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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or smistler@pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @stevemistler

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Wednesday March 19, 2014 | 10:29 AM

Gov. Paul LePage has recently made several public statements in which he's accused his political foes of spreading falsehoods. 

Now, as the governor ramps up his reelection bid, he wants the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices to investigate erroneous campaign claims if a candidate for statewide office files a complaint. LePage has submitted an after deadline bill that order the ethics panel to review claims and "make public declarations regarding statements determined to be false."

According to the bill, such false statements could relate to a number of issues, a candidate's education background, military service or voting record. The bill includes a provision mandating the Ethics Commission to make its declaration if a campaign or political action committee publishes or distributes a false statement either knowingly or with "reckless disregard of whether it was false or not."

In other words, the Ethics Commission could become very busy if the governor's bill passes. Claims of false campaign statements are nearly a daily occurrence during an election year. Newspapers, including the Portland Press Herald, have deployed fact-checkers to review ads for false and misleading statements. The governor's proposal would make this a function of the Ethics Commission.

Sunday March 16, 2014 | 10:29 PM

We've heard that the 2014 election will break a lot of spending records in Maine. 

Exhibit A: On Feb. 24, USW Works, a super PAC for the United Steelworkers union, gave $300,000 to the Maine Democratic Party, according to filings with Federal Elections Commission (H/T to the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, which spotted it first, and As Maine Goes, for posting it first).

This is a significant money dump and not just because it's large. And it's definitely large. After a quick search, it looks like the largest single disbursement from a union organization to a state party committee.

That it went directly to the Maine Democratic Party's federal fund, and not Maine-based political action committee, is also significant because it may mean more money to fund the ground game for Democratic legislative races and the gubernatorial bid for U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who is hoping to unseat Gov. Paul LePage and defeat independent Eliot Cutler in November.

Friday March 14, 2014 | 10:25 PM

Not a big fan of the headline that poses a question followed by a blog post that doesn't answer it, but in this case, an exception.

On Friday, Sharon Leahy-Lind, the former official at the Center of Disease Control, told a legislative panel that her supervisors told her not to use state email to communicate while conducting state business. Instead, Leahy-Lind told the panel that she was instructed to use her state-issued Blackberry to send "instant messages," or text messages. 

The reason? Instant messages are not subject to the state's Freedom of Access Act, Leahy-Lind said.

Her comment prompted subsequent questions to other state officials about whether they use instant messages to get around FOAA. Each of the CDC officals testified, confidently, that, no, it never happens. Never. 

Monday March 10, 2014 | 10:20 AM

Republican Gov. Paul LePage has nominated one of his former election opponents to serve on two education boards.

Shawn Moody, who ran against LePage as in independent in 2010, has been nominated by the governor to serve as a trustee for both the Maine Community College System and the University of Maine System.  

The nomination of Moody is noteworthy because the Gorham native and small business owner has toyed with the idea of running for public office again. In 2010, he surprised many pundits by capturing 5 percent of the vote in a five-way race, despite entering the race late, no political experience and a bare bones campaign apparatus. Moody's performance was attributed to his populist appeal: A nice guy turned off by the bitter State House battles.

Wednesday March 05, 2014 | 09:57 AM

 

The campaign for Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday attempted to link Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud to new pollution rules by the Environmental Protection Agency that critics say will make it more expensive for homeowners to purchase newer, cleaner burning wood stoves. Opponents of the regulations also argue that wood stove manufacturers would have to spend more money to re-engineer clean-burning stoves that are already available.

Supporters of the regulations say new emission rules are long overdue, particularly as it relates to outdoor wood boilers. Seven states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, but not Maine, have filed a notice to sue the EPA for failing to revise its outdated air pollution standards for residential wood heat (Colleague Tux Turkel has a nice overview of the rules and the impacts here.). 

Some have speculated that that the rules could become political wedge issue, particularly in Maine which is particularly reliant on wood for heat. According to the U.S. Census, 14 percent of Maine homes use wood as a primary source of heat, while another 50 percent of Maine homes it as a backup heat source.