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 »
The American Legislative Exchange Council is one of the most powerful -- and secretive -- lobbying entities in the country, a channel for corporations to literally write state laws for willing or naive legislators without anyone being any the wiser.
Or at least that was the case until last month, when many of their confidential members-only documents were leaked to the world wide wonderland. Journalists are just starting to dig into the model bills, donor lists, and rolls of participating legislators posted at ALECexposed.org by the Center for Media and Democracy.
But, as I report in tomorrow's Portland Phoenix, a fresh leak has added a new twist for Mainers. It shows that the new state co-chair for Maine is none other than Ann Robinson, the Preti Flaherty superlobbyist and gubernatorial advisor who has been at the center of several stories I've covered this year, including "LePage's Secret Puppeteers" and "The LePage Files."
And for you political insiders out there, here, as a blog-only DVD extra, are the relevant pages from the leaked source document (the agenda of ALEC's August meeting in New Orleans.) [PDF]
(Cross-posted from World Wide Woodard)
Maine Gov. Paul LePage is no fan of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, which operates Maine's only statewide network of television and radio stations. On the campaign trail he expressed a desire -- on MPBN cameras -- to punch the network's State House correspondent. In office he tried to zero out state funding for the broadcaster.
Now he has his first chance to nominate someone to MPBN's governing board. As I report in the new Portland Phoenix, his first choice is none other than Ann Robinson, the corporate lobbyist who already serves as a trusted advisor and a member of the panel he uses to find judicial nominees.
As readers of this blog well know, Robinson has also overseen the compilation of the governor's regulatory reform agenda -- past and future -- including the cutting-and-pasting of language from industry and corporate memos into the proposals LePage submitted to legislators. That she does this while remaining the registered lobbyist of many interested parties apparently doesn't trouble the governor, whose press secretary has failed to respond to requests for comment on this point.
Robinson isn't alone. Another Preti attorney, Carlisle McLean, serves as LePage's natural resources advisor. Pierce Atwood corporate lobbyist Patricia Aho currently heads the Department of Environmental Protection. But at least McLean and Aho had to give up their day jobs.
(Cross-posted from World Wide Woodard)
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 »
Not much to say about this one:
"A well-known local Republican activist and investment counselor who is also a member of Gov. Paul LePage's Economic Forecasting Commission was arrested Saturday on a charge of domestic assault.
"Lawrence E. Dwight Jr., 54, better known as J Dwight, was arrested at his Wilton home after an incident involving his wife."
Dwight is also a member of the Maine Heritage Policy Center advisory board, a regular columnist for the Sun Journal and a prolific poster on As Maine Goes.
Update: From the Governor's Office:
"I expect Mr. Dwight will voluntarily step down from his position while the legal issues regarding his recent arrest are pending. Domestic violence is a serious crime with far reaching consequences. I don’t want these allegations to interfere in any way with the important work of the Consensus Economic Forecasting Committee."
Andi at Dirigo Blue notices some differences between Governor LePage's public statements on the recently-passed budget and his own office's press release on the subject.
In my column in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel this morning, I try to figure out why Republicans are so gung-ho to roll back voting rights. The arguments advanced so far are either embarassingly factually flawed or, like GOP Chair Charlie Webster's conspiracy theories, just outrght ludicrous. There is certainly no ideological or philosophical underpinning for the move.
The answer seems to be simple, naked politics.
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree spoke about the bill on MSNBC last night, and put the issue in a national context:
It seems to me it's art of a bigger agenda to keep people from voting, to take away our rights as citizens and to undermine the very fundamentals of democracy.
Video after the jump. Read more »
Today is a sad anniversary. Ten years ago on this date President George W. Bush signed into law a $1.35 trillion tax cut primarily benefiting the wealthiest Americans and plunging our country into massive debt.
The tax cuts have exacerbated the divide between the super-wealthy and the rest of us, to the point that 1% of Americans now control 40% of the nation’s wealth.
Millionaires and corporations are paying less now than they ever have before, and the results are obvious. We are no longer able to invest the funds we need to in schools, job creation and vital public programs that form the bedrock of American society.
Now, some politicians in Washington and in Augusta want to go farther down the path towards iniquity with cuts to Social Security and Medicare federally, and health care and pensions locally, in order to pay for new tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest in our society.
It’s time for all of us to pay our fair share and work together to invest in the services that protect our families. I hope Maine’s federal representatives will support the new Fairness in Taxation Act, which would restore tax fairness by creating a new federal income tax bracket for those making more than $1 million annually. Read more »
I was on as a guest on WMPG's Big Talk this week, hosted by Al Brewer, along with journalist and author Colin Woodard, who discussed his recent work investigating the DeCoster Bill.
We also dicussed the policy (terrible) and process (almost as terrible) of he health care insurance industry deregulation bill, as well as the push to repeal same-day voter registration, which will be debated in the coming week.
Colin had some great insights, as did Portland Representative Ben Chipman, who called in to the program to discuss the voting rights bill.