The Republican sweep at the polls in Maine last month has attracted the attention of news media from outside the state.

The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine based in Washington, D.C., dispatched freelance writer Conrad Kiechel to write about the resurgence of the Republican Party here.

Kiechel said his editors are curious about how “one of the bluest states in the nation turned into one of the reddest,” and also wonder whether the political shift is fleeting or permanent.

Also, Forbes, the glossy business magazine based in New York, sent a staff writer to profile Maine’s new pro-business governor. The reporter covered Paul LePage’s “red tape audit” with business leaders and lobbyists at the Augusta Civic Center on Nov. 30.

We await the story in Forbes, which will run in the magazine’s Jan. 3 issue and will be available at newsstands and online at www.forbes.com a few days before Christmas.

Will the former homeless boy from Lewiston make it on the cover of a magazine that profiles the richest people on the planet?

LAWMAKER RETURNS UNUSED MONEY

Rep. Jon Hinck, D-Portland, returned $2,799.74 to the Maine Clean Election Fund last week as he closed out his campaign account for the year.

That’s more than half the money he was given — a total of $4,589.34 — to run his campaign.

In an e-mail to MaineToday Media, Hinck said he scaled back his spending when he realized his two opponents weren’t running large-scale campaigns. Instead of sending out a lot of glossy fliers, he focused on knocking on doors.

“I think there are a fair number of candidates who do use money frugally and take some pride in returning substantial unused funds — I am not sure that concerned taxpayers understand that to be true,” he wrote. “Typically, the (Maine Clean Elections Act) gets the greatest public notice when there is a scandal caused by misuse or it is challenged by its critics, who work hard to present a one-sided and overly negative view.”

Hinck also filed the final bit of paperwork for the campaign, which is due for all candidates on Tuesday.

RGA: FUNDS WEREN’T EARMARKED FOR LEPAGE

There’s been some buzz lately concerning some donations made by national groups to the political action committee set up by the Republican Governors Association to help elect LePage — and their connection to how he might govern.

Some have pointed generally to donations made by pharmaceutical companies. Others are scrutinizing a donation made by a private prison company seeking to build in Milo — a proposal that LePage officials have expressed interest in learning more about.

The RGA’s Maine PAC received contributions totaling about $1.8 million, including contributions from AstraZeneca, for $344,000; the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, for $225,000; and the Corrections Corp. of America, for $25,000, according to campaign finance reports filed in Maine. The Corrections Corp. of America is the private prison company interested in the Milo.

But the donations are not as connected to LePage as they might seem.

Those groups made donations to the RGA. Instead of marking down on the Maine paperwork that they were transfers from the RGA treasury, as the Democratic Governors Association did, the RGA treasurer was more specific in reporting the transfer.

“No contributions to the RGA or our affiliated PACs are ever earmarked, and donors have no say in how or where there money is spent,” Mike Schrimpf, spokesman for the RGA, said in an e-mail.

In other words, those groups gave checks to the RGA, and the RGA transferred that money to the Maine-based PAC.

But the groups did not know or have a say in where that money was going, Schrimpf said.

JOINT RULES COMMITTEE TO MEET

The 10 members of the Legislature’s joint rules committee have been named, and the first meeting is set for Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the Legislative Council Chamber.

The committee will discuss Republican interest in possibly eliminating the Legislature’s Labor Committee, and any other proposals that may come forward.

The Senate members are Senate Majority Leader Jonathan Courtney, R-Sanford; Assistant Senate Majority Leader Debra Plowman, R-Hampden; Sen. David Hastings, R-Fryeburg; Sen. Phil Bartlett, D-Gorham; and Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick.

The House members are Assistant House Majority Leader Andre Cushing, R-Hampden; Rep. Rich Cebra, R-Naples; Rep. Stacey Allen Fitts, R-Pittsfield; Assistant Minority Leader Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield; and Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake.

The group is expected to make recommendations to be considered by the full Legislature on Friday.

In their response to the governor’s weekly radio address, Plowman explained the Labor Committee change they are proposing.

“Republican leadership has proposed a change to our legislative rules that will merge the existing Business, Research and Economic Development Committee and the Labor Committee into one committee to oversee business issues, labor issues and research and development issues,” she said. “We believe it makes sense to ensure that decisions on business and work force issues are made in the context of each other — rather than in a vacuum.

“After all, there would be no jobs without business, and there would be no business without workers.” 

MaineToday Media State House Writers Tom Bell, Susan Cover and Rebekah Metzler contributed to this report.