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After obscene tirade, LePage challenges Democrat to a duel

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage is on the heels of a very bad couple of days, punctuated yesterday by an obscene voicemail to a Democratic lawmaker.

As you’ve read here and elsewhere, on Wednesday, the governor made a series of racially charged comments, including a reprise of comments he made in January about black and Hispanic drug dealers bringing heroin to Maine and impregnating white girls while they’re here.

The governor repeated the comments at a town hall in North Berwick on Wednesday night, then defended them Thursday in an interview with reporters at the Blaine House. Scott Thistle of the Portland Press Herald was one of them.

But that’s not all, according to Thistle’s reporting. After a reporter told LePage at the State House that Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook had criticized LePage’s comments, LePage left a obscene message on Gattine’s voicemail.
“I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son-of-a-bitch, socialist c**ksucker,” said LePage, according to audio of the call. “I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you.”

LePage also told Thistle he would like to have a gun duel with Gattine and that he’d point his gun “right between” Gattine’s eyes.

Gattine, a second-term lawmaker and co-chair of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, has long clashed with LePage and his administration, particularly on health care issues. More clashes are near certain in the coming two years, with LePage finishing his second term and Gattine headed to re-election unopposed.

Gattine told the BDN this morning that calling someone a racist “is one of the worst things you could ever call a person and I have never called anyone that.”

“I don’t think racially charged remarks like that are at all helpful for trying to solve the crisis we have with heroin overdoses,” said Gattine. “The biggest problem we have right now is not getting addicts the treatment they need. … I’m not going to throw fuel on the fire by making this about name calling.”

Gattine said he will continue to oppose some of LePage’s and Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew’s initiatives related to dealing with Maine’s drug addiction crisis, including a pending DHHS Medicaid rule change that advocates for drug treatment centers said will drive some out of operation.

House Democratic leaders quickly condemned LePage’s comments in a prepared statement containing some of their harshest criticism yet of the governor.

“Paul LePage is not mentally or emotionally fit to hold office,” reads the statement. “His words and actions have crossed a line. Threats of violence are never acceptable and cannot be tolerated in civilized society.”

LePage’s office has not responded to questions from the Bangor Daily News about his recent comments.

Also on Wednesday, LePage told radio show host Howie Carr that Khizr Kahn, the father of a Muslim captain who died fighting for the U.S. Army and who is campaigning against Donald Trump, is a “con artist.” It’s another story circulating across the country. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits
  • Presidential ticket visit: Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson and his running mate, William Weld, will visit Portland and Lewiston today. They will be at the Regency Hotel & Spa in Portland at 11:30 a.m. and at the Gendron Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston at 6 p.m. Space is limited for both events. Watch us for coverage.
  • Educators honored: Four Maine educators are among 213 math and science teachers recognized by President Barack Obama recently with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science. The winners from Maine are Lauree Gott from Veazie Community School; Laura Stevens of James Otis Kaler Elementary School in South Portland; Marielle Edgecomb from the Peninsula School in Prospect Harbor; and Cary James from Bangor High School. The awards, with the teachers will collect on Sept. 8 at the White House, come with a $10,000 prize from the National Science Foundation to be used at the teachers’ discretion.
Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist
  • A man is “looking for a very attractive woman who would be willing to take a few photos with my car.” If you’re interested, you’ll have to wear “bikini or lingerie preferably or some sort of sexy outfit.” But don’t worry: “This is only for my personal use and most likely will be hung on the wall of my garage.” Here’s your soundtrack.
  • A Portland hard rock band is looking for “a kick ass drummer.” “420 friendly but please no addicts,” they say, helpfully. — Michael Shepherd

New controversy erupts over LePage comments about Muslim, blacks, Hispanics

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta. In two speaking appearances Wednesday, Gov. Paul LePage put himself back in the center of two race-related controversies, one he started and one touched off by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Trump prompted a national outcry and widespread condemnation in July when he criticized Khizr Khan, who spoke against Trump at the Democratic National Convention. Trump also questioned why Khan’s wife appeared on stage but did not speak at the convention.

The Khans’ 27-year-old son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in 2004 by a suicide bomber while deployed in Iraq. The Khans have become nationally known and continue to speak out against Trump.

LePage doesn’t like it and said so Wednesday on the Howie Carr radio show, which you can hear by clicking here. LePage’s interview, which touched on several topics, begins about 57 minutes in.

The governor’s comments about Khan came during a discussion of Adnan Fazeli, an immigrant from Iran who became a follower of the Islamic State while living in Maine before travelling to Turkey. Fazeli died on the Lebanese border while fighting on behalf of the Islamic State, a radical Muslim group that demonizes Western culture.

Carr equated Fazeli to the Tsarnaev brothers, who bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013. LePage agreed.

“[Fazeli] is just another version of [the Tsarnaev brothers], then there are the mighty powerful ones like Mr. Kahn who is a con artist himself,” said LePage. “He uses the death of his son who is an American soldier which we respect and honor and he uses that to go after Trump, which I find very distasteful. then we find out that he’s a law partner with guess who? The attorney general of the United States.”

The Khan comment was brought to light — to me at least — in a Tweet from Gerald Weinand, who has long been a harsh critic of LePage.

@DWLODKOWSKI Someone needs to ask @Governor_LePage why he called Khizr Khan a "con artist" on Howie Carr Show an hour ago #mepolitics

— Gerald Weinand (@DirigoBlue) August 24, 2016

At his weekly town hall forum Wednesday evening in North Berwick, LePage revived inflammatory comments made a previous town hall in January alleging that black drug dealers from outside Maine sell their drugs and impregnate white girls while they are here. The new comments appear in a report from Scott Thistle of the Portland Press Herald, which you can read by clicking here.

LePage said that since his January comments, which received national attention, he has kept a three-ring binder with information about alleged drug traffickers arrested in Maine. He said more than 90 percent of them “are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Connecticut, the Bronx and Brooklyn.”

“There are a whole lot of white girls, too, a whole lot of white girls,” LePage reportedly said. “In fact, in almost every single picture is a white Maine girl in the picture.”

Both of these comments came amid long, detailed and measured discussions about a range of important issues facing Maine. LePage will undoubtedly defend himself, as he has in the past, by accusing the media of focusing on the proverbial tree instead of the forest. The town hall comments drew immediate criticism.

“I’m disgusted that Paul LePage came to my town to make racially charged comments that will do nothing more than divide our state,” said Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves in a written statement. Eves lives in North Berwick but had previously said he did not plan to attend LePage’s forum.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine also chimed in.

LePage says 90% of drug dealers coming to ME are black, and he keeps a list. Here's our statement. #mepolitics pic.twitter.com/FXG0090XaN

— ACLU of Maine (@ACLUMaine) August 25, 2016

We’ve reached out to LePage’s communications staff for an explanation of the Khan comments but have not yet heard back. We’ll also see if we can take a look at his scrapbook. You’ll read about it here if we do. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list Mixing Ripple wine and Southern Comfort: ‘Purple Jesus Party’

Amid all of LePage’s public comments on Wednesday was a less-than-serious exchange with Howie Carr during a discussion about the referendum on the November ballot to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine. LePage said, as he has in the past that he experimented with pot as a young man but prefers beer and wine. He said in college, he and his buddies mixed Ripple wine — a cheap, high-alcohol vino — with Southern Comfort whiskey. They called the concoction ‘Purple Jesus Party,’ which Urban Dictionary says is actually a thing.

“We had a great time,” said LePage.

“Pouring Southern Comfort into wine?” said Carr. “That’s really weird, governor, no offense.”

LePage (laughing): “It worked really fast, too.”

I’m not about to try a Purple Jesus Party but I will disclose, in the interest of fairness, that I was once handed a drink in college that consisted of cheap brandy and melted Fla-Vor-Ice. We were out of mixers.

I drank it but hadn’t admitted that until now. Here’s our soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

Mark Holbrook: Just ‘hold your nose’ and vote for me and Trump

Mike Tipping - Bangor Daily News -

Holbrook campaign photo

It may not be the compelling campaign slogan in Maine political history, but you can’t fault First-District Republican congressional candidate Mark Holbrook for his directness.

“If we want to make this country safe and great again and take the state of Maine forward, close your eyes, hold your nose, do whatever you need to do, but let’s unify around the candidates to get Trump across the finish line and get me across the finish line,” Holbrook said at a pig roast in Newcastle on Saturday, according to the Lincoln County News.

Holbrook, known for his extreme views and harsh rhetoric, is making an appeal for party unity after winning a close Republican primary.

In July, Clinton outraises Trump in Maine fivefold

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign had its biggest fundraising haul yet in July as Republican Donald Trump’s fundraising grew slightly, at about one-fifth of Clinton’s draw.

The latest fundraising figures reflect a slower acceleration in fundraising for the Trump campaign in Maine, but they also skew toward showing larger donors.

The reports only reflect amounts for donors who have given $200 or more, or who campaigns expect may give that amount and have decided to disclose.

Clinton’s campaign clearly had an earlier start in the state, which puts a lot more donors in that camp, but the disparity in fundraising clearly has some other factors.

As we’ve reported before, Maine Republican donors clearly preferred a number of other candidates. While the Republican field was much deeper, the same remains true on the Democratic side, where Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders still had more itemized contributions on file than Clinton through July.

The raw numbers are also affected by available pool of funds for either side of the aisle. A town-by-town view shows that in most towns itemized contributions to Democratic candidates have outnumbered those to Republican presidential candidates.

Paul LePage’s daughter among new hires by the Trump campaign

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has added two staffers in Maine as it continues to build out its ground game in the run-up to the Nov. 8 election.

The Republican’s campaign announced Wednesday that it has hired Leland Graves of Bangor as its deputy state director for Maine and Lauren LePage of Waterville as its coalitions director. The two new staffers will work with Trump’s Maine state director, Christie-Lee McNally, who was named to the position a few weeks ago.

“We have assembled a strong team of campaign staffers that is committed to building the grassroots enthusiasm that we saw in the primary that will turn out the votes that we need to win Maine in November,” said McNally in a written statement. “The Trump-Pence Maine team and the Maine GOP will be working with volunteers all across Maine to take Mr. Trump’s message directly to all Mainers.”

Graves is a graduate of the University of Maine who has worked on campaigns for state Senate Republicans. In 2015, he was named to the Maine Republican Party’s “40 under 40″ list of up-and-comers.

LePage, daughter of Republican Gov. Paul LePage, is a third-year law student at the University of Maine School of Law and the former director of Maine People Before Politics, a political advocacy group that worked to advance her father’s agenda. She has also been an employee in the governor’s office, including services as assistant to the chief of staff.

Paul LePage has become an ardent supporter of Trump, but only after his initial choices, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, pulled out of the competition to become the Republican presidential nominee.

Trump is in the midst of building up his state staff nationwide amid consternation from some Republicans that the hires, along with the launch of a television ad campaign, should have happened months ago. The campaign doubled its spending in July but still lags far behind Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s initial state-level hirings were confined to battleground states. The Maine hires indicate that Trump is hopeful to win at least one of Maine’s four electoral votes.

The great north sham

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

Well it is finally happening.

With the time ticking away on President Barack Obama’s term in office, it was only a matter of time before it happened. Roxanne Quimby has now transferred more than 87,000 acres of land to the federal government, which was followed in short order by a designation of the land as a so-called “national monument.”

The dream of that national monument is of course really a dream for a national park and preserve, and the 87,000 acres is hardly the end of the dream for Quimby and her boosters.

Quimby made her first land purchase in July 2001, purchasing more than 8,500 acres in Piscataquis County. At the time of the purchase, she disclosed her real motives: to create a 3.2 million acre national park in Maine, known as the Maine Woods National Park and Preserve.

She cobbled together more land with a $12 million purchase in November 2003 of more than 24,000 acres near Baxter State Park.

All along, she made clear that she had no interest in Maine’s forest industry, had no interest in the outdoor legacy of hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and other traditional uses for the land. She also made clear that people who had camps leased on the land, and had always been allowed to have those camps, were going to see their leases cancelled.

Then the gambit got truly serious in 2010, when Quimby was appointed to the National Park Foundation board of directors. This put her in a position to lobby from the inside for a future park, and allowed her the access necessary to convince President Obama that he should begin the process by designating her land as a national monument.

At that point, this entire exercise was basically academic. She had all the right friends in all the right places, and her dream of federal land in Maine was going to happen. It was only a matter of time.

It didn’t matter that it would take giant swaths of land and forever take them out of the Maine economy.

It didn’t matter that the promises of jobs and economic activity from a park were speculative, likely never to be realized, and used to sell a bad idea to a desperate group of people who have seen their economic vitality decimated over the course of decades.

It doesn’t matter that the statistics that are used to sell the park, particularly the statistics that center on economic activity that will be generated, and the return on a dollar of investment, proposals of such have been as preposterous as $10 of activity for every one invested. This is nonsense.

It doesn’t matter that  the local population remained very strongly opposed to the concept of a national park in northern Maine.

It doesn’t matter that the transfer of land and ownership is only the beginning, and that more will be coming at some point, possibly even from a federal land grab. Historically, national parks have grabbed adjacent land over and over again.

It doesn’t matter that any national park would require a tremendous amount of government spending on infrastructure and people to even get it ready to be a park in the first place, and be used.

It doesn’t matter that in any best-case scenario, the usage of this park will be extremely low, particularly in comparison to Acadia National Park, and even if it does generate any momentum, it will not be visited enough to turn northern Maine into some kind of economic paradise.

It doesn’t matter that, if she really wanted to preserve this land for Maine people, she should turn her land over to Baxter State Park and allow Maine people, not national bureaucrats, to manage the land.

None of that matters. All that matters is that Quimby wanted it. She found the right access to powerful people to make it happen, and now it is going to happen.

Yes, the land is her land. That is the familiar refrain from all people who support what Quimby is doing. And they’re right, she can do whatever she wants with land she legally owns and has purchased in good faith.

Yet, what happens to the land after it no longer belongs to her is, in fact, a subject that is in bounds for us to talk about, and there is no argument that what she, and now the federal government want to do with that land is wrong for the people of northern Maine.

LePage conservation chief: ‘Swampy woodlands’ should not be a national park

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where Tuesday’s announcement that Roxanne Quimby gave 87,000 acres to the federal government — which appears to be a big step toward a national monument designation in the Katahdin region — continues to cause reverberations in Maine and beyond. This has been a development that’s been brewing for years and for many, it was expected.

“I knew it was going to happen about a year ago,” said Rep. Stephen Stanley, a Democrat from Medway who has been a leading opponent of the monument designation. “Now that it’s happening, let’s just move on and look for something positive in it.”

Stanley and others expect President Barack Obama to sign an executive order creating the monument by week’s end, which will trigger a long development process — and possibly court challenges if Gov. Paul LePage or other opponents decide to pursue them. Check out the BDN’s comprehensive coverage in the Daily Brief Reading List, below. Here’s a soundtrack for all you folks who didn’t want the monument. Darn it, now I’m going to have to listen to that whole album. Here’s a soundtrack for the supporters. 

Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Walt Whitcomb talked about his opposition this morning on WVOM, suggesting the land that has been transferred falls short of the scenic beauty of some of Maine’s other conserves lands and said the impact on the forest products industry could be “frightening and upsetting.”

“It isn’t exactly Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon,” said Whitcomb. “It’s flat woodlands and much of it is swampy woodlands. It’s just very unrealistic to think that’s going to be more popular than driving through Sebec and other places where we have trees.”

On the immediate political horizon is LePage’s town hall meeting tonight in North Berwick — 6 p.m. at Noble High School — which is the hometown of his top nemesis in the Legislature: Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, who has a federal lawsuit pending against the governor. Eves said he will not attend tonight’s forum because of a family commitment. The governor is spending a lot of time in Eves’ backyard. LePage held a town hall in Sanford — which is adjacent North Berwick — on Aug. 17.

Eves, who is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election, has been on his own listening tour recently to discuss issues facing Maine’s older citizens. The latest installment of that tour was Tuesday in Damariscotta. LePage dismissed Eves, again, during an interview Tuesday on WVOM. LePage said with Eves termed out, he is no longer “a player” in politics. Of the listening tour, LePage said this:

“Well see how that ends up.” – Christopher Cousins

1,500 turn out for Augusta prayer rally

Capitol Park in Augusta drew a large crowd Tuesday when evangelist Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association came to town. Graham’s “Decision America Tour” — which is visiting 50 capitals — purports to not be endorsing any presidential candidate, though Graham appeared alongside Donald Trump recently in flood-ravaged Louisiana.

Graham’s non-endorsement is significant. His father, Billy Graham, wielded considerable sway over a string of presidents and other evangelists have not been afraid to speak out politically. Jerry Falwell Jr., for example, spoke at this year’s Republican National Convention.

Anyway, Graham said Tuesday in Augusta he has “no hope” in either political party but urged evangelicals to vote and run for office, comparing progressivism to communism because they are both “godless.”

The evangelical vote, which typically leans decidedly Republican, could be crucial for Trump’s chances to take the White House. Conservative Christian voters in Maine do not appear to have warmed to Trump, as evidenced by their significant roll in his loss to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Maine’s caucuses.

But with Trump as the Republican presidential nominee, some Maine evangelicals will vote for him despite misgivings about whether his positions align with their core values. Among them will be Cate Kennedy Marsden of Enfield, who was at Tuesday’s rally.

“I’ll hold my nose and go to the polls” to vote for Trump, she said. Even though the nominee is “very arrogant” and prone to “diarrhea of the mouth,” she likes his patriotism and stance on radical Islam. Plus, she is not a fan of Hillary Clinton.

“I wouldn’t let her babysit my dog,” said Marsden. — Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd

Quick hits
  • The Maine Heritage Policy Center will host Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action today during its 2016 Freedom & Opportunity Luncheon today at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. Cox has been a leading Second Amendment proponent for more than a decade. The center will award its 2016 Freedom & Opportunity Award to Rupert and Suzanne Grover, founders of Grover Gundrilling in Norway for their commitment to improving Maine’s economic well-being.
  • Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin is holding a roundtable discussion in Ellsworth today about what he called “unpredictable” enforcement measures on shellfish, worm and seaweed harvesters near Acadia National Park. The event begins at 6 p.m. at Ellsworth City Hall.
  • Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King is on a three-day fact-finding mission to Greenland, where he is examining environmental and security implications of climate change in the arctic. Check out a video statement he released on Tuesday if you’re interested. And here’s one from Monday.
Reading list The coolest most horrific thing I’ve seen on the internet today

When I flipped open the computer this morning, one of the first things I saw was this YouTube video of how Keith Richards’ face has changed over the years. At first I thought it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen, but I’ve changed my mind. It is one of the most disturbing things I have seen (especially Keith through the mid 1970s).

Meet Keith’s gaze through 54 years of his faces. If you can. — Christopher Cousins

 

LePage targets hybrid, electric cars in ‘free ride’ gas tax discussion

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage targeted ways to ensure drivers of electric cars are contributing their fair share to the cost of maintaining roads on Tuesday.

LePage’s comments came during his weekly radio appearance on WVOM amid a discussion about a trip to Boston the governor has scheduled next week on the expansion of electric car charging stations.

The bulk of road maintenance costs for state and federal highways come from the gas tax. The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon; Maine charges an additional 30 cents a gallon, which ranks the state roughly in the middle of the pack nationally.

Electric cars and hybrids — which use a mix of gasoline and battery power — don’t pay as much gas tax as drivers of traditional cars because they don’t burn as much gas. Numerous states are grappling with the problem.

“Hybrids are getting a free ride on our roads,” LePage said. “The Legislature is going to have to address: ‘How do they share in paying for our roads?'”

The governor did not offer a concrete proposal, but he said an increase in the sales tax on automobiles or an increase in excise taxes could be solutions.

During the 2014 Maine Transportation Conference, LePage said he opposed raising the state gas tax, but would be open to raising the federal tax, which hasn’t been raised since 1993. Maine has a significant maintenance backlog for roads and bridges and lawmakers here and elsewhere have been struggling with how to fund those projects in an era of more fuel-efficient cars and declining gas tax revenues.

LePage also raised a related issue that he has long discussed: Whether municipalities are using all of their excise tax revenues to fix local roads. Excise taxes are paid in your annual vehicle registration. Maine towns and cities bring in some $200 million or more annually in excise taxes.

LePage said he suspects larger service center communities are using the money elsewhere — which he said is what happened when he was mayor of Waterville before becoming governor.

“The excise tax was intended for roads,” he said. “They’re not spending nearly what they get in for our local roads.”

Augusta lawmakers have debated numerous solutions in recent years, including increasing the state gas tax and funding some road and bridge maintenance with bonds, but have not yet settled on a remedy. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits
  • The Maine Democratic Party named Katie Mae Simpson its new executive director on Sunday. She’s a longtime party operative who ran Emerge Maine, a program that trains Democratic women to run for office, for four years before managing Shenna Bellows’ unsuccessful run against U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in 2014. Simpson replaces Jeremy Kennedy, who left his job with the party in June for a position in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
  • U.S. Sen. Angus King is in Greenland this week on a fact-finding mission around climate change. The independent’s three-day trip is focused on environmental and security consequences of climate change’s impact on the Arctic. On Monday, he went to the Jacobshavn Glacier, which is one of the world’s fastest-melting glaciers, is blamed for the iceberg that sunk the Titanic was made more famous by the 2013 documentary “Chasing Ice,” which captured the longest calving event on record. King will be briefed by experts and tour an iceberg on Tuesday.
  • Evangelist Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham and head of the humanitarian group Samaritan’s Purse, will be in Capitol Park in front of the Maine State House today. It’s part of his 50-state prayer rally tour aimed at challenging Christians to “live out their faith at home, in public and at the ballot box.” Graham hasn’t endorsed a 2016 presidential candidate, but he met with Republican Donald Trump, in flood-ravaged Louisiana over the weekend. The Augusta rally starts at noon.
  • House Speaker Mark Eves’ senior listening tour will go to Damariscotta on Tuesday. The North Berwick Democrat will be at the Spectrum Generations Coastal Community Center from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the fourth stop of what has been billed as a 10-stop tour— Michael Shepherd
Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist

Why Trump’s pivot will fail

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Last week, Donald Trump said he is trying to pivot. For a few days afterwards, Trump talked somewhat differently and appeared to shift his position on immigration, the issue with which he started his campaign.

But pivoting highlights Trump’s campaign woes and probably won’t convince people who have already created impressions of him. As political scientists have found, voters form expectations based on initial knowledge. They update the information they recall about a candidate, but people rarely change how they feel.

Moreover, shifting makes Trump look like the image people have of scheming politicians rather than someone they can have confidence in when he says “believe me.”

Thus Trump is boxed in by the expectations he’s created.

Trump started as a fellow who proclaimed he’d always tell what he meant, how he wanted. His no-apologies, say-anything tone was seen in Trump’s mocking a disabled reporter, stating he didn’t respect Sen. John McCain because “he was captured,” and refusing to say he regretted his remarks about the Khans, a Gold Star family.

That approach hurt Trump with voters and political leaders. In announcing she could not support her party’s standard-bearer, Sen. Susan Collins wrote, that “the unpleasant reality that I have had to accept is that there will be no ‘new’ Donald Trump, just the same candidate who will slash and burn and trample anything and anyone he perceives as being in his way or an easy scapegoat. Regrettably, his essential character appears to be fixed, and he seems incapable of change or growth.”

More than a month after the Republican convention, Trump is in trouble in the Electoral College. According to Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, if the election were held today, Hillary Clinton would win 348 electoral votes and Trump would garner 190. Sabato ranks Maine as a whole as a “safe Democratic” state, with its 2nd Congressional District competitive but leaning Democratic.

Facing low polls and poor election prospects, Trump fired his campaign head and brought in new personnel to run his campaign. His new CEO is Stephen Bannon of Breitbart News. One of its former reporters says Bannon turned Breitbart into an “alt-right go-to website . . . pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.”

According to Washington Post reporter Danielle Paquette, Trump’s new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway’s top task is to help him do better with women voters by “nudging the Republican presidential nominee to stop insulting his critics’ looks and display more compassion.”

Operation compassion was seen the other night when Trump told rally goers that he had some “regret” with what he’d said and asked black voters “What do you have to lose?” by supporting him.

But the first element of the “show compassion” plan was undermined by the absence of an actual apology or a focus on any specific thing Trump said to any particular person. Instead, Trump offered a classic non-apology, focused less than what he said than how others might have felt about his remarks. In saying, “He has said that he wants to regret anytime he’s caused somebody personal pain by saying something that he didn’t intend to cause personal pain. And I think those who have received it privately should take that expression of regret,” Conway’s convoluted elaboration to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos was no better in expressing sincere remorse.

Trump’s poll standing among African-Americans has been dismal. Trump is below where Mitt Romney was with these voters and is in fourth place, behind Clinton, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, with support ranging around only 1 percent to 2 percent. Those voters know Trump’s birtherism and a long history, going back to Trump being sued for housing discrimination in the early 1970s. They are unlikely to be moved by a candidate who inaccurately depicts black Americans as poor and uneducated.

It may be that Trump’s comments about black people are rather meant to move centrist voters who found him offensive and racist. But, given their expectations, they may see new rhetoric as a dubious campaign conversion.

Rather, such remarks will instead cement support from some backing Trump. After everything that’s happened in this campaign, unless he disappoints them on immigration, Trump should be able to expect their unwavering support.

Maine Democrats have the advantage in unopposed legislative races

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Democrats’ efforts to keep their majority in the House of Representatives through the November elections is helped by the fact that at least 11 Democrats are running unopposed, compared with 4 unopposed seats for Republicans. The Secretary of State’s office has said another Republican candidate also intends to withdraw but hasn’t yet submitted paperwork to do so.

There were four additional House seats with Republican incumbents running against independents with no Democrats in the race.

The Aug. 30 deadline for candidates to withdraw and have their names deleted from the November ballots isn’t until next week. It is too late to have candidates added. That means who is participating in legislative races is nearly set in stone.

The balance of power in the House of Representatives is currently 78 Democrats, 69 Republicans and four independents.

The following Democratic House candidates are unopposed, according to the Secretary of State’s office:

  • For House District 31 in South Portland, Democrat Lois Reckitt is unopposed. That seat is currently held by Democratic Rep. Terry Morrison.
  • For House District 32 in South Portland, incumbent Democratic Rep. Scott Hamann is unopposed.
  • For House District 34 in the Westbrook area, incumbent Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine is unopposed.
  • For House District 36 in Portland, incumbent Democratic Rep. Denise Harlow is unopposed.
  • For House District 50 in Brunswick, incumbent Democratic Rep. Ralph Tucker is unopposed.
  • For House District 51 in Harpswell, incumbent Democratic Rep. Joyce McCreight is unopposed.
  • In House District 84 in Hallowell, incumbent Democratic Rep. Charlotte Warren is unopposed.
  • In House District 85 in Augusta, incumbent Democratic Rep. Donna Doore is unopposed.
  • In House District 134 in Deer Isle, incumbent Democratic Rep. Walter Kumiega is unopposed.
  • In House District 150 in Sinclair, incumbent Democratic Rep. Roland Martin is unopposed.
  • In House District 151 in Eagle Lake, incumbent Democratic Rep. John Martin is unopposed.

The following Republican House candidates are unopposed: 

  • For House District 25 in the Windham area, incumbent Republican Rep. Patrick Corey is unopposed.
  • In House District 86 in Augusta, incumbent Republican Rep. Matthew Pouliot is unopposed.
  • In House District 100 in Newport, incumbent Republican Rep. Kenneth Fredette, the House minority leader, is unopposed.
  • In House District 119 in Guilford, incumbent Republican Rep. Paul Stearns is unopposed.

There are also four House seats where independents are running against Republicans and there is no Democratic candidate: 

  • In House District 12 in Biddeford, incumbent Republican Rep. Martin Grohmann faces a challenge from independent Matthew Lauzon.
  • In House District 69 in Harrison, incumbent Republican Rep. Phyllis Ginzler faces a challenge from independent Walter Riseman.
  • In House District 82 in Monmouth, incumbent Republican Rep. Randall Adam Greenwood faces a challenge from independent Kent Ackley.
  • In House District 89 in Boothbay Harbor, incumbent Republican Rep. Stephanie Hawke faces a challenge from independent Wendy Wolf.

In the Maine Senate, there are two uncontested races, one for each major party, and two races with only one major-party candidate: 

  • Sen. Kimberly Rosen, R-Bucksport, and Sen. Nathan Libby, D-Lewiston, are both unopposed.
  • There are two incumbents facing challenges from independents. In Senate District 10 in Penobscot County, Republican Sen. Andre Cushing is being challenged by independent Dennis Marble. In Senate District 29 in Cumberland County, incumbent Democratic Sen. Rebecca Millett faces a challenge from independent Martha MacAuslan.

Approximately 10 percent of Maine House races are uncontested, which compares favorably with national data. According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, nearly one-third of races in the 46 states where legislative elections were held in 2014 were uncontested. That marked the highest percentage since 2000.

In Maine, the number of unopposed seats this year is on par with 2014, when there were 16 uncontested House races. There were eight and six uncontested races in 2010 and 2012, respectively, all but one of which, a Senate seat in 2010, were House races.

ACLU rips LePage for immigrant confidentiality breach

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where questions continue to swirl about how a Boston newspaper learned that an immigrant who radicalized in Maine and died fighting for the Islamic State in Lebanon received welfare benefits while he was here.

As you know by now if you’ve been paying attention, the Boston Herald reported last Tuesday that 38-year-old Adnan Fazeli, formerly of Freeport, collected food stamps and cash through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program until he traveled to Turkey in 2013. Fazeli was killed in January of 2015 during a firefight.

Gov. Paul LePage and other administration officials have denied that he or anyone in his administration told the Herald that Fazeli’s family was receiving welfare benefits, which is a violation of federal privacy laws. LePage and the Department of Health and Human Services said they are launching a review of “any refugee-related programs” administered in Maine in order to “determine whether the state should continue participating” in those programs.

LePage granted the Boston newspaper an interview, which has become exceedingly rare for Maine’s chief executive.

“This is very embarrassing to the state of Maine and I point the finger at the president and say, ‘how did this happen?'” said LePage to the newspaper. “If the federal government doesn’t do their job we don’t know what we’re getting.”

Making it harder for refugees and some immigrants to qualify for public assistance programs, including food stamps, TANF and state funding for General Assistance, is something LePage and some Republicans in the Legislature have been working toward for years. It’s likely a debate that will continue in January when the new Legislature is seated, but that’s a separate issue from the question of who disclosed that Fazeli was receiving benefits.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine ripped the LePage administration for the breach.

“Who knows whom the next target will be — the elderly, people with disabilities?,” said Alison Beyea, executive director of the organization. “No one should have to worry about their personal lives being leaked to the press anytime the administration wants to score political points. But if it happened to one family, it could happen to any of us.”

LePage and DHHS officials said Friday that they did not disclose the information. LePage Communications Director Peter Steele in email communications with the Bangor Daily News on Friday criticized the BDN for its “zeal to implicate the governor in a crime” and for citing Maine Equal Justice Partners, a group that advocates for low-income Mainers, as a legal authority.

In response to a series of questions and follow-up questions, Steele gave no indication that any probe is afoot to determine who is responsible for the illegal information breach. The Herald story attributed the information to “state officials.”

“Is there any effort to determine how that information got out?” the BDN asked Steele.

“As any reporter or editor worth his or her salt would know it is virtually impossible to determine who an unnamed source is,” wrote Steele, who suggested we ask the Boston Herald to reveal its source. We did and there was no response.

“With such newfound concern over confidential sources, we certainly hope the BDN will reveal all of their unnamed sources in future stories,” wrote Steele.

Whether another shoe will drop in this matter remains to be seen. It seems that the federal government would be the entity to decide whether to enforce a federal law.

What could that lead to? Possibly restrictions on the state’s authority to administer the programs, which would be exactly what LePage, who last month threatened to withdraw Maine from the food stamp program, is trying to accomplish if he is not given full authority to administer the programs the way he wants. — Christopher Cousins

Federal assistance team leaves Maine

A federal Economic Development Assessment Team has concluded a three-day deployment to Maine during which it sought ways to ease the state’s ongoing loss of its paper-making industry. The team is expected to report back findings and recommendations within a few weeks.

Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin said they are fully behind the effort.

“The EDAT is not a silver bullet to the challenges Maine’s forest economy faces,” they said in a joint statement on Friday. “We believe, however, that it is an important first step and the beginning of a longer-term process among industry, local stakeholders and federal agencies that can revitalize this critical pillar of our economy, support future investment and innovation in the forest sector and assist rural communities across the state.”

LePage declined to work with the team until the federal government reconsiders tariffs on Canadian paper imports, which the administration said harms businesses with operations in Maine.

House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, a Democrat from Skowhegan who chairs the Legislature’s Pulp and Paper Caucus and co-chaired the Commission to Study the Economic, Environmental and Energy Benefits of the Maine Biomass Industry, criticized the LePage administration from sitting the process out.

“No single one of us has the solution all by ourselves, so we need the governor and his staff to join us to get this done,” said McCabe in a written statement to reporters. “We all need to work together as a team to fight for these jobs.”

McCabe is challenging incumbent Republican Rod Whittemore for a Maine Senate seat this year.

The EDAT team is expected to propose a strategy for helping the forest industry recover and transition over the coming months or years. – Christopher Cousins

Quick hits
  • Ice cream for veterans: Ann LePage, the governor’s wife, will host her sixth annual Maine Military Families Ice Cream Social at the Blaine House on Tuesday beginning at 4 p.m. The event is open to currently serving military families and Gold Star Families. Children who attend will receive free back-to-school supplies, have the chance to participate in a number of games and be able to eat ice cream. To attend, you must register by clicking here by the end of today. Keyword: ice cream.
  • Prayer tour in Augusta: Evangelist Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association are conducting prayer rallies in all 50 states this year in the “Decision America Tour.” Graham has not endorsed in the presidential race but met with Donald Trump last week during photo ops in flood-ravaged Louisiana. Graham’s prayer meeting in Maine will kick off at noon on Tuesday at Capitol Park, which is across the street from the State House in Augusta.
  • LePage takes town hall tour to Eves’ town: The governor’s next town hall forum is scheduled to run from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Noble High School on Main Street in North Berwick. House Speaker Mark Eves, a Democrat who sparred regularly with LePage during the past four years and who is embroiled in a legal fight with him over what Eves and his legal team describe as LePage’s efforts to “blackmail” Good Will-HInckley officials into firing him, represents North Berwick. Term limits prevent Eves, who is in the midst of his own statewide “listening tour” focused on elder housing issues, from seeking re-election.
Reading list Meditate, it’s just an election

Watching state or national politics in this era of division and hostility can be hard on your inner peace, if you have any to begin with. Sister Jenna, a Washington, D.C.-based renowned yogi and believer in world peace, is leading a national “Meditate the Vote” effort.

“We need all people to be treated equally and to do that we must find the peace within ourselves through reflection,” said Sr. Jenna in a release. Find more details by clicking here. Here’s your soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

Third-party presidential candidates poised to do well in Maine

Mike Tipping - Bangor Daily News -

Patrick T. Fallon | Reuters

Libertarian Party Presidential nominee Gary Johnson’s visit to Maine this Friday isn’t surprising, given the state’s history and the current political moment. Third-party and independent candidates up and down the ballot have often received significant support in Maine, and the particular dynamics of the 2016 race may lead to an electoral boost for third-party presidential candidates.

FiveThirtyEight notes that Maine is one of two states with the strongest history of support for “third-party types.” Mainers cast the highest percentage of votes for Ross Perot for president of any state in both 1992 and 1996, independent Angus King has been elected both governor and senator, and many other independent and third-party candidates have carved out big chunks of the electorate. In 2010, independent candidate Eliot Cutler came within a few thousand votes of defeating Republican Paul LePage (or, as some who were disappointed by his candidacy would say, he “split the vote” and handed LePage the governorship).

In 2012, Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s 1.1% of the vote in Maine was her best showing in any state. Johnson’s 1.3% in Maine that year wasn’t a national record, but was similarly well above his .99% national average.

This year, with such high initial negative ratings for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and because of the deep fractures Trump has caused within the Republican Party and electoral coalition, both of these third-party candidates, both running again, could see improved margins.

If Johnson, who is hovering around 9% support nationally, somehow made a big jump in the polls and passed the 15% national threshold by September to make it into one or more debates, (a long-shot hypothetical at this point) he would immediately become a contender to at least take second place in Maine.

It’s important to note, however, that for both candidates their electoral support is likely less than the numbers seen in polls right now (Stein is polling at around 3% nationally). Third-party candidates have historically polled better, especially this far out from an election, than they perform on Election Day. In fact, there’s a significant amount of controversy among pollsters on how to measure their support without giving a distorted view of voter preferences.

The most obvious question when it comes to third-party candidates is how they effect the race between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. Despite Johnson’s rightward lean (both he and his running mate Bill Weld are former Republican governors), that answer isn’t quite as clear as you might think. There’s some evidence that Johnson’s presence in the race actually narrows Clinton’s lead. One could theorize this is due to some conservative-leaning voters who have rejected Trump going with Clinton when they think she’s the only other option, but switching to Johnson upon learning there’s another choice on the ballot.

Stein has had less of a profile in the campaign so far, but when she pops up its mostly to attack Clinton and court progressive voters. A rise in her support would likely come mostly from voters otherwise ideological predisposed to the Democratic nominee.

The Johnson campaign, especially, seems to understand the potential Maine represents. In addition to his visit, an allied super PAC has begun running ads in the Presque Isle media market and local Libertarians, buoyed by the formation of an official party in Maine, are organizing to achieve the 10,000 registered-and-voting member threshold to maintain their party status.

LePage cabinet member chosen as farming adviser for Donald Trump

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

State Agriculture Commissioner Walter Whitcomb briefly addresses blueberry growers at annual summer field day and meeting at Blueberry Hill Farm in Jonesboro in 2014. Tim Cox | BDN

A member of Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s cabinet has been chosen to serve on Donald Trump’s Agricultural Advisory Committee.

The Republican presidential nominee announced Friday through the Maine Republican Party that Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Walt Whitcomb, a dairy farmer, has been tapped for the committee. The committee also includes six governors and agricultural experts from a number of large agricultural states, according to a news release.

Whitcomb said he would bring concerns of small-scale family farms to the national conversation.

“Maine has the largest number of farms in New England and that number has been increasing while the number of farms nationally have been in decline,” said Whitcomb. “Americans are hungry for new leadership that will fix a broken system and restore prosperity for everyone.”

Whitcomb praised LePage and Trump.

“Maine has benefitted from a leader who is not a politician, speaks his mind, continually challenges the status quo and is unafraid to say that we can and should be doing better,” said Whitcomb. “I see a lot of those same qualities in Donald Trump and will gladly help shape agricultural policies that produce results, put people to work and put healthy food on the table.”

Whitcomb joined LePage’s cabinet in 2011 and leads a department of more than 700 employees. He is party of a multi-generational dairy farm in Waldo which is now managed by his daughters and mother. He served 12 years in the Maine House of Representatives — including six years as Republican floor leader — and was a member of the Legislature’s committees on agriculture and taxation.

Whitcomb is a University of Maine Graduate and has sat on numerous state- and federal-level agriculture organizations and committees.

Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett said Trump has chosen well.

“Mr. Trump is displaying that he understands and values Maine’s rich agricultural history and its importance to our state and national economy,” said Bennett. “Mr. Whitcomb is an individual who not only possesses a wealth of agricultural knowledge through extensive personal experience but also vast political experience.”

View the rest of Trump’s advisory committee members by clicking here.

 

 

Maine DHHS chief says immigrant welfare probe raises terrorism concerns

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where “several” immigrants who receive welfare benefits are “raising concerns around criminal activity and terrorism.”

That’s according to Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew in comments on Thursday to a reporter for WCSH. That was after Gov. Paul LePage told the Boston Herald that he has ordered Mayhew and her department to “look at our welfare rolls closer” to scrutinize immigrants who are receiving public assistance. A DHHS representative said the goal of the review is to determine whether the state should continue to participate in any “refugee-related programs.” A similar query has been launched in Massachusetts, according to the newspaper.

All of this is in response to the news this week that an Iranian refugee who once lived in Maine radicalized and later died fighting for ISIS in Lebanon. State officials said this week that the man, Adnan Fazeli, received food stamps and cash assistance while in Maine.

LePage has long been focused on eliminating welfare benefits for what he calls illegal immigrants — mostly refugees and asylum seekers who have come to the United States but not yet completed the immigration process.

It should be noted that all evidence points to the fact that Fazeli entered the country legally after a standard and rigorous refugee vetting process.

Robyn Merrill, director Maine Equal Justice Partners, told MPBN on Thursday that state officials broke the law by revealing to the Boston Herald that Fazeli’s family had received welfare benefits.

“Federal law is clear that people’s confidentiality should be protected,” said Merrill.

Mayhew said the administration would ask the next Legislature to consider new restrictions on how immigrants can receive welfare benefits in Maine. That would mark a continuation of similar efforts that have been underway under LePage since at least 2013. The differences between then and now are:

  1. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has highlighted the issue and put it at the center of the American political debate.
  2. LePage has been beating this drum now for years.
  3. The Fazeli case brings the issue home to Maine and will provide fodder for advocates of restricting social services to immigrants.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. – Christopher Cousins

Cain defends trip to policy conference at California winery

The National Republican Campaign Committee is attacking Emily Cain, who is the Democratic candidate in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, for attending an event at a Napa Valley winery that among others will include U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California. This follows on the NRCC attacking Cain last year for attending a Washington, D.C. wine-tasting reception and fundraiser in her honor.

“What exactly does Cain have against Maine wineries?” reads an NRCC news release. “Maybe when she gets back home, she can check out the wineries in Maine. They seem really nice!”

The Republican release also continues an attack narrative that links Cain to Pelosi, whom Republicans cast as a negative and divisive figure. They pursued a similar tactic in 2014, when Cain lost to Republican Bruce Poliquin, who is seeking re-election this year. The GOP hopes that linking Cain to Pelosi, whom they decry as an elitist liberal, will turn off independent voters in the more conservative 2nd District.

Dan Gleick, a spokesman for the Cain campaign, said the Napa Valley Issues Conference is attended by members of Congress, candidates and policy experts and is focused on innovation and the economy. Gleick said incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin and his supporters shouldn’t criticize Cain for seeking out-of-state support.

“So far this year, Emily has earned the support of 2,356 real people here in Maine, to Congressman Poliquin’s 188,” wrote Gleick. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hit
  • Border tour: U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine will host a day-long tour of Maine’s northern border next week and a town hall discussion in Houlton to discuss concerns about border security. Participating in the events will be Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, and U.S. Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan. The public town hall is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday Aug. 25 at the Shiretown Motor Inn in Houlton.
Reading list Go make a photograph, will you?

It’s World Photo Day. According to this website we’re all supposed to make a single photo that shares OUR world with the rest of the world.

“From everyday life to incredible landscapes, our global gallery is an evolving mosaic images captured by photographers of all skills levels living in a diverse range of countries and cultures,” reads the website.

Here’s your soundtrack. Here’s my photo:

Maine senators’ past aid to Fazeli shows immigration policy is not as simple as blocking ‘bad guys’

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where the case of Adnan Fazeli, the Iranian immigrant who fled Maine to fight and die for the Islamic State in 2015, has dominated our politics since first being reported this week by the Portland Press Herald.

On Wednesday, Gov. Paul LePage told the Boston Herald that he has ordered the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to “look at our welfare rolls closer” after his administration told the newspaper that Fazeli and his family received food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits from 2009, when he came here, to 2013.

This is common, as federal rules allow refugees like Fazeli to receive those types of benefits. DHHS spokeswoman Samantha Edwards didn’t respond to a BDN inquiry seeking more details on the review, but she told the Press Herald that it was focused on whether or not immigrants are committing welfare fraud.

Earlier this week, LePage called for increased vetting for refugees entering the U.S., a main focal point for Republicans since last year. He was joined by U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who said refugees were coming to the country “without proper safeguards in place.”

It’s worth noting that all indications are that Fazeli raised no red flags when coming here in 2009 and was radicalized online while living in Maine.

Fazeli’s family played a key role in alerting the FBI to his radicalization: In an interview with the Bangor Daily News, Portland doctor Jabbar Fazeli said he went to authorities in 2014 after hearing from family that his brother was in Syria with “bad guys” who turned out to be the Islamic State.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, told WMTW that “we have to be careful that we do not assume that someone who has come to this country is automatically a terrorist,” but she said American immigration policy should focus on widows, children and seniors who are “far less likely to pose a threat.”

Two connections between the Fazelis and Maine’s congressional delegation further illustrate this case’s nuances: The family was in touch with the offices of Collins and former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe in 2005 and 2007, according to Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark.

In 2005, the senators helped Jabbar Fazeli, who is now the president of the Maine Medicial Association, arrange life-saving, emergency surgery in Philadelphia for Adnan Fazeli’s baby daughter, who Clark said “would not have been able to survive” without that treatment.

The offices were in touch with Jabbar Fazeli again two years later as his family was seeking refugee status, when Clark said Collins’ office “explained the international refugee process and forwarded documents to the agencies responsible for making the decision.”

Clark said that Collins praised Jabbar Fazeli for his “courage and patriotism in contacting the FBI,” illustrating that amid the focus on vetting, there’s a complicated case of a respected family forced to blow the whistle on an increasingly dangerous man. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits
  • The Legislature’s Right-to-Know Advisory Committee asked lawmakers to tweak a 2015 law shielding information about rail transportation of crude oil or other hazardous materials, according to the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. The committee sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee asking for a review of the law, which was passed aiming to ensure railroads gave public safety officials details about hazardous shipments without that information being made public. But the didn’t railroads provide that information, it just made the information secret if requested.
  • Collins and Poliquin will have a press conference at 1:30 p.m. in Bangor today on their legislation that would allow financial institutions to flag suspicious activity to authorities. The Senior Safe Act has already passed in the House and it’s pending in the Senate, where it’s expected to pass. It’s modeled after a program started by Maine Securities Administrator Judith Shaw. (We errantly said in yesterday’s Daily Brief that the press conference was yesterday.)
  • The campaign supporting ranked-choice voting will hold 19 “beer elections” at Maine breweries in September. It’ll start at Oxbow Brewing Company in Newcastle on Sept. 2. Attendees will be able to rank beers in a demonstration of how the ranked voting system would work. — Michael Shepherd
Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist
  • Just for the articles?: Someone named “Mr. Shittle” in the town of Denmark is giving away two boxes of Playgirl magazines.
  • ‘No sex,’ just regular, old, naked painting: A person in Old Town wants to “paint on somebody” and “can help remove the hair on the hard to reach places like your back,” but “there will be no sex or the like.”
  • Coffee? Hot or cold, it doesn’t matter: A man is “in Ellsworth often and it would be great to have coffee buddy. Or iced coffee.” — Michael Shepherd

The GOP apparatus is a fraudulent shell game for lazy, incompetent cronies

Matt Gagnon - Bangor Daily News -

For years, there have been leeches attached to the machinery of the Republican Party, and it is almost out of blood.

The leeches come in many forms, but are most prevalent in the political action committees, consultants, strategists and vendors that make the machinery of the party go.

They are almost uniformly vultures, personally enriching themselves at the expense of party and country. They identify angst and frustration, use it for their benefit, perpetuate it, and then continue to feed off the ever-growing anger that results, in a closed feedback loop of misery.

This has reached such a breaking point that it now threatens to implode the entire conservative movement. And that implosion began as the tea party rose.

After the Obama shellacking in 2008, the Republican Party felt dead. All the grassroots energy was on the left. The Republicans had betrayed their principles, and money and volunteers had evaporated.

Then came the tea party.

Believe it or not, the initial reaction inside the Beltway was positive. We would find out quickly, however, that it was positive only because the Beltway, having failed to do the hard work of mobilizing the grassroots organically, the way the Democrats did, saw a way out of the wilderness without having to do any work.

They saw a golden opportunity to exploit the passion of the conservative voter and use it as a piggy bank and path to relevance, rather than work with it and build a true, powerful, meaningful political movement.

You see, the political class, most of whom are hungry for little more than money and power, began to identify what was happening, and what was motivating the tea party.

“Arthur the Patriot”, an alternate from Arizona, poses for a photograph at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last month. His message to Trump? “The tea party supports you.” Jim Young | Reuters

It wasn’t exactly hard to figure out, after all. People were sick of polished, career politicians, sick of being lied to, and sick of both parties fiddling while Rome burned.

Unfortunately, emotion — particularly anger and frustration — is extremely easy to take advantage of, politically speaking. If you understand what motivates it, you can channel it, even if you are a cynical liar.

This just so happened to coincide with the time I started getting emails from phantom political action committees that I had never heard of, all of whom urgently demanded money, promising to support these supposed anti-establishment tea party candidates.

Sadly, nearly all these groups were pyramid schemes and scams.

Tea Party Patriots, for instance, raised more than $2 million in the 2014 election cycle using the name and likeness of tea party darling Matt Bevin, who was then running against establishment Sen. Mitch McConnell in a primary. Despite that huge haul, they spent only $56,000 on his behalf.

That was half as much as the consulting fees paid to the organization’s president.

What it paid for instead was, you guessed it, consultants, including those who worked on polling, communications and direct mail fundraising. None of these consultants helped Bevin win, but they made a lot of money.

By the end of the cycle, Tea Party Patriots had raised over $14 million, and spent less than 10 percent of it on candidates.

But the problem was, and remains, more pervasive than these zombie political action committees. The major committees, particularly the RNC, and high-profile candidates send their money to an increasingly small number of companies, all of whom have direct financial relationships with one another.

Are these the best, most competent consultants? Do campaigns or committees even need many (most) of them? The answer is no. Nearly all fundraising done in the name of both the party and the anti-establishment outsiders — yes, both — is actually done to feed the beast and does nothing to help.

The goal of these candidates and groups is not to change things, it is to acquire power and money. The Republican apparatus is a fraudulent shell game for lazy, incompetent cronies.

Yet conservative voters continually fall for the same trap. All one needs to do anymore is write an email that channels what you know to be the feelings of the grassroots — like oh, say, beating Paul Ryan — and the money will flow in.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to actually care about beating Paul Ryan or spend any money to do that. Just say so, it won’t matter.

Now, having been abused for so long, a voter or activist is so despondent that they will respond to anyone or anything or promising to drain the swamp and destroy the system. And the leeches know it, and will continue to exploit it as long as we let them.

The result is that the PACs and the parties still get their money, the average guy gets ripped off and doesn’t even know it, and nothing changes. Rinse, wash, repeat.

Another presidentical candidate is coming to Maine

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, folks, where it looks like you’ll need your lawn mower a few more times after all. If your lawn was like mine in recent weeks — dusty, brown and crispy — you probably thought your grass was a goner until next year. It’s amazing what a little rain will do and how quickly it will do it.

The grass is greener on THIS side. Who’da thunk? Here’s your soundtrack, which ought to start your foot tapping.

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson has announced he’ll visit Maine next week, which comes as little surprise. This could be a banner year for his party, especially in Maine, where the Libertarians are a newly minted political party. Among the requirements to retain official party status in Maine is that at least 10,000 registered Libertarians have to vote in the November election. It’s no small feat, but one that is probably helped by the fact that the Republicans and Democrats have nominated two of the most unpopular major-party candidates in electoral history.

Nationally, Johnson is polling around 10 percent, which is a relatively high number for a third-party candidate. Could voters unhappy with Clinton and Trump flock to Johnson and increase his popularity? Probably not, but building a political movement takes time. A vote tally above 10 percent in November could set the stage for a major revolution in gridlocked American politics, especially if it leads to Libertarians being elected to Congress. Even a few of them in an otherwise evenly divided House or Senate could disrupt the Washington power structure.

However, no Libertarian has ever been elected to Congress, so the challenge remains daunting.

Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, will be joined by running mate Bill Weld, the former Massachusetts governor, on Friday, Aug. 26 at the Gendron Franco Cultural Center at 46 Cedar St. in Lewiston. The event, which will feature Q&A with audience members, kicks off at 6 p.m. Mark your calendar.

Poliquin wants new rules for refugees

On the heels of news Monday from the Portland Press Herald that a refugee who lived for a while in Freeport ended up being killed in Lebanon while fighting for ISIS, Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin released a statement Tuesday in opposition to the United States’ immigration policies.

“We are seeing growing threats from radicalized individuals and groups around the world and here at home,” he said. “Still, the president and his liberal allies are ignoring the rightful concerns of millions of Americans and moving forward with a dangerous Middle East immigration and refuge policy.”

Poliquin has long been a proponent of stopping refugee resettlement until new security measures can be implemented.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage made a similar statement Tuesday, as conservative Republicans seek election-year traction from concerns about domestic terrorism and homeland security. It should be noted that court documents provide no evidence that Adnan Fazelli ever posed a terrorism threat in Maine. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits
  • Senior $afe Act. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, both Republicans, will host a joint news conference today in Bangor to tout the Senior $afe Act, which they introduced in their respective legislative chambers in 2015. The act, which encourages financial institutions to report suspected financial fraud against senior citizens, models a program that began in Maine in 2014. The bill passed through the U.S. House in July and has yet to come up for a vote in the Senate.
  • Modeling Maine welfare reforms. A Republican state Senate candidate in Illinois is campaigning on a promise to emulate welfare reform measures that have taken place in Maine, particularly a work requirement for food stamps. Marty Blumenthal, an attorney, told a reporter “Those who say it would not work can be handed a copy of the report about Maine’s success.”
  • Correction: Monday’s Daily Brief reported incorrectly that a Maine Department of Health and Human Services employee traveled to Idaho to make the case against Medicaid expansion under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The official made his case by telephone.
Reading list The government’s role in tragedies

For some reason my 6-year-old’s newest obsession is the Hindenburg disaster. He learned about it from his brother and me, and has watched that infamous footage from 1937 several times.

He is full of questions at this age and was particularly taken by the emotions of the reporter in the famous video

“Why did the reporter cry?” he asked.

“Because he saw something terrible,” I said.

“I hope you never see something terrible like that.”

“Thanks, buddy,” I said. “Me too.”

Then I was thinking of a few marathon committee hearings I’ve covered in Augusta, which very nearly brought me to tears.

Oh, the humanity. — Christopher Cousins

 

LePage: School reform commission ‘died at the first meeting’

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage has little or no confidence that the fledgling blue ribbon education reform commission will accomplish anything to improve Maine schools.

LePage said during his regular Tuesday morning radio appearance on WVOM that the commission, which was created in a school funding bill he signed into law in March of this year, was doomed from the moment it started with a controversial April 25 closed-door meeting at the Blaine House. The uproar around the legality of the meeting — which is the subject of a pending Kennebec County Superior Court case — caused LePage, who was originally a member, to threaten to pull the executive branch out of the commission. (Here’s his soundtrack.) Deputy Education Commissioner Bill Beardsley has continued the effort.

“I’m not going,” said LePage this morning. “It’s just a dead issue in my mind. It died the first meeting. I was in there for five minutes and I knew [Senate Minority Leader] Justin Alfond and [Assistant House Majority Leader] Sara Gideon didn’t want it so it’s dead.”

Alfond and Gideon are both members of the commission, as are Republican legislative leaders, educators and the chiefs of Maine’s university and community college systems.

The commission will hold several meetings between now and the end of the year with the intention of reporting recommendations to LePage and the Legislature by Jan. 10, 2017. LePage said one problem he has with the commission is that it’s public.

“How do you negotiate in public? I’ve never been able to negotiate a contract on stage,” said LePage. “For people to say you’re going to sit in the public and you’re going to negotiate as an elected official is absolutely insane. It only works if you’re termed out.”

According to Alfond, the commission was LePage’s idea and the Department of Education chose the members.

During his radio visit, the governor reiterated some of his often-repeated education goals: Reducing the number of superintendents in Maine and establishing a statewide labor contract for teachers. He also railed against superintendents who pull students from “bad schools” in neighboring districts “so they can get more money” from the state’s funding formula.

“We’re investigating one school district right now,” said LePage, who was not asked to identify the school but said it is located in northeastern Maine.

We don’t have all the pieces of this story, but hearing the governor criticize student transfers was bizarre, considering that the practice was encouraged and made easier by his own administration in 2012 and 2013 over the objections of school administrators. LePage even proposed in his 2013 biennial budget to allow students to take state state subsidies with them to whatever school they chose, including private ones. The provision was defeated.

LePage indicated that he would consider the blue ribbon commission’s findings, though grudgingly.

“I took the bait and shame on me,” said the governor of the commission. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits
  • Anti-Trump, anti-Clinton: The Americans Deserve Better Political Action Committee, which supports Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson, has begun airing advertisements on television and radio in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. Check out the ads by clicking here.
  • Addiction forum: Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin will host his second Operation Community SAFER Congressional Town Hall today beginning at 6 p.m. at Central Maine Community College’s Kirk Hall in Auburn. The meeting is open to the public and Auburn police will conduct a medication take-back for unwanted or unused prescription drugs.
  • Honoring Susan Collins: The American Ambulance Association will present Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins with its Legislator of the Year award today during a ceremony this morning at North East Mobile Health Services in Scarborough.
Reading list Dreaming about the first car

I know how my 11-year-old feels. Still five years from his driver’s license, he is already fantasizing about his first car.

When I was his age, I poured through the auto ads in Uncle Henry’s every week and spent hours examining auto dealer fliers from the newspaper. I wanted a Chevy S-10 Jimmy but ended up with an old Ford Ranger I paid $500 for (but which lasted three years).

My boy has set his sights higher. He announced last night that he has decided his first car will be a Bentley. This is what I get for letting him watch “Top Gear.” He Googled prices and found the cheapest model sells for just under $200,000.

“I guess I should start saving for that instead of a swimming pool,” he said.

Seems logical, though I’m trying to talk him into spending a little more on the faster GT model. Here’s his soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

Just how different are Donald Trump and Paul LePage?

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Portland, where I’m reeling from reading the latest take comparing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Gov. Paul LePage, this time from the Harvard Political Review.

It’s an easy connection to make, and one that the Republican governor has made himself: LePage endorsed Trump and ruled out vice-presidential speculation by saying he and the New York City billionaire are “too much alike.”

That’s because of obvious surface-level similarities. Both have a penchant for bitter public feuds with rivals and have been blasted for controversial remarks, whether it was LePage’s pronouncement that immigrants spread the nonexistent “ziki fly” or Trump’s claim that Mexico is sending “rapists” to the U.S. border.

But there are some pretty important differences between the two, as well. Unlike Trump, who hasn’t held office, LePage was mayor of Waterville for eight years and had at least a basic level of governing experience.

He’s also become somewhat of a rallying figure in the Maine Republican Party, bringing establishment Republicans — including George H.W. Bush — and activist-type social conservatives into the fold during his two campaigns for office.

Some tension has emerged on the centrist side of the party as LePage has fought with notable Republican figures including Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport and Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta, but it’s nothing compared to Trump’s struggles to rally the party behind him.

Plus, it’s worth noting the scope of the office: If elected president, Trump will have all sorts of powers, including control of the military and the freedom to set U.S. foreign policy. LePage is a powerful figure in Maine, but there’s nothing that compares with the presidency.

A reminder: Your best and hottest LePage takes are here at the Daily Brief. Subscribe here if you haven’t, and here’s today’s soundtrack. (It’s gets funnier the more you watch and I’m sorry.) — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits
  • Democratic 2nd Congressional District hopeful Emily Cain will campaign with the second-ranking party official in the House on Wednesday in Lewiston. She’ll appear at a business roundtable and factory tour with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, at Rancourt and Co. Shoecrafters in the morning. It’s an example of heavy national involvement in the race to unseat freshman U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican.
  • Speaking of that race, Maine Democrats will hold a press conference hitting Poliquin on Monday in Bangor. State Rep. Adam Goode of Bangor is among the headliners. They’ll focus on two tax claims against Poliquin, which is among the talking points in the race that we unspun for you today.
  • The Maine Department of Health and Human Services did the people’s work on Thursday … in Idaho. Deputy Finance Commissioner Alec Porteous was in Boise to make the case against Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act, according to The Idaho Statesman. Maine and Idaho are among the 19 states that haven’t expanded. LePage has vetoed it five times. Maine officials have traveled across state lines to advocate against expansion. While answering questions, Porteous “said much of his data had been prepared by the Foundation for Government Accountability,” a conservative advocacy group run by Tarren Bragdon, a former Republican state legislator from Bangor who co-chaired LePage’s transition team after his 2010 election.
  • LePage will be in Sanford on Wednesday for his next town hall meeting. It’ll be at City Hall from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Under a federal grant, the Maine State Library will digitize more than 100,000 pages of historical newspapers and post them online for free access. Any Maine newspaper printed before 1923 — and potentially up to 1962 — is eligible for the project, according to a news release. It’s part of a two-year, $275,000 award from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist
  • Ahmed, the Walmart attraction: Is Ahmed not the hottest cashier you’ve ever seen at Walmart,” somebody says. “If you haven’t seen him yet you must go there on some Saturday morning and check him out. Damn he’s hot.”
  • Brush up on your ans first: Looking to outsource school or business work? This person will do it “for an cheap price,” which worries me.
  • Statuesque friend wanted: A man in Hancock County wants to become “good” or “best” friends with a woman who has an oddly specific frame: “5’11’ or close to height around or about 149 pounds measurements 36D-29-42.” — Michael Shepherd

Maine to see early ads boosting Emily Cain, Gary Johnson

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Good morning from Portland, where I got little sleep on account of the oppressive heat and humidity that will continue into today. Forgive me for typos.

Today, we look to Maine’s airwaves, where we saw two interesting and early political advertising buys yesterday that will make the rich (TV stations) richer in a banner year. (If you want an ad in the Bangor Daily News, here’s the link, guys. Guys?)

The presidential race will be the biggest boon this year, but the nationally targeted race in Maine’s 2nd District is shaping up to be massive, too. U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, has already reserved time and party groups have booked more than $2 million.

But on Thursday, the House Majority PAC, a super PAC linked to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, aired a new ad boosting Democrat Emily Cain. The group will spend heavily in Maine this cycle, already reserving $1.6 million in airtime.

The ad features Registered Maine Guide Ray Wirth of Belfast and seeks to play up Cain’s Maine ties, even though Republicans responded by noting that Cain was born and raised out of state. She moved here at age 18, before attending the University of Maine.

That’s one of the biggest House races in the nation this year, so it was no real surprise. But another buy on behalf of Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson was.

We noted it in yesterday’s Daily Brief, but we didn’t have a handle on the full scope of it. But it reserved nearly $62,000 worth of TV time in the Bangor and Presque Isle markets, including cable. A press release from the group said it also will run radio ads.

The introductory ad appears to be the first buy nationwide from Americans Deserve Better, a little-known PAC led by Geoff Neale, who chaired the Libertarian National Committee from 2002 to 2004.

That dropped the same day as a poll from Breitbart News that showed Democrat Hillary Clinton with 43 percent support to Republican Donald Trump’s 33 percent, with Johnson taking 10 percent. The bet seems to be that Johnson could fare well here.

There’s some history to support that: In 1992, independent Ross Perot got more than 30 percent of votes here in the race between Democrat Bill Clinton and President George H.W. Bush, a Republican. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits
  • The LePage administration wants a new building next to Riverview Psychiatric Center to house patients who don’t need hospital-level care, according to the Kennebec Journal. It’s a bid to win back federal certification for the state-run Augusta hospital that was lost in 2013 after violations that included use of restraints and stun guns on patients. The state believes the new 21-bed building will cost between $3 million and $5 million and five companies have submitted information allowing them to bid, the KJ said.
  • A Brewer lawmaker has re-submitted a bill inspired by actor Peter Falk of “Columbo” fame. Democrat Archie Verow’s bill would change Maine law to require a legal guardian to inform immediate family of a loved one’s hospitalization and allow recourse in court if access to that person is being “unreasonably prevented,” according to a press release. Falk’s daughter lobbies for these laws state by state after the actor died in 2011 and his wife allegedly interfered with the daughter’s ability to see him.
  • Gov. Paul LePage’s tax policy got a shout-out in a report released Thursday by the American Legislative Exchange Council. The conservative behemoth and Democratic bogeyman called the Republican governor’s proposals to reduce and eventually eliminate the income tax and abolish the estate tax “an excellent model for any state to follow in order to improve their economic competitiveness and achieve greater economic growth.” — Michael Shepherd
Reading list Best of Maine’s Craigslist

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