Preti Flaherty lobbyist Ann Robinson has been showing up frequently in my reporting this year. She served as co-chair of Gov. Paul LePage's transition team, compiled his much-maligned "Phase I" regulatory reform agenda, and serves as his key regulatory reform advisor, even as she maintains her day job as a corporate lobbyist. She also serves on the committee that recommends judicial nominees to the governor and -- as expected -- was just nominated to the board of MPBN by the governor.
This past week she's been under additional pressure from Democrats, after my Phoenix story revealed her to be the new state co-chair for the controversial American Legislative Exchange Committee. So, not surprisingly, the Bangor Daily News picked up on the story today, asking if it matters that corporations are writing many of the bills legislators introduce in Augusta.
But halfway down the story is a real shocker. Governor LePage's spokseperson, Adrienne Bennett, told the News that despite "Democrats' claims," Ann Robinson is not an advisor to the governor!
Oh, really? Read more »
Maine Governor Paul LePage's regulatory reform agenda was created by lifting entire passages from memos received by favored lobbyists and industry groups, confidential administration dossiers reveal, suggesting he and his staff made little attempt to shape policies themselves.
The dossiers, obtained via a Freedom of Access Act request, also indicate some of the governor's priorities going forward, including measures targeting striking workers and Maine's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Who wanted to weaken air quality standards? Who inserted language to reduce all environmental laws to the weaker federal standards? Who wants the same done with civil rights and restaurant tip sharing laws? These answers and many more are in my feature in this week's Portland Phoenix.
I requested the documents back in March, after the governor's then-communications director, Dan Demeritt, refused to answer questions about the origins of controversial elements of the governor's infamous "Phase I" regulatory reform agenda, much of which was subsequently rejected by the Republican-controlled legislature. They provide a detailed look into how LePage formulates policy and whom he sees himself as representing, issues I've written about in two previous Phoenix stories, "LePage's Secret Bankers" and "LePage's Secret Puppeteers."
Read more »
In my column this week in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, I take a look at Governor LePage's latest friendly fire incident.
This time, LePage thoroughly stomped on Republican legislators' attempts to assert that they've been at all effective during the legislative session so far, declaring instead that they haven't "done a damn thing."
Also good reading on the subject is this BDN editorial, headlined "The 'nothing to do' governor."
This weekend saw another rejoinder on the subject from Maine's democratic leaders, with House Minority Leader Emily Cain again faulting Maine Republicans for a lack of focus, declaring in their weekly radio address: "So, while Governor LePage put up a sign, took down a mural, and went on vacation, Democrats in the legislature have been working to find real solutions to problems facing Maine families and spur economic growth."
Communications Director Dan Demeritt’s resignation today is not unexpected for the under-fire, inner-circle member of the Lepage administration. Demeritt was listed as both communications director and legislative affairs staffer. His resignation followed media reports yesterday in the Portland Press Herald that he faced, “possible foreclosure on five buildings he owns…”
Demeritt was becoming a liability for the Lepage administration well before yesterday’s revelation. His emails caused concern in January.
“Once we take office, Paul will put 11,000 bureaucrats to work getting Republicans re-elected.” Dirigo Blue wrote: “But reading through the entire document, it is apparent that the incoming administration was preparing to use – whenever possible – the apparatus of government as a promotional tool.”
It appeared slipshod at best to make those comments in a written forum, brazenly arrogant at worst. In the weeks leading up to and following, Demeritt was prone to answering media questions in ways that befuddled the average Mainer. When asked about closing state government for bad weather, he said “The rule of thumb is: if Marden’s is open, Maine is open.” Read more »
The current conversation around political campfires here in Maine focuses on whether Gov. Paul LePage's star has already set, less than four months after taking office. I've argued here that he's certainly taken a hit, while Portland Press Herald columnist and editorial writer Greg Kesich has gone so far as to declare "the LePage era is over."
Murals aside, one of the principal causes of Mr. LePage's loss of influence has been his ill-considered assault on Maine's environmental and product safety laws, which has featured a range of proposed regulatory rollbacks that appear to benefit only the out-of-state chemical, toy, and pharmaceutical companies whose lobbyists wrote much of the governor's reform agenda. In this month's Down East, I explore the origins of and political reaction to the governor's rollback plan, much of which has been stricken from the relevant bills by the Republican-controlled legislature. Read more »
Earlier this week, Republican operative Michael Pajak was hired as a deputy commissioner in the Department of Conservation by commissioner Bill Beardsley. Pajak served as Beardsley's campaign manager during his recent attempt at the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
Evidence posted in October at the blog AsMaineGoesLolz had suggested that Pajak was the man behind an online identity on the conservative-leaning As Maine Goes message board called The Distributist and that he had written a series of offensive and hateful forum posts using the pseudonym, often targeting gays and Muslims. At the time, I interviewed Pajak about the posts for a piece at Down East and he pointedly declined to deny having written them.
On Friday, soon after MPBN reporter Susan Sharon started asking questions about Pajak's online activities, it was announced that Pajak would no longer be filling the position.
I have a post on all this that will be up soon at Down East.
There's also a thread going on AMG that should provide for some enjoyable reading. I see I've already been compared to the Puritans and the Khmer Rouge,
Paul LePage's strange remarks about why he doesn't support banning the toxic chemical bisphenol-A and his joke that it causes women to grow "little beards" have continued to spread far and wide today, as I discuss at Down East.
The Maine Women's Lobby has set up a handy tool if you'd like to send a message to LePage expressing an opinion about his statement.
Also, Dirigo Blue notes that the state's web page on BPA facts has undergone some recent changes.
My column in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel today is about the LePage administration breaking its promises of transparency, particularly regarding the influence of out-of-state corporations and their lobbyists on proposed environmental rollbacks. It relies heavily on some great investigative journalism done by Colin Woodard and Susan Sharon.
Since I wrote the column, the LePage administration has announced that Carlisle McLean will be joining their team as Senior Policy Advisor. McLean also worked at the law and lobbying firm Preti Flaherty, where, according to current and past reporting from MPBN, she lobbied for the Toy Industry Association against the ban on the toxic chemical bisphenol A. McLean is not listed as having represented the organization in the state lobbying database.
LePage staffers Dan Demeritt and Dan Billings both emailed me today to push back on some of the examples of apparent dishonesty by the administration. Read more »
Some great reporting from Susan Sharon at MPBN yesterday caught the LePage administration making another false statement. Spokesman Dan Demeritt claimed that opposition to the Kid-Safe Products Act came from the Maine Grocers Association, when in fact the organization has no position on the law.
As the piece explains, and I've also mentioned, the real force behind the attacks on Maine's environmental and public health protections is coming from out-of-state interests like the American Chemistry Council, which represents large chemical and plastic manufacturing companies.
A former Communications Director for the Maine House Republicans (during the 119th and 120th Legislatures) and the Jason Levesque campaign is taking aim at the actions of LePage spokesperson Dan Demeritt in the wake of the leaking of an email revealing his plans to use government offices and events to support Republican political efforts.
Vic Berardelli, currently vice-chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Maine, called out Demeritt on the site As Maine Goes, not for his attempts to politicize the executive branch, but for Demeritt's decision to put his plans to paper. He writes:
The idiocy is that this was put in writing, not the content. That's totally inept and potentially politically suicidal. If it must be communicated, it should have been funnelled through third parties to establish plausible deniability. Either uttered by someone at the state party not affiliated with government or, even better, by a consultant or pundit with six degrees of separation who can float the idea and implant it among those who should be made aware without any fingers pointing back to anyone official.
Never put in writing what you can communicate with a whisper, never whisper what you communicate with a wink and a nod.