will each bring to the polls, what referendums they’ll support or oppose and how likely they’ll be to vote on downballot questions.

We will never really know all the effects that ballot order has on referendums like these, but at least after today’s ritual we’ll know what it will mean to vote Yes or No on Questions 1,2,3,4 and 5 in November.

* (While there are a record five initiatives on the ballot this year and one bond question, that’s not actually the record for total measures. The 2009 election saw one people’s veto, four initiatives, one bond question and one constitutional change, for a total of seven ballot questions.)

Poll: Clinton leads Trump in Maine, but race tied in 2nd District

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Democratic presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton led Republican Donald Trump in a new Maine poll from the Portland Press Herald, but both are deeply unpopular and Trump is within striking distance in the state’s northern half.

The poll doesn’t tell us much new about the 2016 race for the White House in Maine: Public sentiment, as measured by the new poll, barely moved since another March poll, but while the Democrat should be favored, Trump can’t be counted out to win at least one of the state’s four Electoral College votes.

Maine allocates two Electoral College votes to the overall winner and one each for the candidate who receives the most votes in each congressional district. A candidate who loses Maine’s overall vote could walk away with one Electoral College vote if he or she garnered a majority in one of the two congressional districts although that has never happened.

In the more rural and conservative 2nd Congressional District, it appears Trump has an opening this year.

Statewide, Clinton received 42 percent of support to Trump’s 35 percent in the poll of more than 609 Mainers. Another 19 percent said they’d vote for another candidate and 4 percent were undecided.

That was within the 4.5 percent margin of error for the poll, which was conducted for the newspaper by the University of New Hampshire. Results were apparently published by the Press Herald on Saturday, but removed from its website ahead of a planned Sunday release date.

Clinton and Trump are the most unpopular presidential candidates nationally in at least 10 election cycles, according to FiveThirtyEight. That shows in Maine, with 62 percent of those in the Press Herald poll having an unfavorable view of Trump with Clinton at 57 percent.

In the 2nd District, 64 percent of voters had an unfavorable view of Clinton to 57 percent for Trump. Head to head, the race there is a virtual tie, with Trump getting 30 percent of support to Clinton’s 28 percent.

This is the first detailed district-level polling we’ve seen in Maine this year, but the overall results are in line with national results and past state polls this year.

Clinton leads Trump nationally by 6 percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics averages, while she led Trump 43 percent to 34 percent in a March poll in Maine from Critical Insights, while an April analysis from Morning Consult placed Trump slightly ahead Clinton here, but within its margin of error.

Other highlights from the poll include:

  • Republican Gov. Paul LePage has a disapproval rating of 58 percent and he would start out as an underdog if he ran in 2018 against independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, with 63 percent saying they’d back King for re-election over just 29 percent for LePage.
  • U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, remans Maine’s most popular politician, with 73 percent approval. King was close behind, at 69 percent.
  • President Barack Obama has an approval rating of 49 percent in Maine, up from 44 percent in a Press Herald poll two years ago. The Maine Legislature’s approval rating is also 49 percent.

Collins’ terrorist watchlist gun ban survives, but how alive is it?

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where we’re watching the debate the compromise gun legislation from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, after it passed an initial vote on Thursday. But that belies its chances of passage and global and national events are overshadowing Maine politics today.

Great Britain has voted to leave the European Uniona stunning move that made Prime Minister David Cameron resign and plunged global markets into tumult.

Immigration was a big issue in that race, the result of which Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump linked to his own campaign, saying “people do not necessarily want people pouring over their borders,” according to The Guardian.

We’re sorry about your portfolio, but this gives us an opportunity for a great British soundtrack story arc. Here’s the EU’s romantic pitch, followed by empowering sorrow and their defiant realization that everything will (hopefully) be OK.

And Democratic presidential underdog Bernie Sanders said this morning that he’ll vote for Hillary Clinton, although he’s not formally ending his campaign. It might be upsetting to many in Maine, where Democrats voted overwhelmingly for Sanders in the March caucuses, but Clinton was the likely nominee from wire to wire.

Collins’ balancing act can’t get 60 votes on gun legislation

In Maine politics, the day’s biggest news may be the difficulty to get anything done in Congress, as illustrated by Collins’ compromise legislation on guns.

It survived a bid to kill it on Thursday by getting 52 votes in the Senate. Collins hailed that result in a statement, saying she was “encouraged by today’s majority vote.” But Senate rules make it so the amendment will need 60 votes to pass.

Only eight Republicans backed Collins’ bill, and Maine’s senior senator will likely need six more to vote for it to pass it.

Even if that happened, the Republican-led House of Representatives has adjourned until July with no promise to vote on gun bills. All Senate Democrats except for two who were absent voted for the bill, leaving Collins to try to convince her Republican colleagues of its worth.

This is particularly challenging because Collins’ bill is a tough balancing act on a sensitive subject. It has three main provisions:

  • Allow the U.S. Department of Justice to deny gun sales to people on two government terrorist watchlists: The no-fly list or the selectee list, which include 2,700 Americans and 109,000 people worldwide.
  • In an attempt to protect due process, U.S. citizens and holders of green cards could appeal denials.
  • It includes a five-year “look-back” provision that notifies the FBI if someone on the government’s broader central terrorist watch list, which contains information on more than 1 million people, buys a gun.

But there are good reasons for people on the left and right to oppose it, with the American Civil Liberties Union hammering the proposal for its use of an “error-prone and unfair watchlist system” to restrict gun rights.

The National Rifle Association has taken a similar position, calling it “unconstitutional.” Collins has said it protects due process.

After dueling Republican and Democratic proposals on gun control were voted down earlier this week in the Senate, Collins’ bill still represents the best chance for action after this month’s mass shooting in Orlando. But it also represents the difficulty of this issue and our political environment. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits
  • The annual marijuana celebration that is Harry’s Hoe Down will be held this weekend in Starks. It’s an event held at the farm of Maine marijuana icon Harry Brown and it’s pretty huge — on Facebook alone, 1,700 people have said they’re coming. Brown says “early birds are arriving in flocks” and another attendee promises “artisan edibiles” (sic) and “dank headychinos for a great morning pick me up.”
  • Gov. Paul LePage will continue his weekly town hall meeting roadshow at Greenville High School on Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. — Michael Shepherd
Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist
  • This nice big cat from Bridgton is looking for a new home. He “enjoys catnip, crunchy snacks, and his meals to be on time.” Don’t we all? Here’s his (bonus) soundtrack.
  • An open-minded Waterville wife is seeking a woman to take her husband out on the town. She says he works 70 hours a week to support the family. What a guy! But she says his friends “just want to sit in the house and smoke weed.” This wife wants more for him. You can take him hiking, to a strip club or to bars. However, she says “it would be ideal if you were a stoner but that’s not a big deal.” I wonder how he got those friends. — Michael Shepherd

Maine secretary of state revises wording of all five November ballot questions

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap on Thursday announced the final wording of five citizen-initiated referendums that will appear on the November ballot. Dunlap’s announcement comes after a month-long public comment period during which he said 185 comments were received.

“We try to capture as much of the essence of the legislation as possible when we draft the ballot questions,” said Dunlap in a written statement. “That was a real challenge with these five initiatives because these are not simple pieces of legislation, and I feel like we owe it to the voters to try and make sure they really understand the ramifications of each one.”

All five ballot questions were altered from their originally proposed wording. They will appear on the November ballot as follows:

  • An Act To Establish Ranked-Choice Voting. “Do you want to allow voters to rank their choices of candidates in elections for U.S. Senate, Congress, Governor, State Senate, and State Representative, and to have ballots counted at the state level in multiple rounds in which last-place candidates are eliminated until a candidate wins by majority?”
  • An Act To Establish The Fund to Advance Public Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education. “Do you want to add a 3% tax on individual Maine taxable income above $200,000 to create a state fund that would provide direct support for student learning in kindergarten through 12th grade public education?”
  • An Act To Legalize Marijuana. “Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age, and allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?”
  • An Act to Raise the Minimum Wage. “Do you want to raise the minimum hourly wage of $7.50 to $9 in 2017, with annual $1 increases up to $12 in 2020, and annual cost-of-living increases thereafter; and do you want to raise the direct wage for service workers who receive tips from half the minimum wage to $5 in 2017, with annual $1 increases until it reaches the adjusted minimum wage?”
  • An Act to Require Background Checks for Gun Sales. “Do you want to require background checks prior to the sale or transfer of firearms between individuals not licensed as firearms dealers, with failure to do so punishable by law, and with some exceptions for family members, hunting, self-defense, lawful competitions, and shooting range activity?”

In addition to the referendums, a request for bonding will appear on the November ballot:

  • An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Improve Highways, Bridges and Multimodal Facilities. “Do you favor a $100,000,000 bond issue for construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and for facilities, equipment and property acquisition related to ports, harbors, marine transportation, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, transit and bicycle and pedestrian trails, to be used to match an estimated $137,000,000 in federal and other funds?”

For more information about the election, click here.

LePage: Every time there’s a gun control debate ‘I go buy a gun’

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta.

I hope y’all had a good night’s sleep. Regardless of whether you battle with your pillow or not, I trust you’re better rested than Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st Congressional District, whose sit-in with colleagues on the U.S. House floor continues despite Republicans coming in at 3 a.m. and adjourning until after Independence Day.

“The public is demanding action and what House Democrats have been doing is merely an expression of the will of the people,” said Pingree in a written statement. “It’s democracy in action. What the Republicans have done is just the opposite of that.”

Democrats are demanding a vote on a gun control bill that would ban people on the terrorist watch list or no-fly list from buying guns. With Republicans in the majority, there is little or no chance of the House voting in favor of those measures, which means this event is meant to capture the attention of voters headed into the November elections.

However, it’s possible that pressure will mount on House Republicans if the Senate adopts a measure crafted by Maine Sen. Susan Collins, which would give the Department of Justice the authority to deny gun sales to people on one of two government watch lists. The legislation includes a five-year look-back provision that would notify the FBI if someone on the government’s terrorist watch list during that period buys a gun.

Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District said in a written statement to the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday that he could support Collins’ bill but with some major caveats that could mean he won’t realistically support the bill. At the top of that list is whether the bill could stand up to scrutiny in a constitutional challenge.

“Properly implemented, these may have stopped the killer in Orlando,” said Poliquin. “Taken with meaningful due process protections, these proposals could be a step in the right direction as long as constitutional provisions remain intact. … I want to make sure that any proposed law does not do anything to harm citizens’ rights and the principles that make our country what it is. The 2nd Amendment is one of those rights.”

Pingree declined to comment on Collins’ proposal.

“She’s waiting to see what, if any, legislation the GOP leadership will allow for a vote in the House,” said a Pingree spokesman on Wednesday.

It’s unclear how long Pingree and the Democrats will continue their sit-in. Here’s their soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

LePage launches war on lobbyists

Gov. Paul LePage hosted a lively town hall meeting in Richmond on Wednesday with one of the most supportive audiences he’s seen on the tour, which began last year. Several people stood up to thank him for his work and he drew applause after applause as he discussed issues ranging from the five referendums on the November ballot to gun control bills pending in Congress.

He continued his criticisms of the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Maine People’s Alliance and indicated his war on lobbyists could broaden.

“It’s time to expose who the biggest lobbyists are,” said LePage. “Who are the people that are preventing us from being prosperous? It’s the people in the halls of Augusta that hand out big … they used to do little brown paper bags. Now they’re just doing check and soon there will be wire transfers. That’s how it works. … We are victims of a system in America that is run by lobbyists.”

LePage also spoke at some length about attempts at gun control legislation that are swirling in Congress. He argued that the problem isn’t access to guns; it’s an inadequate system for treating mental illness.

“If you go after guns without going after mental illness, you are not going to accomplish anything,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of Americans who own guns are not bad people.”

LePage said his reaction whenever the debate begins anew is to head to a sporting goods store.

“Every time there’s a big gun battle about one of these incidents, I go buy a gun,” said LePage to applause from the audience. “I have a big safe of them. I have five that I bought and I haven’t shot them.”

One other interesting note: While discussing investment capital, LePage hinted that more Chinese-funded economic development could be coming to Washington County. LePage announced in 2014 that Chinese investors would build two new tissue machines at Woodland Pulp in Baileyville. Officials announced in March of this year that the $120 million expansion was halfway done and that both new machines would be running by the end of June.

LePage said Wednesday that the project could grow.

“I just got a letter today from Mr. Chu in China, who invested in two machines in Washington County,” said LePage. “We’re talking now about investing in two more tissue machines.” — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits
  • Gov. Paul LePage’s call for a special session of the Legislature to consider funding options for four bills passed earlier this year was rejected Wednesday by legislative leaders. If they won’t agree to convene, LePage has the authority to call them in on his own. Stay tuned.
  • A committee of European scientists has concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that the American lobster is an invasive species. The finding comes after Swedish scientists alleged that the lobster poses a threat to the European environment. The study comes as Sweden has been given until the end of July to justify their case. A decision on the scientific evidence is due by August 31, according to a written statement from all four members of Maine’s congressional delegation.
  • The Maine AFL-CIO is gathering today and tomorrow in Auburn for the 2016 Committee on Political Education Convention. The convention will focus on raising wages and taxing the wealthy to fund public education — both of which are featured referenda on this November’s ballot. Attendees of the convention will also vote on which legislative candidates they will endorse. The convention kicks off today at the Hilton Garden Inn.
Reading list Thank your local newspaper columnist

My lovely wife has always got my back. She pointed out to me that today is National Columnists Day and that we should all recognize the importance and value of newspaper columnists. For her, that’s me.

I know, I know. Despite my fantasies of someday being one, I am not really a newspaper columnist, but rather a mere political blogger. These days, admittedly, it’s a fine line between the two, with the latter taking the place of the former. Still, it’s touching to have my status elevated, if only my wife’s eyes. Thanks, babe. — Christopher Cousins

Recount in Maine’s 1st Congressional District set for next week

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The Republicans running for the party’s 2016 nomination for the seat in Maine’s 1st Congressional District, Mark Holbrook (center) and Ande Smith, appear in a debate in May alongside MPBN moderator Jennifer Rooks. (MPBN photo)

The recount in the Republican primary for the party’s nomination in Maine’s 1st Congressional District has been set for Tuesday, but the result may not be known until week’s end.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s office said Wednesday that the recount between apparent winner Mark Holbrook and Ande Smith is expected to take between three and four days. The winner will face long-shot odds to beat fourth-term U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, in November.

Smith, a North Yarmouth lawyer, requested the recount last week after unofficial totals named Holbrook, a Brunswick counselor, the winner by 55 votes — or less than three-tenths of a percentage point.

Nick McGee, Smith’s campaign manager, said it was an attempt to ensure that the numbers “reflect the will of First District voters,” but Holbrook called it “an exercise in futility.”

The recount, where officials will manually review each ballot, will be held at the Maine Department of Public Safety’s headquarters in Augusta. Until then, state law requires the Maine State Police to collect all ballot, keep them at a secure facility and store them in tamper-proof containers with numbered seals and locks.

Something is not better than nothing

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

“We have to do something.”

The favorite refrain of the person who doesn’t know what that something is, but is convinced we have to do it. It is the most oft repeated phrase you hear after some kind of big, important tragedy. We want to live in a world where nothing bad happens, so when something bad does occur, we tell ourselves that “something must change.”

The problem, of course, is that public policy is complicated, the world is a largely terrible place, and what we do to fix a problem we all agree upon oftentimes does nothing to solve it, while creating a whole host of horrendously bad side effects.

So, it was inevitable after the shooting in Orlando that the calls to “do something” would grow in number, and our dutiful leaders in Washington would strive to “do something” to make us all feel like “something was done.”

Which is exactly why we get meaningless, ultimately pointless policy solutions from lawmakers. Achieving a real substantive and meaningful change is far less important than convincing the voters that you “did something.”

It doesn’t have to be “something” that would have actually contributed to stopping the tragedy we just lived through, mind you. In fact, it almost never would have. All that matters is that it is “something.”

And so we now hear the Washingtonian rhetoric circulating around “keeping terrorists from buying guns” by banning the sale of weapons to people on the U.S. government’s no-fly list.

First, a primer. There are actually several lists that people confuse here. There is the “no fly” list, of course, which contains about 81,000 people and 1,000 Americans. Then there is the “selectee” list, which allows somebody to fly, but triggers an intense and incredibly high level of security screening.

That is the list that Mikey Hicks, an eight-year-old boy, has been on basically since he was born, and has still not been able to get off. Somebody named Michael Hicks, apparently, once made the Department of Homeland Security nervous, and as a result Mikey was subject to full-body pat downs when he was a two-year-old.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Tuesday during a bipartisan news conference on a compromise gun control proposal. Yuri Gripas | Reuters

Democrats want to ban anyone on any of these lists from purchasing a firearm. Sen. Susan Collins, who has sponsored a compromise bill, has, to her credit, attempted to restrict the ban more tightly.

But any “list ban” remains a terrible idea, no matter how tightly it is restricted. If any such legislation passed, it would make no difference in gun violence in the United States.

It certainly would not have stopped the Orlando shooter, who was not on the no fly list, passed two separate background checks, and had a Florida license to carry a firearm. Nevermind having survived a deep FBI investigation.

Under those circumstances, why does anyone think “increased background checks” would do anything? If the FBI lets somebody like this off the hook after a full scale investigation, what exactly would a background check have done? But I digress.

The problem with legislation like this is far more than simply being a cosmetic solution that won’t fix the identified problem — in this case, mass shootings. It has a deeper flaw relating to due process that should send a chill up your spine.

Why? The legislation eliminates a constitutionally protected right without due process, then essentially forces a citizen to prove they are not a criminal and are entitled to that protected right.

The fact that the ACLU and the NRA are apparently both on the same side against the no-fly list being used as a means to remove your right to a firearm should be your first clue that this is a dangerous idea.

Earlier this week, ACLU National Security Project director Hina Shamsi blasted the idea, saying, “The standards for inclusion on the No Fly List are unconstitutionally vague, and innocent people are blacklisted without a fair process to correct government error.”

There is talk now of including a provision for speedy review if you are flagged. Don’t count me among the people who are optimistic about the government’s ability or interest in speed, however. People have erroneously been on the no fly and watch lists for years with no recourse.

But more fundamentally, it flips the standard American presumption of innocence and essentially puts the burden on a U.S. citizen to, in the words of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, “prove that they are innocent” in order to enjoy a constitutionally protected right.

The implications are frightening. And maybe you think those frightening implications are less frightening because you don’t like guns. Fine, but imagine this being your First Amendment right under debate, then ask yourself if it is a big deal.

The failed campaign for a new Maine casino was very messy

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where new documents filed with a state ethics panel give us an inside look at a rushed, expensive and ultimately unsuccessful campaign by a developer to get a new casino in southern Maine.

The effort was funded by more than $2 million from the sister of Las Vegas casino developer Shawn Scott, who would have had the only opportunity for the license under the proposed referendum question.

Signature-gathering to get on the ballot ramped up in December, just over a month before more than 61,000 signatures were due. It led to complaints of misleading tactics and allegations of nonpayment.

Organizers submitted more than 91,000 signatures, but more than half were rejected by Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. His decision to keep the question off the ballot was upheld by a state judge.

The campaign, which hasn’t granted media interviews, hasn’t said whether or not it will try again in 2017, but its ballot question committee is still active with nearly $681,000 on hand as of May’s end.

But a new complaint to the Maine Ethics Commission about that committee — named Horseracing Jobs Fairness — gives us a look at just how messy this campaign was.

It came from Hiram Asmuth, the owner of Encore Political Services, an Oregon company that was hired by Silver Bullet, a Wyoming contractor, to run a Portland signature-gathering office for the campaign. Among other things, he alleges that the campaign owes his company nearly $300,000 in reimbursements.

The commission is unlikely to weigh in on the complaint, which Executive Director Jonathan Wayne called a byproduct of “finger-pointing.”

In an advisory letter to commissioners, he said “it appears that communications” between the committee and consultants “have broken down” and advised against an investigation. His office only has jurisdiction over the accuracy of campaign finance reports and not over issues of potential nonpayment.

The response from Bruce Merrill, a Portland lawyer who represents Horseracing Jobs Fairness, rejects Asmuth’s allegations, but it also illuminates the rushed nature of the campaign a bit more than we were able to early in the year.

Merrill writes that Silver Bullet was hired under a December contract to hire three independent contractors, including Encore and Lewiston-based Olympic Consulting, to gather signatures at a 70 percent validity rate.

Payments were usually routed through Silver Bullet to those companies, but by mid-January, “the three teams were spending more on expenditures faster than (Silver Bullet) could reimburse them,” so the campaign reimbursed them directly.

Other than that, however, Merrill says payment issues were between Silver Bullet and the subcontractors, although he says that the committee is “unable to accurately determine whether” Silver Bullet and the “subcontractors furthered the goal” of getting on the ballot.

The ethics panel will discuss this on June 29. It may be interesting, even if there’s no investigation. — Michael Shepherd

Former LePage commissioner dies at 71

Former Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Darryl Brown died this weekend at his Livermore Falls home. He was 71.

Brown, a former legislator who once served as president of the National Rural Water Association, was most recently the chairman of a Franklin County economic development corporation. He was an early figure in Gov. Paul LePage’s administration.

He resigned from the Maine DEP in 2011, after Attorney General Bill Schneider called him unqualified to fill the role because he owned a consulting firm that dealt with the department. After that, LePage ended up pushing successfully for a law change that would have allowed Brown to serve.

After that, Brown served LePage briefly as director of the State Planning Office before resigning later in 2011, saying his work was complete in overseeing recommendations to turn that now-defunct agency into the Office of Policy and Management.

Brown, a Richmond native, is survived by his wife, Penny, three children and eight grandchildren. A funeral service is scheduled for Saturday in Farmington. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits
  • Gov. Paul LePage will hold a town hall at Richmond High School tonight from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, will host a town hall on addiction treatment and resources at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor on June 28 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. — Michael Shepherd
Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist

LePage threatens to end food stamp program in Maine

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage is turning his attention to eradicating the use of … ethanol?

On Monday, the governor ordered state agencies to study health risks to humans from the combustion of ethanol in gasoline as well as the effect on emissions when the percentage of ethanol in gasoline is increased. The governor also established a “purchasing preference” for state agencies for gasoline that includes 5 percent or less of ethanol.

Ethanol, which is made from corn or sugarcane, is the same kind of alcohol that’s in your cocktail. It’s probably also in your gas tank. (I know, I know. For some of you that constitutes alcohol abuse.)

The U.S. and Brazil lead the world when it comes to mixing ethanol with gasoline. The use of ethanol — first required by Congress in the 2005 Energy Policy Act — was started as a way to reduce dependence on oil and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2007, Maine banned the use of MtBE, another gasoline additive, over pollution and public health risk concerns and replaced it with ethanol. New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island have enacted similar bans on MtBE.

In an executive order, LePage ordered the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Environmental Protection to produce a report on ethanol to him by Jan. 1, 2017. It’s unclear how the study will be funded or what LePage intends to do with the results.

The fight against ethanol in Maine isn’t new. In 2013, a group of anti-ethanol bills went through the Legislature with varying degrees of success. One of the enacted bills, which received strong Republican support and was signed by LePage, would ban the use of ethanol in gasoline if at least 10 states or any number of states with a total population of 30 million people did the same. That hasn’t happened yet. The Legislature also passed a bill that prohibited the sale of gasoline in Maine that contains more than 10 percent ethanol.

Why? The LePage administration has said it’s in response to constituents and lawmakers.

This would be a great opportunity for a soundtrack but all the “gasoline” songs I know have adult content and this is a family friendly blog. Sort of. What I mean by “sort of” is that here’s a pro-alcohol song from the great Mojo Nixon that has a few naughty words in it. — Christopher Cousins

LePage threatens to end food stamp program in Maine

Gov. Paul LePage has written to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to say that if the USDA won’t allow Maine to restrict food stamps from being used to purchase sugary foods and drinks, he’ll do it anyway or withdraw from the food stamp program altogether.

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett discussed the letter today during a radio appearance on WVOM. LePage’s office had not responded to a request for a copy of the June 17 letter from LePage by the time of this writing.

“It’s time for the federal government to wake up and smell the energy drinks,” wrote LePage, according to a reading of the letter on the radio. “Doubtful that it will, I will be pursuing options to implement reforms unilaterally or cease Maine’s administration of the food stamp program altogether.”

According to Bennett, the state asked the federal government for a waiver so it could create a pilot program that wouldn’t allow food stamps, which are paid for by the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to be used for the purchase of “junk food.” That waiver request was denied, she said.

“We have a responsibility; these are taxpayer dollars,” said Bennett. “We need to ensure that the most healthy foods are being purchased with food stamps.”

The LePage administration requested permission to ban junk food purchases with food stamps in November 2015. That was after the Maine Legislature rejected LePage proposals to take that step in 2013 and 2015. Approximately 200,000 Mainers receive food stamps, down from a high of more than 250,000 in 2012.

Bennett argued that the federal government sends mixed messages when it comes to nutrition and the use of food stamps. On one hand, the Obama administration has long called for healthier public school menus and the USDA has offered grants aimed at improving the purchase of fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, federal rules don’t allow states to restrict what is purchased with food stamps.

Bennett acknowledged that LePage’s threat to end Maine’s administration of the program is an extreme position.

“The governor understands what he needs to do to get the federal government’s attention and he is drawing attention to this issue,” she said. “It’s important for the folks who are using the benefits to make good choices. … He’s asking for a compromise and we think it’s a reasonable compromise.”

To date, no state has been allowed to restrict the purchase of junk food with food stamps. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list A magical lesson from the 5-year-old

My five-year-old has adopted a new way of protesting things that he doesn’t want to do. Just in the past few days:

“Lucas, please get dressed.” “Sorcery!” he yelled.

“Lucas, we have to brush your hair. It’s swooshy.” “Sorcery!”

“Lucas, it’s time to grab your back pack and get clipped into the car so I can take you to day care.” “This is sorcery!” he said as he stomped out of the house this morning, hair all swooshy.

I don’t know where he picked up that word but I’m working on a response. In the past I’ve used “because I’m the dad,” but that’s a little arbitrary and I like to give my kids reasons behind my edicts. But maybe he’s on to something.

“Daddy, why do I have to try broccoli?”

“Because SORCERY! Now eat it!” 

Maybe I’ll need a wand for this? — Christopher Cousins

Can Republicans unite after divisive Maine Senate primary?

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where we’re still watching for fallout from last Tuesday’s primary election.

On the Republican side, the race that has made the most noise was in Sagadahoc County, where Sen. Linda Baker, R-Topsham, a moderate, was ousted by the Gov. Paul LePage-endorsed Guy Lebida of Bowdoin by 40 votes.

It has led to a bit of a fracture in the party: Bowdoin’s Baker-supporting town Republican chairman quit after the result and Lance Dutson, a Republican strategist who has started a group critical of LePage, hit him for “sabotage” of the race and said it could cost the party the Maine Senate.

It’s a critical seat for Republicans, who hold a 20-15 edge in the Senate and may have had a tough enough path to holding onto that majority before Tuesday. Lebida has called for party unity, saying on Facebook that it’s “time to mend fences.”

But the premise from moderates is that Lebida, a staunch conservative, may not be able to beat Democrat Eloise Vitelli — who Baker beat in 2014 by five points only after a Green candidate siphoned off 10 percent of votes — in November in Sagadahoc County and Dresden, a district that leans Democratic.

Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, backed Baker, who he helped recruit for the 2014 race. But he put his best face forward in a Monday interview, saying Dutson is “much more pessimistic” about the party’s chances than he is.

“We feel bad that Senator Baker didn’t win,” Thibodeau said, “but the people have chosen Mr. Lebida, so I’m sure he’s going to work hard.”

What he wouldn’t say is whether the party will back Lebida as much as they would have backed Baker, answering a question on that topic by saying, “We support every Republican candidate.”

That’ll be something worth scrutinizing as November approaches. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits Reading list A Trump commercial you can’t un-see

I’ll forgo Craigslist to present you with something you need to see: A Japanese-style Trump propaganda commercial.

It starts with a girl stroking a picture of Trump, before she flies and skips through a Trump universe, getting a hug from the billonaire before he turns into a robot, flies into space and destroys the world.

It’s just the way to start your work week. Here’s your soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd

Clean Elections was a big winner in Maine’s primaries

Mike Tipping - Bangor Daily News -

Rep. Ben Chipman is all smiles Tuesday night in Portland as his supporters clap in honor of his victory in the Senate District 27 Democratic primary over Rep. Diane Russell and Dr. Charles Radis. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Maine’s newly-revamped system of public campaign financing was successful in a wide range of contests across the state on Tuesday, with a majority of Clean Elections candidates winning in primary races where they were matched against privately-financed opponents.

Clean Elections candidates won eight of thirteen such match-ups for the State Senate and four of seven State House contests.

These result are particularly noteworthy given that primary candidates running Clean are limited to a single disbursement, unlike in general election races where they can collect more $5 checks from district voters to qualify for additional public funds. The primary is therefore, theoretically, the part of the electoral cycle where they should be at the greatest disadvantage.

These graphs from Darren Fishell make the results even more clear. As you can see, the two highest-spending Democratic state senate candidates, Rep. Diane Russell of Portland and Rep. Barry Hobbins of Saco (who together account for almost 40% of all money spent in Democratic senate races this year) both lost to Clean Elections opponents.

On the Republican side, the race with the highest overall spending saw Clean Elections candidate Rep. Rick Long edge out privately-funded and establishment-backed candidate Emily Smith, despite a nearly $2,000 spending disadvantage.

That’s not to say that public financing was the deciding factor in all those races, nor did Clean Elections candidates win across the board. Several contests went the other way, including in Portland where privately-funded Rep. Mark Dion won a Democratic primary over Clean Elections candidate Jill Duson. On the Republican side, incumbent State Senator Linda Baker, using Clean Elections, lost to upstart, LePage-backed candidate Guy Lebida of Topsham, who ran a privately-financed campaign.

Overal. however, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections executive director Andrew Bossie is right to note that “the results of Tuesday’s primary elections indicate that Clean Election candidates can be competitive when facing privately financed candidates, even when outspent.”

In most cases (with the notable exception of the District 27 Democratic Primary in Portland) the use of Clean Elections or private financing not did not become a major public issue in the campaigns, but some other advantages probably came into play for those who ran Clean. It’s likely that they were prompted to engage more directly with a broader range of their constituents early in the campaign in order to gather qualifying contributions, and, once qualified, they were probably able to spend a greater proportion of their time than their opponents on direct voter contact rather than continued fundraising..

While Maine’s Clean Elections Act was strengthened and re-endorsed by voters in the referendum last year, this year Governor Paul LePage vetoed of a measure to ensure adequate funding for the program by paying back some of the money that has been “borrowed” from its accounts by past legislatures. Republicans upheld the veto and also blocked a Democratic proposal to fund the program by closing corporate tax loopholes, as the referendum required, instead preferring to rely on disbursements from the General Fund.

Clean Elections officials are cautiously optimistic that current funds will suffice for the current cycle.


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