Thursday, December 12, 2013
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, www.mainepeoplebeforepolitics.com.
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.
MAINE GETS 'F' ON NEW REPORT
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: www.maine.gov/legis/ofpr/appropriations_committee/materials/index.htm
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?"
LePage has defended his decision to keep the councils private, saying that business owners, teachers and environmentalists should be able to share ideas without having their names on the front page of the daily newspaper.
GOODALL TO HOST BUDGET FORUM
State Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, is hosting three public forums between now and the end of the month to talk to people about the proposed state budget.
Tonight, he and other lawmakers will be at Bath City Hall from 6-7:30 p.m.
On Thursday, they'll be at Richmond High School from 6-7:30 p.m. and on March 30, they'll be at Topsham City Hall, also from 6-7:30 p.m.
Goodall has invited local Republicans to join him and other Democrats at the forums.
LITTLEFIELD WINS AWARD
Littlefield, in addition to his new involvement with Maine People Before Politics, is also making news on another front. He was honored recently by the American Association of Political Consultants.
Littlefield Consulting won a gold "Pollie" for work the firm did to target French voters in the state as part of the fall campaign.
Littlefield, a Maine native who is now based outside of Washington, D.C., noted in a news release that this is his fourth Pollie -- counting those he won with his previous firm -- but it's his first gold.
UNDERWOOD GETS "SERVIVR" PLATE
Secretary of State Charlie Summers and a few GOP state senators gathered in the chamber Thursday morning to give "Survivor" star Ashley Underwood a specialized license plate.
Underwood, a Benton native and former Cony High School basketball player, made it through another episode of the reality show Wednesday.
A very thin Underwood was careful Thursday about what she said while receiving her vanity plate.
"Oh my gosh, this is so awesome!" she said as Summers handed her the chickadee plate that said "SERVIVR."
Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, and Sen. Thomas Martin, R-Waterville, participated in the event as her local senators.
"Did you see snakes and tarantulas?" Katz asked.
Underwood said she saw all sorts of yucky things and was eaten by mosquitoes nearly every night.
She noted that there was "no makeup" and "no razors" and that they got just one scoop of rice to eat in the morning and one scoop at night.
On Wednesday's episode, Underwood earned a reward that included doughnuts. She said normally, as a young woman, she's very concerned about eating junk food. But as a starving and sleep-deprived Survivor, she was more than happy to partake.
The group quickly moved on to photos, when Sen. David Trahan, R-Waldoboro, started asking questions that could lead one to conclude whether or not Underwood won on the show.
Katz, wearing his lawyer hat, stepped in to run interference and told Trahan that all his questions would need to be submitted in writing.
BUDGET TIMING CHANGE?
In his budget address, LePage talked about the need to change the timing of when the two-year budget is released.
As a new governor, LePage had fewer than 40 days on the job -- not counting his transition time -- to release a two-year budget. It's just too hard for a new administration to get its arms around spending at all of the state agencies in that short a time, he argued.
So he asked lawmakers to pass L.D. 381, which would require the budget to be released in the second year of a two-year session.
Lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee last week held a work session on the bill, where the change was described as "high-risk" by the people who have to prepare the budget. That's because the software used to develop the budget needs to be updated, which will cost more than $1 million.
And while the Bureau of the Budget thinks it can cover the cost, there's also the question of whether to lengthen the second session from ending in April to ending in June. But the early adjournment gives lawmakers a chance to get out to campaign.
These questions, and others, led the committee to decide to hold another work session to continue the dialogue.
MaineToday Media State House writers Susan M. Cover and Rebekah Metzler contributed to this report.