Thursday, April 24, 2014
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.
The Washington-D.C. think tank Employment Policies Institute will begin running a radio ad that targets a significant policy initiative of Democratic gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud: Raising the minimum wage.
The issue is also on the front burner in the U.S. Senate, where U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is reportedly working on a bipartisan deal that would raise the wage to a level less than what the Obama administration has requested while also installing small business tax credits to offset the impacts.
The radio spot, which EPI said in a press statement will run a heavy rotation in Maine, does not mention Michaud by name, an omission that allows the non-profit group to classify the ad as an issue spot, not a campaign expenditure. However, it says Mainers have "been hearing more promises from politicians about the benefits of raising the minimum wage." It goes on to cite an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office that estimated that raising the wage to $10.10 could result in the loss of 500,000 jobs, most of them held by women.
Women and the minimum wage debate are expected to play a significant role in the 2014 race for governor. Republican Gov. Paul LePage opposes the minimum wage hike and last year vetoed a proposal that would have raised the wage to $9 an hour and indexed increases with inflation.
The prevailing media narrative is that Democrats seeking elected office in November will put as much distance as possible between themselves and the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
There's plenty of reasons why this tack toward self-preservation seems prudent. According to a Pew Research Center/USA Today poll taken in early April, 50 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of the 2010 law. Republicans also believe that the issue will resonate with voters in the mid-term elections and will allow the party to take control of the U.S. Senate.
In Maine, Republicans believe the health care law could hurt Democratic candidate U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. On April 15, the Republican Governors Association slammed Michaud for a variety of votes during his tenure in Congress, including 21 for the Affordable Care Act that the RGA says resulted in raising taxes.
But so far, Michaud isn't running from his support of the ACA. Neither is U.S. Rep Allyson Schwartz, D-Penn.. Schwartz, who is in a competitive Democratic primary and seeking to unseat Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, released an ad in which she touts her support of the ACA, specifically a provision that prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Schwartz also criticizes Corbett for rejecting Medicaid expansion, a key component of the ACA that was designed to provide health coverage for low income Americans.
UPDATE : The Maine Wire, MHPC's news service just announced that Moody is leaving to join the Virginia-based State Budget Solutions, another conservative think tank. According to the Wire post, no successor has been named at MHPC.
J. Scott Moody, the CEO of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, confirmed Friday morning that he's leaving the organization.
Moody, who is traveling Friday, did not provide any specifics about the reason for his departure, but said there would be additional details in a formal announcement. His departure, and his eventual replacement, marks another leadership change at the state's leading conservative advocacy group.
Maine Heritage Policy Center has played a significant role in amplifying the conservative voice in a state traditionally dominated by Democrats. After the 2010 Republican wave election, the organization gained additional influence when several of its employees landed prominent positions in the LePage Administration, including Steve Bowen, who held the post of education commissioner until he resigned last year.
Gov. Paul LePage is known to send handwritten notes to his allies and his opponents. The missives sometimes surface in the mailboxes of state lawmakers.
Some of the notes are friendly. Some are not.
Oamshri Amarasingham, the public policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, recently received one of the latter notes. The governor was not happy that Amarasingham had criticized the governor's proposal to have a governmental agency fact-check campaign statements.
The proposal, L.D. 1834, was quickly dispatched by the Legislature amid concerns that the proposal would violate the First Amendment protection of free speech. Additionally, there was some uneasiness among lawmakers about making the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Elect Practices the arbiter of truth.
Whether you're a connoisseur or critic of televised political ads, it's about to get a lot easier to find out who's buying them and how much they paid.
Beginning July 1, television stations will have to post political ad buy information at a designated Federal Communications Commission website, according to an April 4 public notice sent from the FCC to television broadcasters. The FCC reminder follows action taken in 2012 that made it so network affiliates (NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS) in the country's top 50 media markets had to post their so-called "public file" on the FCC site to enable the public to view specific ad buys, run times and purchasers. The information provides an easier path for transparency. While the information was public before, stations were not required to send the information upon request. Viewing the documents required a trip to the station and request for the information.
The 2012 mandate excluded broadcasters outside of the top 50, meaning Maine televisions stations did things the old fashioned way during the presidential and congressional races. That changes on July 1, when all broadcasters, including those not affiliated with the major networks, have to begin sending their public file to the FCC.
Ready inspection of the public file is good news for journalists, too. In 2012, for example, a strange ad surfaced during the U.S. Senate race that talked up Democratic candidate Cynthia Dill's progressive credentials. The spot seemed to have been drafted through the Republican lens of what Democrats want -- she's aligned with Obama! Pro-labor! Tough on guns! -- but the connection would have been difficult to prove had it not been for the public file, which listed Michael Adams as the treasurer of Maine Freedom, the group that purchased the ad.