"Finally, we can turn the page on one of the sorriest chapters in Maine's mostly proud political history", said the editorial page of the Maine Sunday Telegram on January 30, in a sharply worded editorial condemning a violation of state campaign finance laws.
Reading only that, one might reasonably conclude that the editors were speaking of the actions of the Republican State Leadership Committee. Eleven days before the election last November, the Alexandria, Virginia based RSLC spent $400,000 on TV, radio and mail in opposition to five Democratic State Senate Candidates. More importantly, the RSLC violated state law by failing to report these expenditures on time. All five of their targets were using Maine Clean Elections Act funds, and were deprived of timely matching funding to respond to the attacks. All five were defeated.
Such a sizable late expenditure that fails to comply with Maine’s excellent system of campaign finance reporting is indeed alarming and worthy of strong condemnation.
Sadly, that’s not what the Telegram was doing. No, they were putting-in what we can only hope is the final word on the dreaded "Cutler Files": the website critical of Eliot Cutler, created by Dennis Bailey and Thom Rhoads. Read more »
In response to a Freedom of Access request from several journalists, the Maine Ethics Commission has just released a stack of documents related to their investigation into the Cutler Files website, including memos sent from staff to commissioners and hand-written notes from interviews conducted with a wide range of political figures.
In sending the information, Commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne cautioned against releasing the documents widely due to "the risk that people will misinterpret them for political motivations or simply for the pleasure of taking a shot at a public figure or political party."
He also added a caveat to the content of an investigative memo sent to the Commissioners.
[I]n the October 17 investigative memo to the Commissioners, I included a working theory concerning the Cutler Files website (pages 2-3 of the memo). At the time I wrote the memo, Dennis Bailey and Thom Rhoads declined to be interviewed in depth, so the memo necessarily contained some speculation which was so noted for the Commissioners. Having completed the investigation, I would say now that my description may have overstated the involvement of the Scarcelli campaign in the research that Thom Rhoads conducted at home. So, please be aware of that as you read the October 17 memo.
Former Maine gubernatorial candidate and prospective Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rosa Scarcelli has been caught lying about her knowledge of her husband's involvement in the Cutler Files website controversy. MPBN's AJ Higgins has it all on tape, although he doesn't explicitly connect the dots for his listeners.
In the interview, Ms. Scarcelli says she knew her husband, Thomas Rhoads, had "done some Google" on Culter, but that she didn't learn of his involvement in the Cutler Files website until shortly after Labor Day and, as she says, prior to the Ethics Commission investigation, which officially went forward Oct. 20.
Read more »
Both Thom Rhoads and Rosa Scarcelli today released statements detailing their involvement or lack-thereof in the Cutler Files website. At Down East, I provide some context.
With the Ethics Commission having finished their investigation and the authors having fully outed themselves, this may be the last thing I ever write about the Cutler Files, a website whose authorship and legal standing got a lot more attention than its content.
Go read this great piece by Kay Rand on the days leading up to the election of Angus King.
Quote of the day:
"I'll make one bold prediction: Rosa Scarcelli will have the best hospitality suite, by far."
-Dennis Bailey at Dirigo Blue
And and an assessment of Scarcelli's campaigning ability:
"I'll be honest. When she first decided to begin this endeavor many moons ago, I had my doubts. Only because I've worked with several candidates who were convinced they should be the next governor, congressman, senator, whatever, only to discover after just a few weeks on the campaign trail their blood pressure just couldn't take it. They found out the hard way that the skills you need for governing are a far cry from the skills required for campaigning. Only rarely do you find the two talents in one package. Angus King, for one, but even he would admit that he didn't know that going in. He found out much later that not only did he like campaigning, he was good at it.
"And so is Rosa. I know, I'm on her campaign and she pays me, but I'm telling you. I have seen very few candidates rise to the occasion as she has. I've seen her walk into rooms filled with cold-hearted skeptics only to leave behind a room full of true believers."
The latest article on the gubernatorial race from the Center for Public Interest Reporting is on Democratic candidate Rosa Scarcelli and lacks the fascinating revelations seen in some of their previous pieces. There's nothing that holds a candle to their description of the cratering of Les Otten's American Skiing Company or their expose on a patronage appointment within John Richardson's Department of Economic and Community Development.
Instead, the piece is a competent and meticulous rebuttal of Scarcelli's campaign themes of political independence and business acumen. It also probes several areas of potential weakness for the candidate and finds some dirt, but nothing too damaging.
Al Diamon writes that the piece is the first to give details about her relationship with her mother, controversial and politically-connected developer Pamela Gleichman, but while that's important, it's not exactly new information and was widely known in Democratic circles.
One line in the article, however, if accurate, would be big news:
Scarcelli has also received consulting help from top Democratic party operatives, including Ricky Arriola of Miami, who is working for the Democratic National Committee on just three campaigns this year — Scarcelli’s is one of them.
If Arriola were working for the DNC on Scarcelli's campaign, it would mean the national party has involved itself in a contested primary and would be a huge deal.
According to Scarcelli campaign spokesperson Dennis Bailey, however, the report is inaccurate.
They know each other as Crown Fellows, Ricky is a donor, a strong supporter and has helped Rosa organize a few fundraisers in a volunteer capacity. He is not assisting the campaign in any official way, nor have we ever said anything to the contrary.
McCue needs to answer for herself where she got her information. I’m not even sure that Ricky is connected with the DNC. I know he got an arts commission appointment or some such thing.
Update: According to John Christie at CPIR, the information on Arriola came from this profile of the Florida businessman. Here's the original line from the piece, which seems to have been a bit mangled in translation:
He’s also now an active member of the Democratic National Committee, working on three campaigns: Alex Sink, for Florida Governor, Rosa Scarcelli for Governor of Maine and Alexi Giannoulias of Illinois for the U.S. Senate.
In related news, a previous subject of an article by the Center, Anthony Monfiletto, resigned from his post on the Maine Workers' Compensation Board today.
The race to the Blaine House is heating up. Here's some gubernatorial errata from today:
Today at 5pm is the deadline to qualify for clean elections funding by submitting 3,250 $5 contributions and proof of $40,000 raised in seed money. Mills, Mitchell and McGowan have all said they've already met the requirements, leaving John Richardson as the odd man out. Watch for a release from his campaign today.
Speaking of Richardson, the campaign can't have been helped by the story in Maine newspapers yesterday penned by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting about a patronage appointment within the DECD.
Also, the candidate's son, also named John Richardson, writes in to answer the button question: "Dad's been using that style since his first campaign signs in the late 90's. I'm not sure if he was choosing to invoke an emotional connection to Brennan, knowing him, I'm guessing he just liked the color scheme."
Unity of One:
Rosa Scarcelli sent out a release earlier this week asking her Democratic competitors to join her in a unity press conference ahead of Obama's visit today. According to spokesperson Dennis Bailey, none of them responded. "We'll do it anyway," says Bailey. "Unity of one."
Not Too Offended:
Matt Jacobson sent out a letter yesterday attacking Maine's clean election system in general and fellow Republican candidate Peter Mills specifically for running a publicly-funded campaign.
"I'm offended, and I know that you are too," wrote Jacobson.
I asked Jacobson campaign manager Bill Becker if his candidate's disapproval extended to the Republican legislative candidates running clean and if he would also be publicly asking them to refrain from using the clean elections system (71% of Republicans ran clean in 2008).
"I expect a higher standard of leadership from gubernatorial candidates. While I would hope the financial circumstances we are experiencing would inspire all candidates to raise their own money, people aspiring to Maine's highest office have an obligation to lead and set an example. Maine's four "Clean Elections" gubernatorial candidates may well receive more than $2.4M in taxpayer dollars - just in the primary. For that amount of money, the state could certainly fund greater priorities than to buy bumper stickers and lawn signs.
"As Governor, I would have line-item vetoeed that expense this year."
Political veteran Dennis Bailey thinks that Maine's media is missing an important point in the discussion of Snowe and Collins' bipartisanship.
"the reason that Snowe and Collins can support the stimulus bill while their Republican colleagues can’t is because most members of Congress face strong, right-wing opposition back in their districts and could face serious opponents for their jobs if they backed the president. Re-election, after all, is the one thing that really gets the attention of a member of Congress.
On the other hand, Maine’s right wing-nut GOP faction is no threat at all to Snowe and Collins. It’s a noisy but flaccid group who have no influence in statewide elections. There are plenty GOP senators and congressman who are jealous of Snowe’s and Collins’ invulnerability and would have otherwise supported the stimulus."
Dennis Bailey settles some scores on his blog today, criticizing the methods and results of the Critical Insights research firm, which worked with the pro-casino side on Question 2. He also faults the press for failing to question the firm's results.
Critical Insights fared poorly in my recent ranking of Maine pollsters, coming in last place of all the independent polls taken in Maine in the month before the election.