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.
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.
My Down East post this week takes a look at the Senate race in district 15. This should be a very close one, and both candidates have been working hard for months.
If you'd like to know more about Snowe-Mello's positions, check out the extensive collection of op-eds on her website.
Simpson also has a (much nicer) website, which includes this interesting mini-documentary about her first run for office and use of clean elections funding.
Today at Down East, I post some maps I've been working on and outline some state senate districts that I'll be addressing in greater detail soon.
Here's a map of the '06 state senate election:
The colors are determined by comparing the percentage of the total number of votes (including votes for third-party and independent candidates) of both the Democrat and Republican in the race.
For example, Democrat Ethan Strimling received 8824 votes in District 8, or around 67 percent of the total. Republican David Babin received 2433 votes, or a bit more than 18 percent, and Kelsey Perchinski of the Green Independent party won 1895 votes, a bit more than 14 percent.
Subtracting Babin's percentage from Strimling's gives an almost 49 point margin of victory. The district is then shaded the darkest blue, which connotes districts where the Democrat won by more than 20 points.
In Spetember, 2007 Senator Lois Snowe-Mello, (R-Poland) accused state animal control officers of being corrupt and faulted them for rescuing 250 animals from a puppy mill in Buxton. She stated: "What is happening in this state is like Gestapo methods of controlling people and kennels, breeders, pet centers." The quote prompted this cartoon from PolitickerME:
I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that being anti-puppy is not a good way to win an election, which is likely why Snowe-Mello is now desperately attempting to portray herself as pro-puppy. A letter writer in the Sun Journal today notes that she has also sent out a mailer to her district touting her supposed pro-puppy credentials, and slams her for hypocrisy.
This issue might be good for a laugh in a different senate district, but in the 15th, it's serious business. Snowe-Mello barely held on to her seat in 2006, winning 51% of the vote, and she faces an even tougher challenge this year from Democratic Representative Deborah Simpson of Auburn.
It's possible that this election and perhaps even the balance of power in the senate could be decided on the issue of puppies.