Susan Cover at the Kennebec Journal has posted an interesting question on her blog today:
Turning to Maine politics, who was the best villain of our 2008 election cycle?
Tom Allen? Susan Collins? John Frary? The beverage industry? The Legislature?
How about Pat LaMarche and the casino folks? Or on the flip side, Dennis Bailey?
From her list, I'd definitely vote for the beverage industry.
For pure cartoonish villainy, however, I'd have to go with puppy mill aficionado Lois Snowe-Mello.
The Maine Association of Realtors PAC was fined $10,000 earlier this week by the Maine Ethics Commission for failing to report two mailings sent in support of Republican state senate candidates until 20 days after the expenditures were made.
The PAC's executive director blamed an administrative error, but the timing of the expenditures and the reporting led the ethics commission staff to recommend the maximum fine. The commission agreed.
Here is one of the pieces sent - this one in support of former Senator Lois Snowe-Mello, who lost to Democrat Deborah Simpson by 108 votes.
The AP reports that the recount in the District 15 state senate race has ended with Democrat Deborah Simpson up by 104 votes, two votes more than her margin on election day.
The final count is 10,058 to 9,954.
The AMG thread I mentioned earlier has devolved to the point that a GOP state committee member is now ranting about how the Freemasons and the Illuminati are plotting to create a world government (about par for the course for AMG).
Before things got completely out of hand, Republican Senator Lois Snowe-Mello stopped by to write a stream-of-consciousness post about her recent loss. Click "read more" below to read a good chunk of it. Here's one part I found particularly interesting (the illustration is mine):
Tell me why did Mike Vaughan not get elected? It certainly was not the puppy mill thing. He and I worked against Socialized Health Care and Health Ins.and we opposed Ld.2247 and fought against its passage. WE also collected signatures to repeal this new tax that funded Dirigo. Maine People's Alliance made it there mission to get rid of us. The Maine People's Alliance worked against both Mike and I. They called and went door to door passing out literature against us. We need a Republican Organization like that far left group to counter them every step of the way. Isn't it odd that the folks who worked to get Referendum one on the ballot lost our races? That includes Senator Paula Benoit?
Nice job MPA.
The group recently sent an email to their membership with these striking statistics about their electoral efforts:
76,664 doors knocked
132,487 phone calls made
57,026 personal conversations with voters
45,303 pieces of literature left at doorsteps
226,485 mail pieces sent
18,139 signatures collected
2,340 new MPA members recruited
They also report having registered 4,000 new voters. Read more »
Chuck Quintero from the Maine Senate Democratic Campaign Committee sends over an anti-Snowe-Mello radio spot playing in District 15 and provides this comment:
We think this is an issue that is pertinent to voters of District 15. Lois Snowe-Mello has lied to voters about her role in the puppy mill and changed her story, voters need to know about that. How can they trust her to stand up for them if she protects the special interests. This is a clear distinction between Deb and Lois. Deb was against puppy mills and Lois was protecting the owners, who are now fugitives from the law.
Time and time again Lois Snowe-Mello has made the wrong choice when it comes to standing up for those most in need, whether it be the atrocities of a puppy mill or her vote to take away healthcare from more than 18,000 Maine families. It is clear that special interests come first for her.
On the other hand you have Deb Simpson who has worked hard on behalf of those without a voice, the most at risk among us. Deb has supported increased regulation and enforcement of puppy mills and kennels, worked hard stop local governments from seizing Mainer’s property and turning it over to big developers, and protected some of the most vulnerable Mainers by keeping guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers.
Listen to the ad here.
At Down East this week, I attempt to wrap up the Snowe-Mello puppy mill stuff into one coherent package. The American Journal article cited is subscription-only, unfortunately.
www.iwasaluckyone.com is a new website created by the Maine Democratic Party offering a look at Senator Snowe-Mello's record on animal welfare. It may also be the first time an adorable puppy has been used in an attack ad.
I found the site through traffic from an outgoing link to my post on Snowe-Mello's disagreement with the Sun Journal about her actions opposing the rescue effort at a Buxton puppy mill. It's not clear how the party intends to promote the site in District 15.
Looks like the District 15 state senate race alone could keep me busy until the election. The latest from the race is more info on the independent expenditure from the Maine Democratic Party that led to $13,000 in matching funds being transferred to the campaign of Republican incumbent Lois Snowe-Mello and a potential fine being levied against the MDP.
It turns out the expenditure in question was for two mailers meant to be "issue advocacy". The Maine Clean Elections Act states that issue advocacy (which doesn't trigger matching funds) can mention a candidate but not specifically promote their candidacy. According to the MDP's lawyer, the vendor they hired altered the designs without informing the party and included the phrase "Deb Simpson for State Senate." This changed the mailers into "express advocacy," necessitating an immediate report to the ethics commission and a $13,000 disbursement to Simpson's opponent.
Here's one of the proofs the MDP says they signed off on:
And here's the version that was sent (change highlighted in red):
The party is contesting the fine levied against them based on their lack of knowledge of the designer's mistake until after the mailers were sent. Their case will be heard on Monday.
Despite the costly mistake, the party is still using the Louisiana-based vendor for other expenditures.
Robert Fisk, President of Maine Friends of Animals sends along this ad, which the organization is running in the Sun Journal as an independent expenditure (click to enlarge).
The group's involvement is obviously a response to Snowe-Mello's actions during the Buxton puppy mill rescue operation.
Fisk explains MFOA's reasoning for entering the race:
Maine Friends of Animals promotes the humane treatment of animals through education, advocacy and legislation (and politics). We are a 501 c4 which allows us to be more politically engaged. Besides our newspaper ads, MFOA has members and supporters calling and putting up road signs for Rep. Simpson. Two of us handed out Simpson literature at the New Gloucester Fair this past weekend. We encourage members to write letters to the editor. This is our focus race – it elects an animal-friendly Senator and also defeats one of the worst legislators on animal welfare. We have stressed to our members and others that many state Representative and Senate races are won by less than a few hundred votes. We want to do whatever we can get Rep. Simpson elected to also send a message to candidates that there is an organized animal protection voting bloc out there. If others wish to join our efforts contact us at email@example.com.
While talking to Sen. Lois Snowe-Mello for my Down East column this week, I was surprised when she strongly denied having opposed the actions of the Animal Welfare Program in rescuing animals from the J'amie Kennel in Buxton.
"I was repeating the words that someone else said at a meeting. The newspaper took it and completely distorted it," she said.
She also stated that she has always been "absolutely opposed to puppy mills that abuse animals" and that she was not backing the Buxton kennel owners and had never done so.
I asked her to repeat her comments to verify my notes and she confirmed those statements explicitly.
My surprise arose from the fact that the Sun Journal article was very thorough in laying out her apparent position at the time. The quote that has received the most attention was her remark accusing the Animal Welfare folks of using "Gestapo methods" (The Sun Journal even wrote an editorial about it, invoking Godwin's law on her Nazi analogy), but the article contained several other quotes from Snowe-Mello as well.
State officials said many of the dogs [seized from the Buxton kennel] have sarcoptic mange and giardia, an intestinal parasite. A lot of the animals remain at the kennel and are being cared for by volunteers.
Snowe-Mello said she went to the Frascas' kennel after the seizure and was stunned to encounter animal workers without protective clothing, even though officials have said the dogs are sick and contagious. The Animal Welfare Program, she said, doesn't appear to be open and honest.
"Frankly, I'm afraid of this department. Very afraid," Snowe-Mello said.
She wants an investigation into the Animal Welfare Program and clearer rules and regulations "so people know where they stand." In the meantime, she plans to work with other lawmakers to submit emergency legislation to amend the new amendments.
She urged breeders, farmers and pet owners to organize in support.
"Everyone make noise," she said. "But be respectful."
The journalist who wrote the article, Lindsay Tice, was very helpful when I asked about this contradiction. She pointed me towards a letter to the editor that Snowe-Mello wrote after the editorial was published in which the senator stated that the paper had taken her quotes out of context, but did not explain in what context her "Gestapo" quote or her other statements backing the kennel were meant to be taken.
Tice was also unequivocal about the events described in her article, writing:
I completely stand by my story and maintain Sen. Snowe-Mello was not misquoted and her quotes were in no way taken out of context. Throughout the meeting, she consistently opposed animal welfare officials' actions in Buxton. She said what the article quotes her as saying.
A veteran legislator is claiming one thing. The best newspaper in the state is claiming the opposite. Someone is wrong.
As for the puppy mill case itself, the dogs have been offered up for adoption, the kennel has been seized and sold at auction, and the owners are wanted fugitives. The rescue operation was the largest such action in Maine history.