Journalistic scrutiny of state governments has decreased since the rise of the web. Big money has dramatically increased its influence over state politics. Yet there are legislators who have the high ideals and skill to get valuable legislation through committee and both chambers in order to help average Mainers, despite big money lobbyists. Some examples of exemplary leadership:

Don Mclean of Norway holds a sign supporting L.D. 1708, the proposal to create the Pine Tree Power Co., as members walk down the hallway toward the House chamber June 30 at the Maine State House in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

•  Republican Senator Rick Bennett and Democratic Rep. Nicole Grohoski sponsored legislation to block foreign-government-owned corporations from meddling referendum campaigns (L.D. 194).  Foreign governments buying their way into candidate elections has been illegal since 1966. Maine’s Attorney General said he would defend the similar principle of L.D. 194. The majority of the House and Senate supported this legislation, Democrats overwhelmingly.

• Rep. Lynne Williams sponsored L.D. 418, which would marginally increase real estate transfer taxes for homes valued over one million dollars to increase affordable housing. Under L.D. 418, the tax on these luxury homes would remain three times lower than in New Hampshire and Vermont. This bill passed both chambers, with strong Democratic support.

• Senate President Troy Jackson sought to protect people and our environment from glyphosate, a poison (L.D. 125). “Science says that this stuff kills people, kills wildlife,” said Jackson, adding large landowners “maximize profits off the lives of Mainers.” L.D. 125 passed in both chambers – with strong Democratic support. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association called opposition excuses “smoke and mirrors.” Maine Conservation Voters agreed. Rep. Maggie O’Neil, D-Saco, said lobbyist talking points didn’t “pass the straight face test.” Rep. O’Neil added that the state defending aerial poison is “just shameful.”

• Sen. Ned Claxton sponsored L.D. 675, and Sen. Jackson sponsored L.D. 1117. Both bills would hold drug companies accountable for jacking up drug prices without justification, gouging people who need medications to survive. Consumers for Affordable Health Care advocates for Mainers to get health care they need from America’s bureaucratic, confiscatory health care system. CAHC doesn’t work for the highest bidder. CAHC’s policy experts advocated this proposal developed by the National Academy of State Health Policy. Despite Big Pharma, both bills passed in committee and both chambers.

• Rep. Seth Berry sponsored L.D. 1708, which would end corporate monopoly over electric power delivery, placing oversight in the hands of Mainers. In numerous jurisdictions ending corporate monopolies over electric delivery has put more money in ratepayer pockets. According to expert economist Richard Silkman, a consumer-owned Pine Tree Power utility would save Maine ratepayers $9 billion over 30 years. CMP can afford huge teams of big money lobbyists, yet Rep. Berry got his legislation through committee and both chambers.

These five bills, sponsored by dedicated elected officials, all passed in Maine’s House and Senate despite big money lobbyists, with strong support from Democratic legislators. All were then vetoed.

The stereotype is politicians jumping to the head of a parade that is already moving, yet some legislators initiate change, surmounting powerful opposition with skill and grit, their only reward being to make life substantively better for average people. All these bills had something in common: big money interests opposed them.

A recent Bangor Daily News article described L.D. 1708 and L.D. 194 as designed to “hurt CMP,” as if this multibillion-dollar monopoly were a defenseless toddler, not a massive foreign-owned corporation that spent about $1.2 million to get its way through lobbying and dark money “education” groups. The article did not mention the purpose of the legislation: protecting the wallets of Mainers.

When Democratic politicians take the side of large corporations against average citizens, today’s media tends to label such politicians “moderate.” Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy viewed their primary mission as standing with average people. What has changed is the vast increase in big money power over state politics and the incremental but pivotal decrease in the number of journalists shining light on backroom maneuvers through which big money wields that power.

Speaking about environmental legislation this session and L.D. 1708 particularly, Sen. Chloe Maxmin said, “There were really big opportunities to move forward … We fell flat.”

Such legislators may not get famous using hard work, idealism and skill to do what’s right, but these leaders are the best of what public service has to offer – examples to be emulated. These public servants deserve highest respect for superlative leadership.


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