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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie headed back to Maine to stump for LePage again

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie swings through Becky’s Diner in Portland with Gov. Paul LePage in this May 2014 photo. BDN file photo by Troy Bennett.

He said he’d be back.

Republican Governors Association’ chairman and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will return to Maine in August for another party fundraiser and campaign stop with Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who is running for re-election.

The news was originally reported by the Associated Press, and confirmed Tuesday by Maine GOP spokesman David Sorensen.

Christie swung through Maine in May, when he pledged the RGA would spend big money on LePage’s behalf and promised that Maine voters would be seeing him often ahead of November’s election.

Details about Christie’s second visit were largely unavailable, but Sorensen said Christie’s second Maine appearance would take place August 12 somewhere in Southern Maine.

Both political parties have made use of political proxies this year to drum up interest, support and money for their respective candidates. There was Christie’s earlier visit for LePage, and Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s headlining speech at the state GOP convention.

Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate and incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud appeared with the Democratic governors of Massachusetts and Vermont last week. Yesterday, DNC Chairwoman and Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz appeared in Portland to boost Maine’s slate of congressional and gubernatorial candidates, including CD2 candidate and state senator Emily Cain and incumbent 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree.

DNC Chair: Pingree wins ‘most unique commute’ award

Press Herald Politics -

Before Monday’s Democratic rally for Maine women, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her family spent Sunday evening at Rep. Chellie Pingree’s home on North Haven.

Schultz not only got a taste of lobsters, but the Floridian also a taste of what it’s like to commute from North Haven in quintessential Maine weather. The small island community of about 355 resident is located 12 miles off Rockland.

In her opening remarks, Pingree described the “circuitous” journey to Portland that morning.

“Of course the first thing that happened is (Schultz) got into my beat-up old car and the window had been open so the seat was soaking wet,” Pingree said. “Then we had a rough ride on the ferry, which almost collides with a boat just before it gets to the landing. Then it took forever to find a car to drive down here. … Then of course it was torrential rain once we got to Brunswick.”

By the time they reached Portland, the city was covered in think blanket of fog.

Schultz said the commute made her realize how easy she has it.

“I did tell Chellie this weekend: You officially, I think, have the most unique commute of any member of Congress in the country,” Schultz said. “It’s really a mind-blower. I don’t know that I will ever complain again about my little two-hour jaunt from South Florida to D.C. You win. Hands down.”


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What Maine seniors want and what candidates offer

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

Maine’s elderly women and men and their loved ones need help as they grapple with what so many of us have: figuring out how to provide care.

As my grandmother Sadie aged, she relied on her family and fellow citizens. Grandma Sadie worked hard while raising a family but never made a lot. She paid her taxes, put some money aside and contributed funds to social insurance programs.

When the time came, Social Security and Medicaid enabled her to live an old age with dignity and security.

As she became increasingly fragile and forgetful, her daughter was just steps away. And so my grandmother could stay in her home for nearly all of her time on earth.

That’s not possible for everyone. But as shown by a poll of 2,000 Mainers 50 and older, conducted by the AARP, what my grandmother got was what most older Mainers want.

Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed say it is “extremely or very important for them to remain in their homes as they age,” with another 14 percent saying this is “somewhat important.” Moreover, it didn’t make any difference what party one supported or if one didn’t identify with a political party. Democrats, Republicans and independents wanted to stay in their homes and communities.

Policy matters. Large numbers of these Mainers believe that “elected officials should support funding services that enable seniors to remain in their homes.” Seventy-three percent say it should be a top or high priority, and another 20 percent consider it a “medium” priority.

Just as my family helped my grandmother, others’ caretakers make such a difference. And not only had strong majorities of those surveyed been caretakers but over 60 percent saw government support for caretakers as a top or high policy priority.

Older voters will judge those asking for their votes. Nearly 70 percent say they are likely to vote for candidates who support “Mainers who provide unpaid care at home for an adult loved one who is elderly or disabled.” And 80 percent say they’d likely back candidates working on “ensuring older Mainers have access to affordable prescription drug coverage.”

What do Maine’s gubernatorial candidates offer?

Eliot Cutler’s book, “A State of Opportunity” has many references to Maine’s aging population, mostly on changing the age mix in our state. The book calls the high percentage of older people “Maine’s demographic disadvantage.”

The only reference I could find to older Mainers included them with other groups: “Whether they are old or young, employed or unemployed, whoever they are or wherever they live, all Mainers are entitled to essential health care.” Cutler has presented no agenda for Maine’s elderly.

What of Gov. Paul LePage? An issues section of his campaign website says little about older Mainers, although it does mention curtailing a tax charged on nursing home meals and changing the tax deduction for seniors receiving pensions. But not every problem can be solved by reducing taxes.

Lately, LePage has touted additional funding for nursing homes, which he allocated after threatening to veto a legislative solution that would have added to funds the Legislature had already added. This paper’s editorial page said the governor’s “behavior is puzzling at best, dishonest at worst.”

And what of helping older people stay in their homes and ensuring that they and their caretakers have health care?

LePage’s blocking of Medicaid expansion hurt older Mainers who need Medicaid before they become eligible for Medicare. It also hurt caretakers, who often split their time between a paid job and being there for an elderly parent or aunt and don’t get health insurance from an employer.

In contrast, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and Cutler support Medicaid expansion.

The Maine Legislature in 2013 restored the $1.75 million LePage wanted to cut from the “Drugs for the Elderly” program; limited property tax increases that would have resulted from the governor’s proposed budget; and funded Meals on Wheels at a higher level than the governor wanted. Legislators’ actions made it easier for seniors to stay in their homes.

Michaud’s Maine Made plan concentrates on economic development while supporting one of seniors’ top priorities, “aging in place.” Michaud also wants to fund the programs LePage tried to cut.

All the candidates will have more to say about Maine seniors — and seniors will be watching.

Alfond faces fine for $31,000 in unreported PAC activity, plus 7 stories you need to read

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, rides his city’s METRO bus in December 2013. BDN file photo by Troy Bennett.

After self-reporting nearly $31,000 in unreported activity by his political action committee, Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, will seek a reduced penalty at a meeting Thursday by the Maine Ethics Commission.

The state levied a preliminary penalty of $31,764, but ethics commission staff are recommending the fine be reduced to $1,500.

Alfond took full responsibility for he called “clerical errors” on the part of the Alfond Business, Community and Democracy PAC, but an attorney representing the PACT argued that the harm to the public in the late reporting was “minimal.”

“I made a mistake — one that should have been prevented. I take very seriously the responsibilities of ensuring transparency between money and politics,” said Alfond in a  statement released by the Maine Democratic Party. “Because of this, I regret that inadequate record keeping led to these errors. But as soon as I became aware of the errors, I called the board of ethics to report it and to fix it. I have also taken the steps to correct the PAC’s internal record-keeping and auditing process to ensure that these mistakes won’t happen again.”

The omissions were made in two quarterly reports, originally filed in October 2013 and January 2014. The first report failed to include $6,000 in contributions to the PAC and $6,500 given by the PAC to the Maine Democratic Party.

The January report failed to include roughly $450 in deposits to the PAC’s bank account, and $18,000 donation to the Maine Democratic Party and a roughly $20 fee paid to ActBlue, a national PAC that raises money for Democratic candidates.

In requesting a waiver of the five-figure penalty, Alfond’s attorney argued that “the harm suffered by the public in this case is in no way commensurate with such an enormous fine.”

Ethics staff seemed inclined to agree. In a letter to commissioners, executive director Jonathan Wayne and PAC and lobbyist registrar Benjamin Dyer wrote that despite Alfond’s PAC failing to report $24,500 to the Maine Democratic Party, the party did report receiving the gifts. That means there was adequate transparency for the public, they argued.

Additionally, they wrote, “since these reports covered a portion of an off-election year, the harm to the public in not knowing how money was changing hands to influence elections is less significant.”

Wayne and Dyer also said the fact Alfond’s PAC had self-reported the omissions after noticing a discrepancy in its bookkeeping, and that the group had no previous ethics violations, was a mitigating factor in deciding what penalty was just.

The duo is recommending a total of $1,500 in fines against Alfond, which will be accepted or rejected by the five-member commission at its regular meeting on Thursday.

Alfond said he would take whatever lumps the commission felt was fair.

“Maine people expect to know where money is coming from and how it is spent. I believe deeply in these principles — and I’m most bothered by the fact that I, even though it was inadvertent, was in non-compliance,” he said. “This is a system that works. I will pay the fine as determined by the commission and will take every step to ensure that my PAC remains compliant going forward.”

Last week, Gov. Paul LePage was also hit with a preliminary fine for missing a campaign finance reporting deadline, his third such late filing this year. The Republican filed a 24-hour report 41 days after it was due, and is facing a $5,000 penalty.

LePage’s campaign has said he will seek a waiver for the fine.

7 stories you need to read

All the important #mepolitics “in case you missed its” from the last seven days:

Michaud campaign makes $1 million TV buy

Press Herald Politics -

Press Herald file photo

The campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud on Sunday posted an approximately $1 million television ad buy that will begin showing after Labor Day.

The purchase records for the run began posting on Portland’s WCSH 6 Sunday afternoon. The records had not yet posted for the other markets, but Lizzy Reinholt, a spokeswoman for the campaign, confirmed that the buy covered Bangor and Presque Isle as well.

The Michaud’s buy is the first of the three major candidates and is designed to reserve time during the home stretch of the campaign. The actual ads that will air will change based on the conditions of the race. For example, the campaign would likely swap out a biographical ad if Michaud has to respond to an attack ad.

The same goes for Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler, who could also post buys soon to reserve prime viewing spots. According to the latest campaign finance filings, LePage is in a better position to buy now than Cutler. The independent has raised more than $2 million since January of 2013, but showed $527,000 of cash on hand. LePage’s campaign had $917,000, while Michaud had just over a $1 million.



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Report: Eliot Cutler was Maine Democrats’ first choice

The Maine Wire -

According to a report at SeacoastOnline.com, U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud was not the Maine Democratic Party’s first choice for the governor’s race — independent candidate Eliot Cutler was. The report, which covers a Cutler campaign event in Kennebunkport, includes the following indirect quote from the candidate: Cutler went on to say that after the 2010 […]

Report: Eliot Culter says Maine Democrats asked him to represent the party in 2014

Press Herald Politics -

Was Independent Eliot Cutler the Maine Democratic Party’s preferred candidate to take on Gov. Paul LePage in 2014?

According to a report on Seacoast online, Cutler told a group of supporters and undecided “fence-sitters” in Kennebunkport that he was asked after the 2010 election to run as a Democrat in 2014.

Here’s the relevant section from Seascoast Online‘s report:

Taking questions from the audience, two people asked, in slightly different ways, what the differences were between he and the other candidates, especially Democrat Mike Michaud.

Repeatedly reminding the audience that Michaud is a “nice guy,” Cutler went on to highlight their differences.

“I have a world of experience he doesn’t have,” said Cutler. “I have managed big organizations with multi-million dollar budgets.”

Cutler went on to add that for 30 years Michaud has been a legislator known as a back-bencher, the last place people should look for leadership. Cutler said Michaud has no vision or plan or strategy.

“Mike spends too much time looking in the rear-view mirror. And Mike Michaud is beholden to special interests, and I’m not,” said Cutler, adding that in the 12 years Michaud has been in congress, he takes an average of $1,000 per day from special interests.

“I won’t take money from special interests, period,” said Cutler. “My obligation is owed to you and not anyone else.”

Cutler went on to say that after the 2010 election, the Democratic party had contacted him to ask him to run as a Democrat, assuring him they’d “clear the field” for him, but Cutler turned them down because, “that’s a party being run by organized labor.”

“I want to govern for everyone,” said Cutler. “Look it, Mike is a nice man but that’s not enough. Paul LePage isn’t and that’s why I’m running.”

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Bear referendum supporters to gather in Portland this weekend, the start of baiting season

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

This weekend marks the start of bear baiting season in Maine, when hunters and guides enter the woods to fill bait sites with food meant to attract bears for the fall hunt, which begins next month.

A black bear walks near Taylor Bait Pond in Orono. Photo courtesy of Sharon Fiedler

In response, Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, the group leading a campaign to ban bear baiting, hounding and trapping, will gather at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 27, in Portland’s Monument Square.

“Basically, on Sunday, we’re using the start of baiting season as a chance to educate people about why putting millions of pounds of junk food in the year is a problem,” said Katie Hansberry, campaign director of Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting.

The gathering will be in support of the statewide referendum, slated for Question 1 on the Nov. 4 ballot, “Do you want to ban the use of bait, dogs or traps in bear hunting except to protect property, public safety, or for research?”

If the referendum passes, it would ban all three forms of bear hunting, which Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting defines as “cruel and unsporting practices not needed to manage the population.”

However, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife recently stated that bear baiting, hounding and trapping is necessary to control the bear population. The department predicts that the bear harvest will fall “well below objectives” without these three practices.

Proponents of the referendum argue that Maine’s black bear population has increased 30 percent since 2004 and 253 percent since the mid-1970s, when baiting became popular.

“Baiting habituates Maine’s bear population to human foods and smells; the population is increasingly less afraid of humans. Ten years ago, the average was about 400 nuisance bear complaints annually; that average is now 500 per year,” Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting stated in the press release for the upcoming event.

Currently, Maine hunters and guides supply black bears with approximately 7 million pounds of food at bait sites scattered throughout the state each year, according to Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting. This estimation comes from an extrapolation made by Bill Nemitz of the Portland Press Herald in a story published March 23.

“With 5,200 sites, each stocked with 1,333 pounds of bait over a hunting season, you get 6.9 million pounds of food being introduced annually by humans into the black bears’ food supply,” Nemitz wrote.

Nemitz’s calculation is made by multiplying the amount of bait used per bait site by one Maine outfitter (P.B. Guide Service of Somerset County) with the number of bears taken by bait in 2012 (2,613), then multiplying that by two, based on a “widely accepted ratio of two bait sites for every bear taken.”

Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting also asks voters to look to hunting practices of other states, especially Oregon, Washington and Colorado, all of which banned bear baiting and hounding within the past 20 years. Maine is the only state that allows bear trapping.

“Baiting, hounding, and trapping take the skill out of hunting,” the press release states. “Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting wants to preserve Maine’s historic tradition of fair-chase hunting.”

Fair-chase hunting, also known as still hunting, is hunting by stealth over natural food sources. If the referendum passes, this method of hunting would still be permitted.

The group leading the campaign opposing the referendum, Save Maine’s Bear Hunt and Management Program, argues that fair-chase hunting or still hunting is not an effective method for controlling the black bear population in Maine, which is currently larger than the bear populations in any other state in the eastern US.

In the past, still hunting has accounted for a small percentage of the annual bear harvest. Of the 2,845 bears harvested in 2013, 93 percent of the bears were taken by hunters using bait, dogs or traps; while about 7 percent were taken by still-hunters, according to the DIF&W.

As November draws near, both sides of the debate will be hosting events in an effort to educate the public.

To learn more about Maine’s black bear hunting laws, visit maine.gov/ifw/hunting_trapping. To learn about Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, visit fairbearhunt.com. To learn about Save Maine’s Bear Hunt and Management Programs, visit savemainesbearhunt.com.

Barney Frank quietly helping Michaud campaign

Press Herald Politics -

2013 Press Herald file photo of Barney Frank

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s gubernatorial campaign has been getting some behind-the-scenes help from former Mass. Rep. Barney Frank, a well-known and at-times controversial Democrat.

Frank, who is known for his quick wit and speaking skills, has been quietly counseling and co-hosting events for Michaud.

Frank’s involvement in Michaud’s campaign was first reported Thursday by the Boston Globe, which wrote a story about Frank returning to Capitol Hill to defend his financial reform bill. Here’s the section of the Globe report that’s relevant to Maine’s gubernatorial campaign:

It’s not uncommon to spot Frank in Maine grabbing breakfast at the Backyard Coffeehouse and Eatery, or heading to a cocktail or dinner party with his husband. He’s been active in Maine politics, cohosting several events for Representative Mike Michaud, who is running for governor and came out last year as gay.

“He’s provided some good advice to the congressman,” said Matt McTighe, manager of the Michaud campaign. “Over the last year since Congressman Michaud came out, he took some time to talk with the congressman and just talk a little bit about what campaign life was like for him and what things to be aware of and look out for.”

So has Frank mellowed?

“I would say yes,” McTighe said. “I attribute that to not being in politics anymore, where you’re always under scrutiny and reacting. Now he’s detached from that, even if he’s keeping one foot in it.”

Frank became the first sitting congressman to voluntarily come out as gay in 1987, while his association with a male prostitute was being publicly scrutinized. Shortly before leaving office in 2012, Frank, at the age of 72, became the first sitting congressman to legally marry a same-sex partner when he tied the knot with the 42-year-old Jim Ready, who lives in Oqunquit.

Michaud campaign spokesperson Lizzy Reinholt said Frank and Ready have “lent their names” to the host committees for campaign events in Oqunquit and Cumberland, with Frank introducing Michaud at the latter. Frank will also be on the host committee for a barbeque in August, she said.

Reinholt said Frank advised Michaud, who came out as gay in November, citing whisper campaigns and push polls discussing his sexual orientation. She said Frank told Michaud, who could be come the first out elected governor in U.S. history, to expect this campaign to receive national attention. And it has. Michaud’s initial announcement was national news, and he made national headlines again when he was a grand marshal in Portland’s Pride Day parade.

In an 2012 interview with the Washington Post, Frank was asked if he had ever given counsel to his colleagues about coming out as gay. Frank replied that he had never advised a congressman, but has advised a few state lawmakers. Here is what Frank told the Post:

Do it if you’re at at stage, because your ability to live as an integrated human personality is more important than anything (and) that the sacrifices you make from being in the closet — and the denial of your own personal life — it’s a mistake.

My advice is to do it if you feel that strongly, forgetting about the political consequences. Once you do, then your job is, once you’re out, if there are people who are deeply prejudiced against you for being who you are, forget ‘em, because you can’t can’t waste your time ‘em.

The one thing you can affect — and I tell this to gay candidates as well — make it clear to people that this isn’t all you’re caring about so as to not allow yourself to be pigeon-holed as a single-issue candidate.

Reinholt said she is not aware of any specific plans to have Frank, who also writes occasional columns for the Maine Sunday Telegram, stump either with, or on behalf of, Michaud on the campaign trail.

Frank’s help adds to the list of high-profile Democrats who are actively supporting Michaud’s gubernatorial campaign.

Govs. Deval Patrick, of Massachusetts, and Peter Shumlin, of Vermont, who is also the head of the Democratic Governors Association, stumped on behalf of Michaud on Monday. Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who heads the Democratic National Committee, will be in Portland on Monday, July 28, for a “Women Take Action 2014″ rally. Political strategist James Carville (known as the Ragin’ Cajun) will be  at the Maine Democrats annual Muskie Lobster Bake in Freeport on Aug. 3, and former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who now advocates for “common sense” gun control laws, will appear at a fundraiser for Michaud on Aug. 9 in Kennebunkport.

The post Barney Frank quietly helping Michaud campaign appeared first on Portland Press Herald Contributors.

DNC chair to hold ‘Women Take Action 2014′ rally for Maine Democrats in Portland July 28

Press Herald Politics -

A Facebook photo of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, and Vice President Joe Biden.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida and chair of the Democratic National Committee, will be in Portland on Monday to promote the Congressional and gubernatorial candidates.

Schultz will highlight the party’s candidates as “the clear choice this November for Maine women and working families,” according to a press release from Maine Democrats.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, the Democratic nominee for governor, is facing criticism — particularly from independent candidate Eliot Cutler — over his evolution on women’s issues, such as abortion.

Michaud began his three-decade political career as a social conservative who opposed a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion, but in recent years has changed his position. He now “will unequivocally support and protect a woman’s right to make her own personal private medical decisions.”

Cutler has gone so far as to release an economic plan for women. A group of about 50 prominent Maine women, representing Republicans and Democrats, have announced their support for Cutler.

Michaud, meanwhile, has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood and NARAL ProChoice America. He has also rolled out policies to help women in the workplace, including closing the wage gap between men and women.

Maine Democrats will touch on issues they feel are important to women, including health care and equal pay.

Shenna Bellows, who is looking to unseat Republican Sen. Susan Collins, will be the only Democratic candidate not in attendance, since she is currently conducting a 350-mile “Walk Across Maine” from Houlton to Kittery.

Democratic candidates expected to be in attendance include Michaud, who is in a three-way race with Cutler to unseat Gov. Paul LePage; Rep. Chellie Pingree, who is being challenged by 25-year-old Republican Isaac Misiuk for the 1st Congressional District seat; and Emily Cain, who is facing Republican Bruce Poliquin for the 2nd District seat being vacated by Michaud.

The “Women Take Action Rally” will take place on Monday at 11 a.m. in the Rines Auditorium at the Portland Public Library.

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Supreme Court already said DC Court was wrong on Obamacare subsidies

Amy Fried - Bangor Daily News -

The Supreme Court has already spoken on the DC Circuit’s three judge panel’s 2-1 decision that subsidies are only available for insurance purchased through state exchanges. This decision contradicted the decision of a unanimous three judge panel for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (Virginia).

How could that be? That DC Circuit panel only ruled the other day.

Now, the Supreme Court didn’t actually rule that quickly.

And there is no time machine that could convey a ruling from the future back to our time.

But, nonetheless, the Supreme Court has weighed in.

Even more, the conservatives on the Supreme Court have stated that the Affordable Care Act created subsidies for health insurance whether or not a federal or state exchange was involved.

What did they say and when?

As Professor Abbe R. Gluck of Yale Law School points out, that understanding of Affordable Care Act was contained in the dissent to the Supreme Court case that upheld the individual mandate as constitutional.

Gluck writes:

Sophisticated textual analysis of complex laws like this one requires attention to the statutory text as a whole, in context, and not in isolation. That’s how the Virginia appeals court read the ACA today, and the Supreme Court itself offered the same admonition last month, through an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia in the EPA case.

In fact, it was Justice Scalia himself, together with Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, who interpreted the health reform statute precisely this way in the 2012 health reform case—holistically, and assuming the statutory text makes subsidies available on state and federal exchanges alike.

In their joint dissent, they wrote:

“Congress provided a backup scheme; if a State declines to participate in the operation of an exchange, the Federal Government will step in and operate an exchange in that State.”

And then: “In the absence of federal subsidies to purchasers, insur­ance companies will have little incentive to sell insurance on the exchanges. … That system of incentives collapses if the federal subsidies are invalidated.”

The dissenters also assumed: “By 2019, 20 million of the 24 million people who will obtain insurance through an exchange are expected to receive an average federal subsidy of $6,460 per person”—numbers that only make sense if the federal exchanges are included.

So there you have it.

While one never can be certain about what the Supreme Court will do if it takes a case, the four Justices who held that the mandate was unconstitutional in 2012 then understood the Affordable Care Act to provide subsidies for insurance bought through the federal and state exchanges.

Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence endorses Eliot Cutler

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler. BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler on Thursday received the endorsement of the Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, largely due to Cutler’s support for background checks for all gun sales.

“Cutler joins with 89 percent of Maine citizens who favor background checks. Unlike his opponents he is willing to stand up against the corporate gun lobby and do what for what is right for Maine,” said William Hartwood, a board member of the group.

The group criticized both Cutler’s opponents in the race — Democrat and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and Republican Gov. Paul LePage — for opposing gun reform efforts in Washington and in Augusta.

Hartwood mentioned LePage’s veto of a bill passed in the wake of the Newtown shooting, which would have held gun sellers accountable for not performing background checks. He also criticized Michaud for being the only member of Maine’s delegation who has not co-sponsored a bill in Congress known as the Manchin-Toomey amendment, which would create universal background checks.

Cutler said that while he supports Second Amendment rights and Maine’s long sportsman tradition, the issue is straightforward.

“If you’re a member of Congress and you genuinely support universal background checks, you sign on as a cosponsor of the Manchin-Toomey bill,” he said “You add your name. If you’re unsure of your principles, if you’re wavering or afraid of the NRA, or if you want to have it both ways, then you don’t. Period.”

There’s been a spike in interest over the candidates’ position on issues of guns and gun regulation ever since it was announced that former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — who was a victim of a violent shooting spree and now advocates for moderate reform for firearm regulation — will stump for Michaud in August.

Giffords’ proposed reforms are supported by a broad swath of the American public, but for gun advocates, any move to tighten regulations on the Right to Bear Arms is a political poison pill.

Michaud has long received high marks from the National Rifle Association, so the announced appearance with Giffords prompted Maine’s GOP to accuse him of drifting toward the left. (It should be noted that Giffords has also supported Maine’s senior U.S. senator, Republican Susan Collins.)

Meanwhile, LePage — who is a supporter of near-universal concealed carry — has doubled down on his claim to the gun-rights vote.

It’s yet to be seen how much “the guns issue” will matter in the minds of voters. Poll after poll indicates that jobs and the economy are the No. 1 issue this election cycle. But all it will take is another mass shooting between now and November (unfortunately, they happen all too frequently) to catapult the issue back to the forefront.

Colbert on border crisis: ‘Folks, no where is this problem more pronounced that in Maine”

Press Herald Politics -

Opponents of Republican Gov. Paul LePage believe he should only serve one term, and not just because of his policies. They argue that some of LePage’s comments have focused the national spotlight on Maine for all the wrong reasons, and in some cases have made Maine a national punch line.

On Wednesday, those opponents received another arrow in their quiver when comedian Stephen Colbert spoofed LePage’s reaction to discovering that eight unaccompanied minors who were picked up by border agents on the U.S.-Mexican border were placed in Maine without his knowledge.

Colbert, who will succeed David Letterman as the host of the Late Show on CBS,  devoted the opening segment of his popular “Colbert Report” on Comedy Central to the national outrage over the federal government’s placement of some of these unaccompanied children with sponsors and family members in states without first informing the governors. Before playing clips from Fox News expressing concern that no one knows where these minors are, Colbert jokes: “Now that the kids are actually here, we don’t even know what parts of America they are destroying first.”

Colbert then spends about a minute and a half tackling the apparent crisis in Maine.

“Folks, nowhere is this problem more pronounced than in Maine — the Plastic Bib State. Because out of the 52,000 in federal custody, Uncle Sam is unfairly saddling Maine with a whopping eight of them.”

After showing a black-and-white photo of a grinning LePage with a quote from his press release Tuesday about Maine not being able to afford the kids, Colbert concludes his segment with a knee-slapper:

“Folks, I never realized Maine was in such dire financial straits. They’re just one Octomom away from bankruptcy.”

There’s plenty of other comedic bits in the four-minute segment, which can be viewed below.

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Sting operation shows majority of fake Obamacare applications getting approved

The Maine Wire -

As problems with President Barack Obama’s health care law continue to unfold across the country, a new sting operation launched by the Government Accountability Office has discovered a troubling trend: Obamacare’s enrollment system is unable to discern fake applications for federal health care subsidies. The GAO’s sting operation submitted 18 fake applications to healthcare.gov seeking […]

LePage to enforce welfare-to-work requirement

The Maine Wire -

AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday it will require nearly 12,000 able-bodied Food Stamp recipients to work, provide volunteer services, or participate in job training as a condition of receiving the federal welfare benefit. “People who are in need deserve a hand up, but we should not be giving able-bodied […]

LePage hit with $5,000 fine for late campaign finance filing

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Gov. Paul LePage in 2012. BDN photo by Alex Barber.

In a letter dated Monday (see here), the Maine Ethics Commission alerted Gov. Paul LePage that his re-election campaign would be fined $5,000 for failing to file a campaign finance report on time.

The report in question is known as a “24-hour-report.” Any time a candidate receives a single contribution of more than $1,000, they must file a report with the state within 24 hours.

The contributions in question — the maximum $3,000 from a supporter in Cape Elizabeth — was received on June 10, but wasn’t reported to the state until July 21. The $5,000 fine is the maximum amount allowed by statute.

“As our campaign finance team was going through the [42-day post-primary] report, filing it, they realized there was an error there,” said LePage’s campaign spokesman, Alex Willette. He said the campaign would seek to have the fine waived at an upcoming Commission meeting.

Penalties for late campaign finance reporting may be waived in the case of a “valid emergency,” an error by commission staff, or because the candidate was somehow not notified of the deadline. LePage could also obtain a waiver if his campaign could show that “a bona fide effort was made to file the report in accordance with the statutory requirements.”

While LePage may be able to meet one of those conditions, commissioners are also likely to consider that the offense is LePage’s third this campaign cycle: The governor was fined twice in June for tardiness in filing two separate 24-hour reports. Those fines totaled $210.

The money race for the Blaine House, in six charts

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler brought in the most cash between May and July — mostly from his own pocket — but he’s also spent the most so far. Cutler lags both incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Democrat Mike Michaud for the cash their campaigns had on hand as of the latest reporting period. The Michaud campaign had just more than $1 million and LePage’s had about $930,000 as of July 15. Cutler had about $616,000, according to contribution and expenditure reports filed by a midnight deadline.

Taking a closer look at the contribution side, the same trends that have played out in fundraising so far continued at a faster clip from May to July. That is, Cutler put in about $588,000 of his own funds, Michaud raised nearly half of his contributions from out-of-state donors and LePage’s contributions from commercial sources continued to make up about a quarter of his amount raised.

Compare that with the contribution sources for each campaign since they began.

While the in-state and out-of-state representation of contributions is skewed a little because of Cutler’s self-financing, which is tied to his office in Portland, it’s still clear that fundraising has so far focused on key towns in southern Maine. For contributions by geography, Augusta and Bangor are outliers in ranking fifth and sixth for contributions to any of the three candidates’ campaigns since they started.

Outside of Maine, Michaud has a clear fundraising lead. About 35 percent, or $693,000, of the congressman’s funds have come from out of state, mostly from Washington D.C. That compares with about 19 percent of out-of-state funds for Cutler (again, keeping in mind the self-financing) and 16 percent for LePage.

And here’s a more detailed look at just where those out-of-state contributions are originating. Analyze the geographical reach of each candidate using the candidate filter in the view.

Bellows campaign re-shoots part of ad after criticism about non-Maine worker

Press Herald Politics -

The Bellows for Senate campaign has replaced a portion of an advertisement on the “working class” a day after being criticized for using stock footage of a worker who was not from Maine.

Last Friday, Shenna Bellows released an ad that calls for raising the minimum wage and increasing the Social Security benefit as part of her campaign against Republican incumbent Sen. Susan Collins. The ad featured several brief clips of individuals – parents with young children, senior citizens, a hard hat-wearing worker – as Bellows talked about the need to strengthen the middle class.

But debate erupted on Twitter and other social media after some Republican observers – such as Portland Press Herald political contributor Philip Harriman – pointed out that the clip of the worker was apparently stock footage. Harriman wrote in an “Agree to Disagree” column that the footage was supplied by an Oregon-based company that hires actors to film scenes for advertisements.

“Now, I don’t actually know whether this guy is from Maine, ever been to Maine, or plans to vacation in Maine if Shenna wins, but it sure seems inappropriate  for her to be running an ad where she says she wants ‘Maine families to get ahead’ while using stock footage of a model/actor who is probably from somewhere else,” wrote Harriman, a former Republican state senator.

On Tuesday, Republican observers noted again that the Bellows campaign had released a new version of the ad. This time, the stock footage was replaced with clips of two new but still-unidentified workers.

Links to the old ad no longer work. Here is the new ad:

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Bellows downplayed the original clip — accurately pointing out that “campaigns often use stock footage” — but called the inclusion an “oversight” amid the bustle to launch both an ad campaign and a 350-mile walk across the state. Bellows said she had seen the ad prior to airing but did not know the worker was not from Maine.

Both of the workers in the new version are from Maine — one from Westbrook and the other from Bowdoinham. One worker is wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the number “327″ in the middle of what appears to be the seal for the Local 327 chapter of the Laborers’ International Union of North America in Augusta, which has endorsed Bellows’ campaign.

“I think the fact that we are up on television in July is a testament to the strength of the campaign,” Bellows said. “And the fact that Republicans are making a mountain out of a mole hill is a testament to the strength of our support.”

Bellows also called it “ridiculous” that Republicans would suggest she lacks support from workers considering that her campaign has been endorsed by numerous unions, including the AFL-CIO, a federation of unions with 26,000 members statewide. Collins has also picked up union endorsements, including all four representing employees at Bath Iron Works.

Republicans nonetheless attempted to capitalize on the incident.

“This is just one more amateur-hour effort by the Bellows campaign,” Maine Republican Party spokesman David Sorensen said in a statement. “When you outsource your campaign to D.C. consultants, this kind of mistake is bound to happen.”

Bellows is several days into a 350-mile walking tour of Maine that began in Houlton and will end in Kittery next month.

The post Bellows campaign re-shoots part of ad after criticism about non-Maine worker appeared first on Portland Press Herald Contributors.

Bellows removes stock footage from ad touting support for Maine workers

State and Capitol - Bangor Daily News -

A spokeswoman for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows says the campaign made “a mistake” when it included stock footage in an online advertisement about the candidate’s support for working class people.

The ad has since been taken down, and replaced with a new one featuring workers from Maine. (The workers, by the way, are Toby Johnston of  Bowdoinham and Jim Mayo of Wesbrook — both are members of LIUNA Local 327 in Augusta.)

Abigail Collazo, a Bellows staffer, said the inclusion of the stock footage — which came from Getty Image’s iStock service — was never meant to make the video’s final cut.

“We had intended to use the Mainers footage,” she said. “If we had used it intentionally, we wouldn’t have changed it.”

Collazo said the oversight was a result of the intense focus on Bellows’ ongoing walk from Houlton to Kittery. The ad was released online Friday, and Bellows’ walking campaign began Saturday.

Still, Republicans over the weekend and on Monday criticized Bellows, first for using the stock footage, then again when she removed it.

“It speaks to the sincerity and the authenticity in the ad. If you really care about the people of Maine, you go out and film those people, who you’re seeking to represent,” said Maine GOP spokesman David Sorensen. “It indicates you don’t care as much about the authenticity of the ad, and you’re willing to take the shortcut.”

Lost in all this is the message of the ad, in which Bellows said Congress must increase the minimum wage and beef up social security benefits. Collazo pointed out that those two initiatives have been opposed by Bellows’ Republican opponent, incumbent U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.

Here’s the ad as it stands today:


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