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Sun Journal

Economic Advisor Charged With Domestic Assault

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."

Mother Jones on "LePage's Secret Puppeteers"

My recent Portland Phoenix story "LePage's Secret Puppeteers" -- on how Maine Governor Paul LePage outsourced the creation of his regulatory reform package to lobbyists for outside corporations -- has been picked up by Mother Jones, which has been doing a lot of hard-hitting reporting on the national Tea Party movement.

The piece has also made its way into the Lewiston Sun Journal, the Kennebec Journal, and the Portland Press Herald, though the latter paper swiped the article's findings without noting where they came from. Read more »

Collins and Qadhafi

Senator Susan Collins is again blogging about her foreign travels, although this time she's a bit farther away than Canada. Collins and a group of other senators from the Armed Services Committee are currently visiting several countries in the middle east.

Collins' first two entries are about meeting Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi. Collins describes Libya's human rights record as "appalling" and says that in her meeting with the Qadhafi, she says she focused mainly on pressuring the strongman to procede with an agreement he made with the US, Russia and the IAEA to give up his country's supply of highly enriched uranium.

Today, Collins is visiting Iraq.

Collins also popped up in another part of the social mediascape earlier this week, when she participated in a "viditorial" with Sun Journal opinions editor Tony Ronzio. In the clip she says she supports necessary health insurance regulations, including guaranteed issue, but that these must be balanced against insurance company profitability and competitiveness.

Check Yes for Clean Elections

If you haven't yet done your taxes, be sure to take a second to check "yes" at the top of the state form to support clean elections in Maine. It's free for you and supports a very worthy program.

As the Sun Journal put it today:

Cheers to checking "Yes" on line 1 of the Maine income tax form to fund clean elections. The state has borrowed heavily from the clean elections fund for other reasons over the years, leaving the program with a $4.4 million deficit. There's talk of getting some of it back, but not in full. (That's how the state works, you know.)

If the budget-counters in Augusta can't fund the program, the public should. Citizens created clean elections, after all; checking yes on the tax form is simply re-stating this case.

Sun Journal Chatted

You can replay the livechat with me and Sun Journal editors Tony Ronzio and Scott Thistle here.

We discussed a bunch of topics, including the 2010 gubernatorial race, the political demographics of Lewiston, the respective political futures of Hannah Pingree and John Frary, and Sen. Damon's equal marriage bill.

On that issue, I asked Ronzio whether the Sun Journal would be joining the Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News in endorsing same-sex marriage. This was his response:

We've advocated for respectful debate on it, without one way or the other. No decision yet, but one will come sooner than later.

Sun Journal Stands By Puppy Mill Quotes

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.