March 21, 2011

State House Notebook: Politicos launch Maine People Before Politics

From staff reports

A pair of politicos who worked to elect Maine Gov. Paul LePage have launched a new group, initially funded by leftover inaugural donations, aimed at "improving Maine's future" and promoting policies that "benefit all of the people of Maine."

Jason Savage, a former Marden's employee who was also a paid campaign worker on the Republican's gubernatorial bid, is the executive director of Maine People Before Politics. Brent Littlefield, a political consultant who was a top adviser in the LePage campaign, is a "strategic adviser" to the group.

Littlefield said he and Savage will work aggressively to build membership and raise funds. He said the group is being operated now with some initial funding.

The funds appear to have been left over from LePage's transition team fundraising for the inauguration. The Maine People Before Politics group was formerly known as LePage Transition 2010, according to the Maine Secretary of State website on corporations.

The group is a non-profit, membership-based organization, according to its website,

As an issue-based organization rather than a candidate-based one, Littlefield said, there are no plans to register as a political action committee. PACs have to make periodic reports on donations and expenditures.

Littlefield said the group's goal is to give Maine people, particularly those who supported LePage's gubernatorial bid, an outlet in Augusta.

"Really our goal here is to allow people that aren't professional lobbyists, to give them a voice; to democratize the process of issue discussion," he said in an interview.

The group's name reflects a constant LePage refrain, and will be "absolutely supportive of the governor's policies," he said.

It will provide people who were motivated during the election a chance to speak out on issues and push back on those who criticize changes advocated by the governor, Littlefield said.

The initial news release from MPBP takes aim at the Maine State Employees Association and Maine Education Association objections to some of LePage's budget proposals. In a seven-page report, MPBP highlights campaign contributions made by the MSEA and MEA to Democratic candidates and PACs over the last eight years.

"The MSEA and the MEA, who joined the Augusta protests, have aggressively contributed to the very legislative leaders who ignored the growing pension crisis in Maine," Savage said in the release.


When it comes to openness about government spending, Maine earned an "F" in a recent report released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

In fact, this bullet point from a summary of the report stands out: "Maine is the only state in the nation without a publicly accessible transparency website."

The group looks for what they call "checkbook-level detail," something that's apparently available in 40 states. But not in Maine.

In fairness to the state Office of Fiscal and Program Review, the full state budget is available online, as are back-up documents used by lawmakers while reviewing the 539-page budget. You can find the materials at:

The budget is also out in bill form as L.D. 1043. But, it does take some effort to read and understand it.

In other transparency-related news, Democrats once again blasted LePage for exempting his Business Advisory Council from the state's open meetings laws. In their weekly radio address, Senate Minority Leader Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, said he had to once again speak out about the issue.

"The members of these councils are the very people who will have the governor's ear, helping craft policy and priorities for the next four years," he said. "Don't we, the people of Maine, have the right to know who is on the councils and what decisions are being made?"

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