Politics – Press Herald https://www.pressherald.com Fri, 25 May 2018 14:53:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 Judge plans quick ruling on whether Maine must submit Medicaid expansion plan https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/24/judge-to-decide-whether-state-must-submit-medicaid-expansion-plan/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/24/judge-to-decide-whether-state-must-submit-medicaid-expansion-plan/#respond Thu, 24 May 2018 16:01:26 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/24/judge-to-decide-whether-state-must-submit-medicaid-expansion-plan/

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy, seen in March, said Thursday that voter-approved Medicaid expansion “is in effect. It’s not a suggestion. … The executive branch has a duty to enforce that.” Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy said Thursday that she will issue a ruling as soon as possible in a lawsuit against the state over implementation of Medicaid expansion, which Maine voters approved last year.

At issue is whether the state Department of Health and Human Services must file paperwork with the federal government as outlined in the law.

James Kilbreth, an attorney representing Maine Equal Justice Partners, the low-income advocacy organization that filed the lawsuit, argued that the state missed its April 3 deadline to file what’s known as a state plan amendment that would start the process of expanding the government-funded health care program.

In November, voters approved expansion with 59 percent support, making Maine the first state to expand the program by referendum.

Kilbreth urged Murphy to force the state to file its amended plan and also to begin creating rules ahead of another deadline – July 2 – when newly eligible people will be able to apply for Medicaid benefits.

“We are well past whatever date you pick,” he said. “This is critically important to 70,000 people. We need to get this moving.”

Patrick Strawbridge, an attorney representing DHHS and the LePage administration – which has fiercely opposed Medicaid expansion for years – argued that the state cannot submit a plan without an appropriation of funding. That hasn’t happened, and the Legislature has adjourned.

“Committing to that plan is committing to spending money,” he said.

Strawbridge, a Boston-based attorney, represented the administration because Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, now a Democratic candidate for governor, declined to make anyone from her office available.

Justice Murphy didn’t hint which way she was leaning, but she seemed uninterested in wading into the political stare-down between the executive branch and the Legislature. This lawsuit is just the latest in a string of examples where the failure of LePage and lawmakers to find consensus has led to a court battle.

Murphy was unequivocal about one thing, though.

“The law is in effect. It’s not a suggestion,” she said. “The executive branch has a duty to enforce that.”

LePage and his allies have acknowledged, begrudgingly, that Medicaid expansion is law, but have said their hands are tied until funds are specifically appropriated. Medicaid is funded mostly at the federal level, but the state of Maine is required to contribute its own funds. Thirty-one other states already have expanded Medicaid under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

The fight over how to fund the expanded program hung over the contentious final days of the most recent legislative session, which ended without passage of a supplemental budget that would have specifically directed funds. The estimated cost of expansion was one of the major sticking points. The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review estimated that it would cost $45 million in the first year, but the LePage administration argued that it would cost much more and that it would only increase in future years.

The expansion will open up the program to Mainers who earn 138 percent of the federal poverty level, $16,753 per year for an individual or $34,638 for a family of four.

Kilbreth said Thursday in court that there already are enough funds in the state’s Medicaid account to get through the current budget biennium, which ends in June 2019. He also said there is more than $140 million in unallocated funds that the state could draw from at any time.

But Murphy’s decision likely won’t hinge on whether funds are available, only whether the state has violated the law by failing to submit its state plan amendment.

She said she would rule soon but didn’t specify when.

There is also a chance the decision could be appealed.

Even if Murphy rules that the state must submit a plan, if funding isn’t ironed out by the July 2 deadline, additional legal challenges could follow, advocates have said.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/24/judge-to-decide-whether-state-must-submit-medicaid-expansion-plan/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/03/1356228_623512-20180330_RCV_19558.jpg Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy asks an attorney a question during a court hearing about ranked-choice voting on Friday at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta. Thu, 24 May 2018 23:21:04 +0000
Congressional ethics complaint made over 2017 reporter attack https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/24/congressional-ethics-complaint-made-over-2017-reporter-attack/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/24/congressional-ethics-complaint-made-over-2017-reporter-attack/#respond Thu, 24 May 2018 15:52:58 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/24/congressional-ethics-complaint-made-over-2017-reporter-attack/ HELENA, Mont. – The head of the Montana Democratic Party on Thursday asked for a congressional ethics investigation into whether Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte lied to the police and the public when he assaulted a reporter last year.

The request by the party’s executive director, Nancy Keenan, comes exactly one year after Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs said Gianforte “body slammed” him for asking a question the day before Gianforte won a special election for Montana’s only U.S. House seat.

Gianforte eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and said Jacobs did nothing wrong. But Gianforte initially told police that Jacobs instigated the attack, and his campaign spokesman at the time, Shane Scanlon, released a statement saying the same thing.

Keenan said Thursday that Gianforte has never owned up to lying to the police or the public, and he has never been held accountable for those statements.

“It’s a matter of character for me,” Keenan said in an interview with The Associated Press. “If we can’t trust him in telling the truth to the cops, then how do we trust him on health care policy, how do we trust him on public lands?”

Gianforte’s false statements are violations of House ethics rules that require him to “conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House,” according to the complaints Keenan filed with the House Committee on Ethics and the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

It does not matter that the assault and the statements were made before Gianforte was elected or sworn in, Keenan said. She noted that a Senate ethics investigation was launched against U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., over sexual misconduct allegations from before he was a senator.

“A lot of things happened before people were members of Congress and they were still called to the carpet for it,” Keenan said. “This case is no different.”

Gianforte has perpetuated the lie since he’s been in office, including having his communications director, Travis Hall, give a statement to the AP last fall stating that “no one was misled” about the attack, Keenan said.

Hall declined to comment on Keenan’s complaint. He cited as the reason a cease-and-desist letter sent to Gianforte by Jacobs’ attorney last fall in response to Hall’s “no one was misled” comment.

In the letter, attorney Geoffrey Genth told the congressman and his staff that Gianforte repeatedly misled law enforcement and the public and warned them to stop making “false and defamatory statements” about Jacobs.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Erin Collins said in a statement that Keenan’s complaint is a desperate attempt by Democrats to divert attention from their “lackluster lineup” of candidates in this year’s elections.

“While the Democratic Party attempts to waste taxpayers’ money on this wild goose chase, Congressman Gianforte will continue to work tirelessly in Montanans’ best interest,” Collins said.

The committee and the independent office, which refers ethics matters to the committee, will review the request but are not obligated to launch a probe simply because the request was made.

Five Democrats are competing for the party’s nomination to challenge Gianforte in November’s election. Keenan shrugged off any suggestion that the complaints are a campaign stunt.

“He continues to not tell the truth. It’s fundamentally about honesty,” she said.

Witnesses told investigators that Gianforte threw Jacobs to the ground and punched him after complaining earlier in the day about “duplicitous” campaign coverage by the Guardian and BuzzFeed News, according to police documents.

Gianforte told investigators that Jacobs grabbed his wrist and spun, pulling Gianforte on the ground on top of him. Scanlon’s statement also said Jacobs grabbed Gianforte by the wrist.

Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert declined to file any additional state criminal charges related to Gianforte’s initial statements.

Gianforte paid a fine, completed 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of counseling for anger of management.

He also apologized to Jacobs and donated $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists under a settlement with the reporter to avoid a civil lawsuit.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/24/congressional-ethics-complaint-made-over-2017-reporter-attack/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1385672_Montana_Lawmaker_Attack_52-1.jpgFILE - This Aug. 25, 2017 file booking photo provided by Gallatin County, Mont., shows U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., at the Gallatin County Detention Center in Bozeman, Mont. Executive Director Nancy Keenan is asking for a congressional investigation into whether Republican Gianforte lied to the police and the public about his attack of a reporter last year. (Gallatin County via AP, File)Thu, 24 May 2018 12:01:09 +0000
White House adviser Jared Kushner granted full security clearance https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/white-house-adviser-jared-kushner-granted-security-clearance/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/white-house-adviser-jared-kushner-granted-security-clearance/#respond Thu, 24 May 2018 00:06:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/white-house-adviser-jared-kushner-granted-security-clearance/ WASHINGTON — President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been granted a security clearance after a lengthy background check, a move that ensures the key White House adviser with a broad international portfolio can have access to some of the country’s most closely held secrets.

Kushner, who serves as a senior adviser on the Middle East and other issues, was among many White House advisers who had been operating without approval for full security clearances. That led to a White House policy overhaul in February that significantly downgraded access to sensitive information for Kushner and other administration officials on interim clearances.

“With respect to the news about his permanent security clearance, as we stated before, his application was properly submitted, reviewed by career officials, and went through the normal process,” Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement.

In addition, Kushner was interviewed for a second time last month by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“In each occasion, he answered all questions asked and did whatever he could to expedite the conclusion of all the investigation,” Lowell said.

The first interview occurred last fall and the questions were limited to former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, who subsequently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and began cooperating with Mueller.

The second interview occurred in April and concerned potential influence by foreign governments, including Russia, and the firing of former FBI director James Comey, among other topics, Lowell said on CNN. The interview did not deal with Kushner’s finances or his companies, Lowell said.

Kushner was with Trump in New Jersey the weekend before Comey was fired, and he was among the attendees at a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer at which the president’s oldest son was told he would negative information about Hillary Clinton.

Kushner – the point of contact for foreign officials during the campaign and transition – was also alluded to, though not by name, in Flynn’s guilty plea as a transition team official who encouraged Flynn to contact foreign government officials, about a U.N. Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements.

FBI background checks for security clearances routinely examine an applicant’s financial holdings and foreign contacts. The delay in Kushner’s case was caused by a backlog in the new administration and Kushner’s extensive financial wealth, which required lengthy review, Lowell said.

He said Kushner’s clearance was decided by career officials in the intelligence community and the FBI. “It happened the way it happens for thousands of people,” Lowell said, noting, “There was nobody in the political process that had anything to do with it.”

As the application process was pending, Kushner’s “top secret/sensitive compartmented information” access was downgraded in February when White House Chief of Staff John Kelly ordered that officials with interim clearances be cut off if they hadn’t received permanent clearances. That meant Kushner was able to see information only at the lower “secret” level, but not highly classified information.

Mark Zaid, a Washington lawyer who specializes in security clearances, said that though it’s hard to say with certainty whether Kushner’s clearance means he’s not facing legal jeopardy from Mueller, “At least looking at the facts as we know them today, it leads me to believe he is no longer in the crosshairs.”

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/white-house-adviser-jared-kushner-granted-security-clearance/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1385402_kushner-2ndld-writethru-3cc40b94-5ebc-11e8-9ee3-49d6d4814c4c.jpgJared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and a senior adviser, had his security credentials downgraded in February.Wed, 23 May 2018 21:53:28 +0000
Judge will rule next week on Maine Republicans’ challenge to ranked-choice voting https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/judge-will-rule-next-week-on-maine-republican-party-challenge-to-ranked-choice-voting/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/judge-will-rule-next-week-on-maine-republican-party-challenge-to-ranked-choice-voting/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 21:25:49 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/judge-will-rule-next-week-on-maine-republican-party-challenge-to-ranked-choice-voting/ A federal judge said he will decide early next week whether the Republican primary on June 12 will be held under ranked-choice or traditional, plurality voting rules.

U.S. District Court Judge Jon Levy didn’t hint Wednesday at which way he is leaning on the Maine Republican Party’s lawsuit to allow it to continue selecting its candidates by plurality – the candidate with the most votes wins even with less than 50 percent of the votes cast.

Joshua Dunlap, the party’s lawyer, told Levy during a 45-minute hearing Wednesday that using ranked-choice voting might influence who wins the party’s gubernatorial nomination. He also said delegates at the state Republican Convention this month were unanimous in their opposition to ranked-choice voting and authorized him to file suit, which has led to a request for a preliminary injunction in time for the primary.

In the ranked-choice system, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no one has won more than 50 percent of the vote after the first count, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who chose the eliminated candidate would have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots would be retabulated. The process continues until a candidate has a clear majority – more than 50 percent – and is declared the winner.

Ranked-choice voting was adopted by Maine voters in 2016.

With the primary less than three weeks away, the two sides have traded legal briefs at a much faster-than-normal pace.

Dunlap said the party should be free to choose its nominees as it always has. A different method could lead to a different party standard-bearer, he said, and a different message for the party to carry into the general election campaign.

“This is about changing the party’s candidate,” he told Levy, and violates a constitutional right to freely associate.

But Assistant Attorney General Phyllis Gardner said conducting a primary in which voters from the two political parties operate under different sets of rules would lead to “chaos.”

She also said Levy should consider that the law was adopted by voters, although she acknowledged that laws adopted by referendum can still be judged unconstitutional.

Barring an injunction, four races on June 12 would operate under ranked-choice voting: the Democratic and Republican races for gubernatorial nominations, a Republican primary for a state House seat and the race for the Democratic congressional nomination in the 2nd Congressional District

Levy said he will issue a written ruling.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/judge-will-rule-next-week-on-maine-republican-party-challenge-to-ranked-choice-voting/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1377403_544066-20180508_recall_1.jpgSCARBOROUGH, ME - MAY 8: Volunteer Ralph Masciovecchio helps Roger Chabot of Scarborough cast his ballots after he voted on a special recall election that will determine the fate of three Scarborough school board members. (Photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer)Wed, 23 May 2018 23:22:21 +0000
Ethics staff: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Diane Russell broke campaign finance rules https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/ethics-staff-democratic-candidate-for-governor-diane-russell-broke-campaign-finance-reporting-rules/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/ethics-staff-democratic-candidate-for-governor-diane-russell-broke-campaign-finance-reporting-rules/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 21:03:21 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/ethics-staff-democratic-candidate-for-governor-diane-russell-broke-campaign-finance-reporting-rules/ Democratic candidate for governor Diane Russell faces sanctions from the Maine Ethics Commission after its staff found she violated campaign finance reporting law by failing to explain how she spent some of her campaign funds.

The allegation marks the third time in three years the former Portland lawmaker has been charged with campaign finance violations in the course of raising money or running for state office.

In a four-page complaint dated May 18, staff found that Russell didn’t provide enough detail on many expenditures. Generally Russell just reported “travel” or “meals” for her spending, instead of providing more specific information such as “travel to campaign event,” or “food for volunteers.”

In another concern, Russell reported paying a campaign worker $12,368 and listed his address, but failed to disclose that he was living in her house. Finance law requires candidates to note if there is any payee who is a member of their household.

Russell said in an interview Wednesday that she hired a compliance team to make sure her forms were correct, so she was “surprised when (the commission) came back with so many questions.” As for the campaign worker disclosure, Russell said she didn’t realize she had to report that he was living in a spare room in her house rent-free while working on the campaign.

“At the end of the day, it’s my fault, it’s my issue and I take full responsibility for it,” said Russell.

Russell was asked to amend the January 2018 semiannual campaign finance report, and although she requested and got an extension to file the amended report, she never filed it, commission staff said in a memo to the commission for their upcoming meeting. Russell acknowledged failing to file the amended report: “Honestly, I got busy with the campaign.”

The commission will consider the Russell matter at their May 30 meeting in Augusta.

In Russell’s May 2nd filing of her 42-day pre-primary campaign finance report, the descriptions were sometimes snarky and longer – but commission staff still said many of them still failed to include an adequate description of the expense and how it related to Russell’s campaign.

For a $12.17 expense for McDonalds, for example, the description read “Food is a generous term.” A $107.20 expense at UPS said it was “for mailing things.” A $90 Time Warner Cable bill said it was for “a vast series of tubes” and $135 expense for Verizon Wireless said “Can you hear me now? Oh wait, it’s Maine.”

In their report to the commission, the staff wrote dryly: “Some of the entries contain commentary that do not describe the goods or services purchased.”

Russell said she filled the May report herself and conceded, “Yeah, I was totally sarcastic in some of it,” adding that the system is cumbersome and takes hours to fill out.

“Here’s the thing, you have to explain every single expense, every single time, when it’s the exact same thing,” she said. “We’re traveling the state and of course we stop and eat. I don’t know why it’s so difficult to understand that.”

Staff recommended that the commission find Russell violated campaign reporting law, but “we do not recommend financial penalties for these violations, because the Election Law does not prescribe financial penalties for these types of violations.”

Maine election law does not restrict how candidates spend their campaign contributions prior to an election, the staff wrote.

In 2016, Russell was fined $500 by the ethics panel, for failing to report an email list her campaign used to raise nearly $90,000 for her unsuccessful Senate bid in 2015. They rejected a second complaint that Russell used her political action committee to benefit herself.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com

Twitter: noelinmaine

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/ethics-staff-democratic-candidate-for-governor-diane-russell-broke-campaign-finance-reporting-rules/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/russell-cropped.jpgDiane RussellWed, 23 May 2018 17:40:56 +0000
Hear Maine’s gubernatorial candidates talk about anything but politics https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/hear-maines-governor-candidates-talk-anything-but-politics/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/hear-maines-governor-candidates-talk-anything-but-politics/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 17:10:29 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1384947  

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/hear-maines-governor-candidates-talk-anything-but-politics/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/ElectionLogoSqColor2018.jpgelection 2018 logo horizontalThu, 24 May 2018 11:01:41 +0000
Adam Cote: ‘I was constantly petrified that something I did or didn’t do would have somebody get killed.’ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/adam-cote-i-was-constantly-petrified-that-something-i-did-or-didnt-do-would-have-somebody-get-killed/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/adam-cote-i-was-constantly-petrified-that-something-i-did-or-didnt-do-would-have-somebody-get-killed/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 17:09:40 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1383912

Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures.

In this episode, businessman Adam Cote talks about his military service and adjusting to life in Sanford after tours of duty abroad.

 

 

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/adam-cote-i-was-constantly-petrified-that-something-i-did-or-didnt-do-would-have-somebody-get-killed/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/CoteA_LG_-C-e1527100132621.jpgAdam Cote, a renewable energy entrepreneur and veteran, has filed paperwork to run for governor on the Democratic ticket. Cote, of Sanford, is among the first in a crowded field of Democrats seeking the party’s nomination in 2018. Wed, 23 May 2018 17:20:32 +0000
Garrett Mason: ‘The last text message my mom sent me said she was so proud of me.’ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/garrett-mason-the-last-text-message-my-mom-sent-me-said-she-was-so-proud-of-me/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/garrett-mason-the-last-text-message-my-mom-sent-me-said-she-was-so-proud-of-me/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 17:08:30 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1383878 Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures.

In this episode, state Sen. Garrett Mason talks about his deep bond with his mother, who used to give him a hug every day they worked together in the State House.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/garrett-mason-the-last-text-message-my-mom-sent-me-said-she-was-so-proud-of-me/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1379815_378487-20180425_Gubernat34.jpgmasonWed, 23 May 2018 17:25:15 +0000
Shawn Moody: ‘We had hard times financially, but it was never hurtful. There was unconditional love.’ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/shawn-moody-we-had-hard-times-financially-but-it-was-never-hurtful-there-was-unconditional-love/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/shawn-moody-we-had-hard-times-financially-but-it-was-never-hurtful-there-was-unconditional-love/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 17:07:31 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1383883 Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures.

In this episode, businessman Shawn Moody talks about building his business from humble beginnings in Gorham.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/shawn-moody-we-had-hard-times-financially-but-it-was-never-hurtful-there-was-unconditional-love/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1379815_378487-20180425_Gubernato4.jpgmoodyWed, 23 May 2018 17:26:46 +0000
Diane Russell: ‘I’m a country girl.’ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/diane-russell-im-a-country-girl/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/diane-russell-im-a-country-girl/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 17:06:23 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1382661 Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures.

In this episode, former state Rep. Diane Russell talks about roots in Bryant Pond, learning to shoot guns and her tight-knit family.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/diane-russell-im-a-country-girl/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/russell-cropped.jpgDiane RussellWed, 23 May 2018 17:27:57 +0000
Ken Fredette: ‘After watching Sept. 11, I couldn’t just sit.’ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/ken-fredette-after-watching-sept-11-i-couldnt-just-sit/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/ken-fredette-after-watching-sept-11-i-couldnt-just-sit/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 17:04:50 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1382638 Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures. In this episode, state Rep. Ken Fredette talks about growing up in northern Maine and his history of public service.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/ken-fredette-after-watching-sept-11-i-couldnt-just-sit/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1379815_378487-20180425_Gubernat25.jpgfredetteWed, 23 May 2018 17:23:42 +0000
Janet Mills, ‘I was a bit of a rebel.’ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/janet-mills-i-was-a-bit-of-a-rebel/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/janet-mills-i-was-a-bit-of-a-rebel/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 17:03:38 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1382561 Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures.

In this episode, Attorney General Janet Mills talks about her well-known family and her iconoclastic spirit.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/janet-mills-i-was-a-bit-of-a-rebel/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/02/795342_904996-20150203_JanetMill4-e1499713991958.jpgAUGUSTA, ME - FEBRUARY 3: Maine Attorney General Janet Mills at the offices of the Attorney General in Augusta, ME on Tuesday, February 3, 2015. (Photo by Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer)Wed, 23 May 2018 17:27:23 +0000
Betsy Sweet: ‘Starting at 13, I had to work.’ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/betsy-sweet-starting-at-13-i-had-to-work/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/betsy-sweet-starting-at-13-i-had-to-work/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 17:02:05 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1383861 Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures.

In this episode, lobbyist Betsy Sweet talks about growing her summers on North Haven and her love of the state of Maine.

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Mark Dion: ‘There was thoughts that I would go into seminary. So I did the best I could. I became a cop instead.’ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/mark-dion-there-was-thoughts-that-i-would-go-into-seminary-so-i-did-the-best-i-could-i-became-a-cop-instead/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/mark-dion-there-was-thoughts-that-i-would-go-into-seminary-so-i-did-the-best-i-could-i-became-a-cop-instead/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 17:00:30 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1382681

State Sen. Mark Dion, a Portland Democrat, is running for governor. (Photo provided)

Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures.

In this episode, former Cumberland County sheriff and current state Rep. Mark Dion talks about growing up in Lewiston and how he remembers it differently from Gov. Paul LePage.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/mark-dion-there-was-thoughts-that-i-would-go-into-seminary-so-i-did-the-best-i-could-i-became-a-cop-instead/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/04/1364059_444353_mark_dion.jpgState Sen. Mark Dion, a Portland Democrat, is running for governor. (Photo provided)Wed, 23 May 2018 17:24:49 +0000
Donna Dion: ‘I was always a fixer.’ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/donna-dion-i-was-always-a-fixer/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/donna-dion-i-was-always-a-fixer/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 16:54:56 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1383929 Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures.

In this episode, businessman Donna Dion talks about her long history in the politics and history of Biddeford.

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Mark Eves: ‘My parents raised me in a way that led toward wanting to help people.’ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/mark-eves-my-parents-raised-me-in-a-way-that-led-toward-wanting-to-help-people/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/mark-eves-my-parents-raised-me-in-a-way-that-led-toward-wanting-to-help-people/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 16:53:29 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1382642 Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures.

In this episode, state Rep. Mark Eves talks about growing up the son of a military chaplain.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/mark-eves-my-parents-raised-me-in-a-way-that-led-toward-wanting-to-help-people/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/01/1319070_641679_20160831_eves_for__2.jpgStaff file photo by Joe Phelan "We're one step closer to holding the governor accountable for an egregious abuse of power," said former House Speaker Mark Eves. "I'm not going to give up."Wed, 23 May 2018 17:26:21 +0000
Mary Mayhew: ‘I would fall asleep at night listening to the woolen mill right next door.’ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/mary-mayhew-i-would-fall-asleep-at-night-listening-to-the-woolen-mill-right-next-door/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/mary-mayhew-i-would-fall-asleep-at-night-listening-to-the-woolen-mill-right-next-door/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 16:52:16 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1383858 Bill Nemitz sits down with candidates for governor to take a break from politics and gets to know the personal stories of Maine’s public figures.

In this episode, former DHHS commissioner Mary Mayhew talks about growing up in Pittsfield and her love of gardening.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/mary-mayhew-i-would-fall-asleep-at-night-listening-to-the-woolen-mill-right-next-door/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1379678_839318_20170524_mayhewgot_2.jpgMary Mayhew's disregard for children's human rights extends to everyone's rights, a writer says.Wed, 23 May 2018 17:25:49 +0000
Women get milestone wins in Georgia, Texas Democratic primaries https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/women-get-milestone-wins-in-georgia-texas-democratic-primaries/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/women-get-milestone-wins-in-georgia-texas-democratic-primaries/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 12:20:14 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/women-get-milestone-wins-in-georgia-texas-democratic-primaries/ Women recorded milestone firsts in Democratic primaries for governor in Georgia and Texas on Tuesday, as other female candidates were victorious in multiple contests to run for the U.S. House in November.

In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams became the first black woman to win a major party nomination for governor, running on a platform that focused on economic fairness and mobility, overhauling the criminal justice system, and LGBTQ rights.

Democratic candidate for Georgia Governor Stacey Abrams on election night after Tuesday’s primary. Associated Press/John Bazemore

Texas Democrats nominated former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez as their candidate for governor, making her the first Latina and the first openly gay candidate selected for the office by a major party in the state.

Both women face difficult general election races in November in states where Republicans dominate top offices. Abrams will face either Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle or Secretary of State Brian Kemp who advanced to a July runoff for the Republican nomination. Valdez will be running against incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

They are among a record number of women seeking office in 2018, from governorships to the House and Senate. Almost three-fourths of the women running are Democrats, and they’re a central element of the party’s strategy for regaining control of the House. With Tuesday’s runoff in Texas, 18 of the Democratic candidates for 36 House districts are women.

Primaries also were held on Tuesday in Kentucky and Arkansas.

Abrams, the former Democratic leader in the state House, got 76 percent of the vote in her victory over Stacey Evans, also a former member of the legislature.

The Georgia governor’s race will be closely watched, both as a sign of whether a black woman can win a governorship in the Deep South, and whether Democrats can seize on changing demographics in Georgia to make the traditionally Republican-leaning state competitive.

“Tonight, communities that are so often overlooked — whose values are never voiced — stood with us to say: Ours is the Georgia of tomorrow,” Abrams said in a Facebook post on Tuesday night. “The road to November will be long and tough, but the next step is one we take together.”

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey congratulated her in a Twitter post and encouraged his four million followers to donate to her campaign.

Tharon Johnson, a Democratic political consultant based in Atlanta said the formula for an Abrams victory would be registering new voters and generating “massive turnout” from a liberal base in Atlanta as well as appealing to independent voters and women who are disillusioned with President Donald Trump.

“She’d be not only first woman, but the first black woman and the first liberal” to become governor of Georgia, Johnson said.

Reaching that goal will be a major challenge. While demographic changes have made Georgia less solidly Republican than other Southern states — Trump won there by 5 points in 2016 — the GOP still dominates in state offices.

Valdez defeated Andrew White, the son of former Texas governor Mark White.

“Together we’re going to make it happen — a stronger and fairer Texas,” Valdez said in her victory speech, broadcast by NBC 5 DFW. “A tolerant and diverse Texas. A Texas where the everyday person has a voice and a fair shot just as I did.”

Another closely watched contest was the Democratic primary in a competitive Houston-area district to take on incumbent Republican Rep. John Culberson.

In that bitterly fought race, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a lawyer, decisively defeated Laura Moser, a progressive activist, for the nomination to face Culberson in November.

The race had become a proxy war between the Democratic establishment and the party’s insurgent left. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Emily’s List, which aids Democratic women who support abortion rights, backed Fletcher. The DCCC in February took the unusual step of publicly releasing an anti-Moser memo that described her as a “Washington insider, who begrudgingly moved to Houston to run for Congress.”

But that galvanized liberals in the primary and Moser made the runoff. She earned the support of Our Revolution, a spinoff of Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

“Lizzie won her competitive primary by talking straight to voters in Houston about the issues that actually matter to their economic security, health and children’s future. Lizzie is in a very strong position for the general election,” DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan said in a statement.

In another Democratic contest for a Texas House race, Gina Ortiz Jones, an Air Force veteran backed by Emily’s List, defeated Rick Trevino, a teacher also aligned with the views of Sanders.

Ortiz Jones would be the first openly lesbian and Filipina-American to represent Texas. She will face Republican Representative Will Hurd in a Hispanic-majority and politically competitive district that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso and includes hundreds of miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.

In Kentucky, Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, won in an upset over Lexington Mayor Jim Gray in a Democratic primary for a House district that includes Lexington and Frankfort. She’ll face Republican Rep. Andy Barr in November.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/women-get-milestone-wins-in-georgia-texas-democratic-primaries/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/AP18143103526932.jpgDemocratic candidate for Georgia Governor Stacey Abrams speaks during an election-night watch party Tuesday, May 22, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)Wed, 23 May 2018 08:24:55 +0000
Trump wades deeper into abortion politics to fire up his base for midterms https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/trump-wades-deeper-into-abortion-politics-as-midterms-loom/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/trump-wades-deeper-into-abortion-politics-as-midterms-loom/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 00:11:19 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/trump-wades-deeper-into-abortion-politics-as-midterms-loom/ WASHINGTON — President Trump has long been an unlikely sweetheart for conservative and evangelical voters. Now, in the lead-up to the midterm elections, the thrice-married former Democrat who used to describe himself as “very pro-choice” is offering catnip to conservative voters with a new administration push to strip funding from Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics.

The initiative, announced last week, is aimed at resurrecting parts of a Reagan-era mandate banning federally funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions, or sharing space with abortion providers. And it arrived just in time for Trump to highlight it Tuesday night when he spoke at the Susan B. Anthony List’s annual “Campaign for Life Gala.” The speech, said one administration official, was aimed at a core constituency of conservative activists who will be key to energizing the party entering the midterms.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, says the move “will help tremendously” in the midterms.

It’s also the latest evidence that as he frets over the Russia investigation and prepares for a planned summit with North Korea, Trump has also been focused on fulfilling campaign promises and tending to issues that galvanize his base: holding a series of events to rail against the dangers of illegal immigration, pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and wading anew into the fight over abortion rights.

Trump is far from a natural fit for conservative voters. He recently admitted to reimbursing his lawyer for paying pay hush money to a porn star who claimed she had sex with Trump (a charge that he denies). And Trump has bragged about groping women without their permission. During the campaign, he sometimes had trouble articulating his views on abortion, at one point suggesting women should be punished for having abortions. His campaign later walked back the statement, saying that if abortion were ever outlawed, he believed that doctors who perform them should be punished.

Nonetheless, white evangelical voters overwhelmingly supported Trump in 2016, and that support has only grown. A PRRI survey released last month found white evangelical support for Trump at an all-time high, with 75 percent of those polled holding a favorable view of the president and just 22 percent holding an unfavorable view. Support for Trump within the general population in the poll stood at just 42 percent.

Religious groups like the Catholic Medical Association approve of a series of actions Trump has taken, beginning with his appointment of judges who oppose abortion rights, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, and Trump’s reinstatement of the global “gag rule” that bars federal funding for nongovernmental organizations that provide abortion referrals.

The White House also points to the administration’s support for religious objectors in court and Trump’s efforts to bring religious groups “back into the fold by ensuring religious groups and their partners are critical participants in the policy making process.”

Trump has also surrounded himself with staffers with deep ties to conservative groups, including counselor Kellyanne Conway and Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp.

Ralph Reed, chairman of the private Faith & Freedom Coalition, also pointed to the president’s dismantling of the Iran nuclear deal and his decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as steps that have played especially well with evangelical voters. But he said the president’s actions on abortion hold special sway, in part because of Trump’s early struggle with the issue.

“On a policy level, I see it as a series of promises made and promises kept. And in this case, a pro-life promise made and pro-life promise kept. And I would argue those are the most important promises to keep because he was someone who was believed, accurately or otherwise, as a recent arrival to conservatism and someone who had an ideologically mixed past,” Reed said.

Reed added that as president, “Trump has done everything that he can to keep faith with the faith-based voters that provided him with his margin of victory in 2016.”

When it comes to the midterms, Reed said, “I expect Donald Trump to be rewarded for these efforts by a similarly historic turnout among evangelical and other pro-life voters.”

Dannenfelser, whose group works to elect candidates who want to reduce and ultimately end abortion, is planning to raise and spend $25 million this cycle, up from the $18 million the group spent in the lead-up to the 2016 elections.

She said the president’s latest move would play especially well with voters in states like Missouri, where Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley is challenging Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents, as well as in Indiana and North Dakota, where Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer is challenging Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

Abortion rights activists, meanwhile, argue that Trump’s moves on the issue will only embolden women to turn out at the polls, just as they took to the streets in marches after Trump’s election.

“It’s going to cost this administration at the ballot box in November,” said Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Kevin Griffis.

“We have to fight back in the best way we know how,” the group Emily’s List wrote in a fundraising email, “electing pro-choice Democratic women who will always protect reproductive freedom.”

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/trump-wades-deeper-into-abortion-politics-as-midterms-loom/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1384709_Trump_Family_Planning_95831.jpgPresident Trump speaks in January at the March for Life in Washington. He hopes to energize the evangelicals this fall who helped him win in 2016.Wed, 23 May 2018 06:18:51 +0000
Congress enacts bill to protect senior citizens from scam artists https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/congress-enacts-bill-to-protect-senior-citizens-from-scam-artists/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/congress-enacts-bill-to-protect-senior-citizens-from-scam-artists/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 23:40:43 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/congress-enacts-bill-to-protect-senior-citizens-from-scam-artists/ Congress has passed a bill – written in part by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins – to protect senior citizens from scam artists.

Collins, a Maine Republican, and Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, introduced the bill together last year. It passed the Senate in March and was approved by the House on Tuesday as part of a banking reform package. It will now go to President Trump’s desk for a signature.

Bank privacy laws have made it difficult in the past for financial institutions to report suspected fraud. The bill will encourage banks, credit unions, investment advisors, broker-dealers, insurance companies and insurances agencies to educate their employees about financial fraud and report suspected abuses. It will also protect these institutions from being sued for reporting suspected fraud as long as they have trained their employees and made their reports on a reasonable basis to the proper authorities.

Collins’ office said the national initiative is modeled after a program that already exists in Maine. “As Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, I have been committed to fighting fraud and financial exploitation targeted at older Americans,” Collins said in a statement. “The Senior $afe Act, based on Maine’s innovative program, will empower and encourage our financial service representatives to identify warning signs of common scams and help prevent seniors from becoming victims.”

The Government Accountability Office has reported that seniors lose an estimated $2.9 billion annually from financial fraud.

In her role on the aging committee, Collins has spoken about financial scams against seniors, saying that even her mother has been targeted. The committee recently published its annual resource book for seniors and agencies like AARP that serve seniors and identified the top 10 scams against elders.

Last year, more Mainers called the committee’s hotline to report scams than residents of any other state. The number of hotline calls from Maine was 521; the next closest was Pennsylvania with 162.

The most common scam reported in 2017 was the IRS scam, in which callers pretend to be Internal Revenue Service workers and demand back tax payments. More than 100 complaints were also related to the Jamaican lottery scam, which was reported heavily in Maine going back to 2013. Other common reports were for unsolicited phone calls and the “Can you hear me?” scam, which attempts to prompt the recipient to say “yes.”

In some cases, seniors who have been tricked by these scams have lost huge sums of money. For example, a Hermon woman testified to Collins’ committee in 2013 about her father, who lost $85,000 over months in the Jamaican lottery scam. The health of many victims also often deteriorates as the scam goes on.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin was one of the sponsors of the bill in the House. He also released a statement Tuesday, saying he was pleased the legislation passed.

“Maine is home to the oldest population in the nation and, unfortunately, so many of our seniors fall victim to financial abuse and fraud,” he said. “Maine’s seniors, including my own mother who was a nurse and my father who taught in Central Maine for years, should have the protections and support they need when financial criminals attempt to do them harm.”

 

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House votes to roll back Dodd-Frank banking rules, sends bill to Trump https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/house-votes-to-roll-back-dodd-frank-banking-rules/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/house-votes-to-roll-back-dodd-frank-banking-rules/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 22:06:04 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/house-votes-to-roll-back-dodd-frank-banking-rules/ The House passed a plan Tuesday to roll back banking regulations passed in response to the 2008 financial crisis, sending the bill to President Trump to sign.

The measure leaves the central structure of the post-financial-crisis rules in place, but it would make the most significant changes to weaken the “Dodd-Frank” banking regulations since they were passed in 2010. It would exempt some small and regional banks from the most stringent regulations, and also would also loosen rules aimed at protecting the biggest banks from sudden collapse.

The measure is nearly certain to become law after its passing in the House, 258 to 159, on Tuesday with nearly all House Republicans and 33 Democrats voting for it. The Senate approved the bill in March with bipartisan backing, and White House officials said that Trump plans to sign it in the coming days.

The bill’s supporters say it provides needed relief for community and local banks withering under Washington’s regulations. But critics charge it opens the financial system back up to the abuse and risky behavior that brought the U.S. economy to its knees a decade ago – and does so at a time when financial firms are posting record profits.

The final measure represents a compromise between Trump, congressional conservatives and moderate Senate Democrats. The bill leaves major pieces of post-financial-crisis rules in place, and it does not touch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a watchdog agency created after the crisis.

Trump had vowed to “do a big number” on the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and some House Republicans had hoped to repeal the law entirely – or at least make major changes to rein in the watchdog agency.

The legislation remained in limbo for some weeks after Senate passage, as Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, held out for changes that would, in some cases, pull back regulations even further. But senators warned repeatedly that sending the legislation back to the Senate could end up killing it.

Senators had assembled a rare bipartisan coalition to pass the bill by winning support from 17 Democrats, including a half-dozen who are up for reelection in November in states Trump won. Aside from must-pass spending bills, the banking bill stands as the sole example of bipartisan legislation on a major issue in the Senate since Trump became president.

But the debate split Senate Democrats and at times grew divisive and personal as liberals, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., attacked their colleagues who were supporting the bill. It was an experience Senate Democrats were loath to repeat, and they joined with Senate Republicans and White House officials in encouraging Hensarling to yield to his demands.

In the end, Hensarling was satisfied by a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to bring up an additional package of bills that Hensarling’s committee has passed, though analysts give such a package slim chances of passing.

Former congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., one of the 2010 measure’s authors, said that he opposed the regulatory rollback, but it does not undo the rules he helped pass nearly a decade ago.

“This is not a ‘big number’ on the bill,” Frank said in an interview. “It’s a small number.”

Hensarling has said much the same, telling reporters that while he wished that the legislation would have gutted Dodd-Frank, it falls short of that goal.

Nevertheless, Hensarling touted the bill during floor debate Tuesday.

“This is the most pro-growth banking bill in a generation,” he said. “Today is an important day in the history of economic opportunity in America.”

Under the bill, banks with more than $50 billion in assets would no longer be automatically subject to the toughest federal regulations, including a yearly stress test to prove they could survive another onslaught of economic turmoil. The bill would raise that threshold to $250 billion in assets, potentially allowing several high-profile financial institutions, including American Express and Ally Financial, to escape the extra regulatory scrutiny.

The legislation would also exempt banks with less than $10 billion in assets from the “Volcker rule,” which bars banks from making certain risky wagers with their own money. Small banks will also be exempted from a Dodd-Frank requirement that they report more detailed data on lending customers. The industry has complained that both regulations are too cumbersome and time-consuming.

How the bill will reshape the financial sector is difficult to forecast, and critics and supporters offer radically different predictions. Supporters say the measure’s benefits are limited almost exclusively to small and regional banks. Critics also challenge that argument, noting a Congressional Budget Office assessment that there’s about a 50 percent chance that behemoths JPMorgan and Citibank could take advantage of provisions aimed at helping smaller firms.

Big banks still must undergo periodic “stress” tests to prove they could withstand another financial calamity. But the likelihood that a big bank, though still small, would be “slightly greater under the legislation,” the CBO said in March.

“Ten years ago, Wall Street almost destroyed our economy,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who led opposition to the legislation in the Senate. “Now bank profits are up. . . . And now they want more, because Wall Street always wants more.”

Banks reported $56 billion in profits during the first quarter of 2018, up 27.7 percent compared with the same period last year, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said Tuesday. Even without the corporate tax cuts that Trump and congressional Republicans passed last year, the banks would have still reported a 12 percent jump in quarterly profits to $49.4 billion.

Both figures surpass the industry’s previous record for quarterly profits, the $48.1 billion the industry posted during the second quarter of 2017.

The more than 5,000 community banks in the industry saw profits rise 17.7 percent to $6.1 billion during the first quarter, according to the data.

By raising the asset threshold to $250 billion, the number of banks subject to heightened regulatory scrutiny would fall from 38 to 12 under the legislation passed Tuesday.

The bill is expected to unleash a rush of industry consolidation as some banks see an opportunity to get bigger without incurring additional regulatory scrutiny.

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Trump suggests summit with North Korea’s Kim could be delayed https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/trump-suggests-summit-with-north-koreas-kim-could-be-delayed/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/trump-suggests-summit-with-north-koreas-kim-could-be-delayed/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 17:04:02 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/trump-suggests-summit-with-north-koreas-kim-could-be-delayed/ President Trump expressed confidence Tuesday that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is “serious” about negotiating over denuclearization, but he acknowledged a “substantial chance” that a summit planned for June 12 in Singapore could fall through.

“We’re moving along. We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House, after welcoming South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a meeting. “If it doesn’t happen, maybe it will happen later.”

Later Trump said: “It may not work out for June 12.”

The uncertainty comes after recent hard line rhetoric from Pyongyang, which has alarmed Trump administration officials and complicated the summit planning. A high-ranking Kim aide last week blasted national security adviser John Bolton, who had suggested the North Koreans would be expected to fully relinquish their nuclear weapons program before receiving reciprocal benefits from the United States.

Administration officials have emphasized that Trump remains committed to meeting with Kim, but they have to nail down key details for the summit, including the agenda and security logistics.

Trump appeared to suggest Kim could be having second thoughts because he’s leading North Korea into an uncertain future.

“There are certain conditions we want, and I think we’ll get those conditions,” Trump said, though he did not offer details. “If we don’t, we won’t” hold the summit, he said.

Trump added that “North Korea has a chance to be a great country. It can’t be a great country under the circumstances they’re living in right now. I think they should seize the opportunity, and we’ll soon find out whether or not they want to do that.”

The president also attempted to reassure Kim that he would remain in power under a deal to relinquish North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

“I will guarantee his safety, yes,” Trump said. “He will be safe, he will be happy, his country will be rich, his country will be hard-working and prosperous.”

If Kim strikes a deal, Trump added: “He will be able to look back and be very proud of what he did for North Korea and, actually, for the world.”

Moon, who met with Kim last month at the demilitarized zone between South Korea and North Korea, is expected to encourage Trump to follow through. South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, told reporters traveling with Moon from Seoul that the U.S.-North Korea summit is still likely to happen.

“We believe there is a 99.9 percent chance the North Korea-U. S. summit will be held as scheduled,” he said. “But we’re just preparing for many different possibilities.”

Sitting next to Trump in the Oval Office, Moon praised the president for his efforts on North Korea, saying Trump “has been able to achieve this dramatic change” in Kim’s willingness to engage with foreign leaders. Over the past two months, the North Korean leader has made three trips outside this country — two to China and one over the border to South Korea — for the first time since taking power in 2011.

As he has before, Trump suggested that Pyongyang’s shift to a more belligerent tone over the past week was the result of Kim’s second meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Beijing remains intent on ensuring that a nuclear deal would not draw North Korea closer to the United States and away from China’s influence.

Moon said he has “every confidence” that Trump could reach a deal with Kim that would formally end the Korean War and bring “peace and prosperity” to North Korea.

“It’s been a relationship that seems to be working,” Trump said of his relationship with Kim, though he declined to say whether he has spoken directly with the North Korean leader.

Trump said if his summit with Kim moves forward “that will be a great, great thing for North Korea. If it doesn’t, that’s okay, too. Whatever it is, it is.”

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/trump-suggests-summit-with-north-koreas-kim-could-be-delayed/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1384508_Trump_Dealmaking_89111.jp2_.jpgPeople watch a TV screen showing file footage of U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. Weeks from his planned North Korea summit, President Trump now says the meeting might not happen.Tue, 22 May 2018 17:28:00 +0000
Biddeford Democrats compete for a chance at open legislative seat https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/biddeford-democrats-compete-for-a-chance-at-open-legislative-seat/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/biddeford-democrats-compete-for-a-chance-at-open-legislative-seat/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1384264 A former state legislator and a current city councilor are looking to fill an open seat representing Biddeford in the Maine Legislature.

John Eder, a former Green party state representative, and City Councilor Victoria Foley will square off in the Democratic primary to fill the seat being vacated by Martin Grohman, who is running for Congress.

The winner of the June 12 primary will run against unenrolled candidates Wesley Charles Davis and Matthew Lauzon in the general election for the District 12 seat, which represents Biddeford. There is no Republican candidate for that seat.

Both Eder and Foley are relatively new to Biddeford, having bought property in the city within the past few years.

Foley, marketing director for New England Cancer Specialists, was appointed to the Biddeford City Council in June 2017, then elected to a full term that November. Since moving to the city, she has devoted time to her work on the council and various local committees and commissions. She sees serving in the House as a way to amplify the work on the state level to help Biddeford “continue to thrive.”

“I feel very fortunate to be in a position to run to represent the community I serve,” she said. “It’s really exciting.”

Eder, a grassroots organizer who has worked on political issues in Maine for 20 years, was the first Green party candidate elected to Legislature, where he served two terms representing Portland from 2002 to 2006. Now a member of the Democratic Party, he moved to Biddeford two years ago with his partner and their daughter and feels the time is right to return to Augusta.

“I feel there’s a lot of work to be done to get the Legislature and the Democratic Party back on track advocating for the working class and middle class,” he said.

Both Eder and Foley say, if elected, they would focus on issues that directly affect Biddeford residents, including affordable health care.

Foley said she has expertise in the health care field through her job and her role as board president of Greater Portland Health. She believes expanding Medicaid would “make life better” for people in Biddeford and across the state.

“Access to high-quality, affordable health care for people of all ages is something I feel strongly about,” she said.

Foley said as a state legislator she would also work on promoting age-friendly communities where people can stay in their homes as long as they wish and where caregivers are supported. A key component of age-friendly communities is offering sustainable transportation, she said.

“When you offer sustainable transportation access, the seniors who may not choose to drive or not be able to drive can better stay in their communities,” she said.

Foley said she often hears from voters who are concerned about how tax money is being used and who want to make sure education is properly funded. She supports tax reform that is fair to the middle class and investing in education, particularly trade programs.

Victoria Foley

“The education I received in public schools in Maine set me up for success,” she said. “I want to fund education to the point where we’re still setting kids up for success.”

Eder said he is motivated to return to Augusta because the working and middle classes are “worse off” than when he served in the Legislature more than a decade ago. He is concerned about an opportunity gap facing young Mainers who are saddled with college debt and high housing costs. He would like to strengthen trade programs and promote vocational education as a way for students to start adulthood debt-free.

The Legislature has pulled far to the right during the past eight years, Eder said, and he’s concerned “the harmful things done will be left in place.” He sees referendums as sacrosanct and feels the will of voters has largely been ignored, especially with Medicaid expansion and school funding.

“It’s important to me that we follow through on the will of the voter, even if there’s things I don’t agree with,” he said.

John Eder

Eder said his previous time in the Legislature would be beneficial both because of the connections he has in Augusta and his familiarity with how state government operates.

“It really takes at least one session under your belt to really know what end is up,” Eder said. “The session is short and you have to have your compass and know what your priorities are going to be. Knowing the ropes there is going to be very valuable in that environment.”

 

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Budget typo holding up millions in Maine ‘clean election’ funds https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/budget-typo-holding-up-millions-in-election-funds/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/budget-typo-holding-up-millions-in-election-funds/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1384308 AUGUSTA — Candidates for Maine governor and legislative seats who are running “clean election” campaigns could lose access to millions of dollars this summer and fall unless lawmakers come back into special session to correct a bill-drafting error.

Lawmakers left dozens of measures in limbo last month when they adjourned the 2018 legislative session amid a fight over Medicaid expansion, tax cuts and other partisan issues. While school funding and Medicaid expansion have received considerable attention, advocates for Maine’s public campaign finance system and a Maine Ethics Commission official warn that a little-noticed victim of the partisan rancor could have significant financial ramifications for the November 2018 elections.

Lawmakers failed to pass a routine “errors and inconsistencies” bill to correct unintended budget language that prevents the Maine Ethics Commission from disbursing additional money to so-called “clean election” candidates starting on July 1. As a result, more than 200 legislative candidates and potentially three gubernatorial campaigns will be unable to tap into at least $3 million – money that lawmakers already have budgeted for the public campaign finance system – in the final months of the election season.

“This is a very serious problem in need of a legislative fix,” Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Ethics Commission, said Monday.

As word begins to spread about the uncertainty over future Clean Election funding, some candidates are rushing to qualify for as much additional funding as possible before the July 1 cutoff.

Dr. Linda Sanborn, a former Democratic House member now running for Senate District 30 in the Scarborough-Gorham area, anticipates that incumbent Republican Sen. Amy Volk has the capacity to raise a significant amount of money for her privately financed campaign.

“I want to be able to run the best campaign I can, but it is going to be difficult … over the next couple of weeks to collect as many qualifying contributions as I need” to receive additional money, Sanborn said. “It is going to take a lot of time to make this effort when I want to be knocking on doors.”

Under the Maine Clean Election Act approved by voters more than 20 years ago, candidates for Legislature and governor can receive money to run their campaigns in exchange for forgoing most private contributions. Public campaign financing is a billed as a way to reduce the influence of big-money special interests while allowing candidates more time to discuss issues with voters rather than ask for donations.

In the 2018 elections, House candidates running in contested races can receive a total of $7,600 for their primary and general election campaigns, while Maine Senate candidates can receive $30,400. Gubernatorial candidates, meanwhile, can receive between $800,000 and $1 million each.

But because there is no limit on how much money a privately financed candidate can raise or spend, the Clean Election Act allows publicly financed candidates to qualify for “supplemental payments” through the November election. Candidates for governor, for instance, can receive an additional $1.4 million in public campaign financing by demonstrating their community support with the type of small-dollar “qualifying contributions” that Sanborn is now soliciting from supporters.

It’s those “supplemental payments” that are now in doubt.

In the budget bill passed last year after a three-day government shutdown, lawmakers bumped up the timing of a $3 million transfer to Clean Elections to ensure the program had sufficient money to operate during the 2018 elections. But language in that bill inadvertently prohibits the Maine Ethics Commission from actually handing out the money to campaigns after July 1.

“It turns out that small typos can have a big impact,” said Anna Kellar, executive director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, the advocacy group that promotes Maine’s public campaign financing system. “That money was appropriated, it is sitting in the fund but they can’t dispense it.”

The Clean Elections issue comes three years after a one-word clerical error – a missing “and” – in a bill passed in the final hours of a legislative session almost cost the Efficiency Maine energy conservation program nearly $38 million. The Legislature eventually fixed the error, but not until after Republican Gov. Paul LePage tried to use the issue as leverage to get other political concessions.

Making a quick-fix to the Clean Elections problem got caught up in the political gamesmanship during the final days of the session last month during a high-profile election year.

The “errors and inconsistencies” bill breezed through both the House and Senate during an initial vote. But on the final tumultuous day of the legislative session, House Republicans blocked final passage of the bill while also preventing the Legislature from extending the 2018 session for several days.

The measure is now included among the dozens of others that could be taken up during a special session. Yet Republican and Democratic leaders, along with LePage, continue to point fingers over who is to blame for the Legislature’s failure to complete its work. No one has moved to convene a special session.

Three gubernatorial candidates – Republican Sen. Garrett Mason, Democrat Betsy Sweet and independent Terry Hayes – are running as Clean Election candidates. Also, 220 House and Senate candidates have qualified for public campaign financing, although that number is expected to grow.

Wayne said while some legislative campaigns will be impacted, especially Senate candidates in particularly competitive districts, the gubernatorial campaigns stand to take the biggest hit if the Legislature fails to act. Those candidates for governor will still each receive a $600,000 payment in June for the general election, but will be ineligible for the supplemental payments after July 1.

Wayne said it would be “unfair” to expect governor’s candidates to run their entire fall campaigns on $600,000 when they entered the program anticipating access to up to $1.4 million more.

“There was absolutely no intention by the Appropriations Committee to freeze funding in this program in the middle of the election year,” Wayne said.

Hayes, who serves as state treasurer, said the issue is not consuming her thoughts or actions because it’s an issue beyond her control. But Hayes acknowledged it would be “very difficult” for her to compete on just $800,000 – including $200,000 already allocated – against private candidates with no spending or fundraising limits. And because the law restricts her ability to seek private donations, losing access to that funding would force her to dramatically change her plans for the fall campaign.

“But I’m not dropping out” either way, Hayes said. “I’m in this until the end.”

Kellar, the director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, believes partisan politics were behind the failure of the “errors and inconsistencies” bill. House Republicans only voted against the bill after their leadership came out against it, she said. That leadership includes Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette of Newport, a frequent critic of the Clean Election program who is running for governor as a privately financed candidate.

“Now because a small minority is refusing to fix the typo, that money won’t be there,” Kellar said. “I would say that is a threat to the integrity of the election system.”

It is unclear what options, if any, are available if the Legislature does not fix the issue during a special session. While some have speculated LePage could free up the money by issuing a financial order, others questioned the legality of such a move even if the governor was willing to shore up a public campaign financing system that he and other critics often decry as “welfare for politicians.”

 

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/budget-typo-holding-up-millions-in-election-funds/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1384308_346942-LindaSanborn.jpgDr. Linda Sanborn, a former House member now running for Senate District 30, says: "I want to be able to run the best campaign I can, but it is going to be difficult."Mon, 21 May 2018 22:56:35 +0000
FBI to review classified data with lawmakers on handling of Russia probe https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/fbi-agrees-to-review-classified-data-with-congressional-leaders-on-agencys-handling-of-russia-probe/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/fbi-agrees-to-review-classified-data-with-congressional-leaders-on-agencys-handling-of-russia-probe/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 01:23:45 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/fbi-agrees-to-review-classified-data-with-congressional-leaders-on-agencys-handling-of-russia-probe/ WASHINGTON — The White House said Monday that top FBI and Justice Department officials have agreed to meet with congressional leaders and “review” highly classified information the lawmakers have been seeking as they scrutinize the handling of the Russia investigation.

The agreement came after President Trump made an extraordinary demand that the Justice Department investigate whether the FBI infiltrated his presidential campaign. It’s unclear exactly what the members will be allowed to review or if the Justice Department will be providing any documents to Congress.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump chief of staff John Kelly will broker the meeting between congressional leaders and the FBI, Justice Department and office of the Director of National Intelligence. She said the officials will “review highly classified and other information they have requested,” but did not provide additional detail.

During a meeting with Trump, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray also reiterated an announcement late Sunday that the Justice Department’s inspector general will expand an existing investigation into the Russia probe by examining whether there was any improper politically motivated surveillance.

Rep. Devin Nunes, an ardent Trump supporter and head of the House Intelligence Committee, has been demanding information on an FBI source in the Russia investigation. And Trump has taken up the cause as the White House tries to combat the threat posed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Trump tweeted Sunday, “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

With the demand, Trump entered into the realm of applying presidential pressure on the Justice Department regarding an investigation into his own campaign – a move few of his predecessors have made.

Trump made the order amid days of public venting about the special counsel investigation, which he has deemed a “witch hunt” that he says has yielded no evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia. In response, the Justice Department moved to defuse the confrontation by asking its watchdog to investigate whether there was inappropriate surveillance.

“If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action,” Rosenstein said in a statement announcing the move.

The Justice Department probe began in March at the request of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and congressional Republicans. Sessions and the lawmakers urged Inspector General Michael Horowitz to review whether FBI and Justice Department officials abused their surveillance powers by using information compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy, and paid for by Democrats to justify monitoring Carter Page, a former campaign adviser to Trump.

Horowitz said his office will look at those claims as well as communications between Steele and Justice and FBI officials.

The back and forth between the Justice Department and Congress began with a classified subpoena from Nunes in late April. The panel didn’t publicize the subpoena, but the Justice Department released a letter it sent to Nunes rejecting the request for information “regarding a specific individual.” The department said disclosure could have severe consequences, including potential loss of human life.

The Justice Department said the White House had signed off on its letter, but Nunes wasn’t satisfied, and continued to pressure the department. Negotiations between the House Republicans and the Justice department appeared to stall last week ahead of Trump’s tweet – an apparent reversal of the White House’s initial policy.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has called Trump’s claim of an embedded spy “nonsense.”

“His ‘demand’ DOJ investigate something they know to be untrue is an abuse of power, and an effort to distract from his growing legal problems,” Schiff tweeted. “Never mind that DOJ has warned that lives and alliances are at risk. He doesn’t care.”

Trump’s demand of the Justice Department alarmed many observers, who felt it not only violated presidential protocol but also could have a chilling effect on federal law enforcement or its use of informants.

The New York Times was the first to report that the FBI had an informant who met several times with Trump campaign officials who had suspicious contacts linked to Russia.

The Republican-led House Intelligence Committee closed its Russian meddling probe last month, saying it found no evidence of collusion or coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Schiff and other committee Democrats were furious and argued that Republicans had not subpoenaed many witnessed they considered essential to the committee’s work.

Sunday was not the first time that Trump accused his predecessor of politically motivated activity against him.

Without substantiation, Trump tweeted in March 2017 that former President Barack Obama had conducted surveillance the previous October at Trump Tower, the New York skyscraper where Trump ran his campaign and transition and maintains a residence. Comey later testified to Congress that internal reviews found no information to support the president’s tweets. Trump fired Comey over the bureau’s Russia investigation.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/fbi-agrees-to-review-classified-data-with-congressional-leaders-on-agencys-handling-of-russia-probe/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1384239_Trump_91752.jpg-20929.jpgFBI Director Christopher Wray, foreground, leaves the White House after meeting Monday with President Trump amid reports that the agency had an informant who met several times with Trump campaign officials with suspicious contacts linked to Russia.Mon, 21 May 2018 21:30:07 +0000
Republicans’ court filing takes aim at ranked-choice voting https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/republicans-court-filing-takes-aim-at-ranked-choice-voting/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/republicans-court-filing-takes-aim-at-ranked-choice-voting/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 18:29:21 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/republicans-court-filing-takes-aim-at-ranked-choice-voting/ Ranked-choice voting is a system “designed to change election outcomes and messages” and alter the Maine Republican Party itself, the party said in its latest court filing over the controversial election method.

Monday’s filing supports a federal court lawsuit the party filed to stop the use of ranked-choice voting, which was adopted by Maine voters in a 2016 referendum.

The party says that “ranked-choice voting is designed to change the character of the party” and shouldn’t be forced on Republicans in the June 12 primary.

“One need only consider what would have happened to the Republican Party – and the country – if Lincoln had not been its nominee in 1860,” lawyer Joshua D. Dunlap said rhetorically in the brief. “Changing election outcomes and election messaging is the only purpose the RCV Act serves.”

Under ranked-choice voting, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If, after the first count, no one wins a clear majority – more than 50 percent – of the vote, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and his or her voters’ second choices are added to the totals of the other candidates. Then the ballots are retabulated, and the process continues until one candidate has a majority and is declared the winner.

Last week, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap dismissed as “speculative” the possible election of what he called an “inappropriate or inadequate” candidate as a result of ranked-choice voting in his court filing, which defends ranked-choice voting. The filing, written by Assistant Attorney General Phyllis Gardiner for the secretary, dismisses the Republican contention that ranked-choice voting could lead to the selection of a candidate who isn’t truly representative of the party as “highly debatable and empirically unproven.”

The Republicans also contend that ranked-choice voting changes “the character of the party by changing its election process, and therefore its nominee, (and) strikes at the heart of the party’s right to freedom of association.” The filing said that changing the method of the election doesn’t advance any state interests and, with potential harm to the party, the Republicans should be granted an injunction blocking the use of ranked-choice voting next month.

U.S. District Judge Jon D. Levy has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday on the party’s motion for an injunction.

Also on Monday, the Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting said that the Republican Party “seeks to revert to a foregone era where political insiders pick the winners and losers of the primary process in private, smoked-filled rooms.”

The committee was responsible for the referendum that adopted ranked-choice voting in Maine.

Levy ruled that the committee couldn’t intervene in the case, but said it was free to file a brief in support of ranked-choice voting, which it did last week.

The brief said the use of ranked-choice voting doesn’t unfairly burden the parties and that the state has the power to determine the manner of elections.

 

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/republicans-court-filing-takes-aim-at-ranked-choice-voting/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1377967_544066_20180508_recall_3.jpgThree-year-old Nicholas Tamayo joins his mother, Amanda, at Town Hall during Tuesday's special recall election, the first ever in Scarborough. Three school board officials were removed from office as a result of the vote; officials hope now the community can begin to heal from the school-related controversies that have divided the town.Tue, 22 May 2018 15:50:44 +0000
Ex-coal executive chases Senate seat despite Republican primary loss https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/ex-coal-exec-chases-senate-seat-despite-republican-primary-loss/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/ex-coal-exec-chases-senate-seat-despite-republican-primary-loss/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 14:26:44 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/ex-coal-exec-chases-senate-seat-despite-republican-primary-loss/ CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Despite losing the Republican primary in a distant third-place, convicted ex-coal baron Don Blankenship announced Monday that he will continue his bid for U.S. Senate as a third-party candidate, though it’s unclear if the move violates West Virginia’s “sore loser” law.

Blankenship will run as a member of the Constitution Party, which nominated him by a unanimous vote, his campaign said in a news release.

West Virginia secretary of state spokesman Steve Adams said Blankenship has officially switched his party affiliation to the Constitution Party. But Adams has said West Virginia’s “sore loser” or “sour grapes” law prohibits candidates affiliated with a major party who lose in a primary from changing their registration to a minor party to take advantage of later filing deadlines.

On Monday, Adams referred questions about Blankenship’s move to the secretary of state’s legal counsel, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In his statement, Blankenship says, “Although the establishment will likely begin their efforts against us by mounting a legal challenge to my candidacy, we are confident that – if challenged – our legal position will prevail, absent a politically motivated decision by the courts.”

Blankenship said his personal views align with those of the Constitution Party, whose goal is to restore U.S. government philosophy to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its constitutional boundaries.

Blankenship, a former executive of Massey Energy, spent a year in federal prison for violating mine regulations in a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 miners.

More recently, he took swipes at “China people” and referred to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as “Cocaine Mitch” in campaign ads during the Republican primary. Blankenship sold himself as “Trumpier than Trump” during the race, but the president opposed him. The White House worried that Blankenship’s baggage would make it all but impossible to defeat Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in the general election.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey claimed the nomination instead, promoting his record of challenging policies of the Obama administration.

In 2016, Trump claimed his largest margin of victory in West Virginia. Looking ahead to the general election, Manchin – who has held elected office in West Virginia for the better part of three decades – has a huge financial advantage over Morrisey after easily winning the Democratic primary. But he’s expected to face the most difficult re-election campaign of his career.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/ex-coal-exec-chases-senate-seat-despite-republican-primary-loss/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1383887_Blankenship_Senate_27375.2.jpgFormer Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship speaks to supporters in Charleston, W.Va. Despite having lost the Republican primary, the convict and ex-coal baron Blankenship said he's going to continue his bid for U.S. Senate as a third-party candidate.Mon, 21 May 2018 18:55:50 +0000
Deadline for Mainers to change party before primaries is Friday https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/deadline-looms-for-registering-with-a-party-before-primaries/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/deadline-looms-for-registering-with-a-party-before-primaries/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 14:06:34 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/deadline-looms-for-registering-with-a-party-before-primaries/ AUGUSTA — The deadline for Mainers to switch party registrations in time to vote in the June 12 primary elections is drawing near.

Election officials say the deadline is Friday to unenroll from one party and join another in order to vote in the Republican or Democratic primaries.

However, voters who are unenrolled and want to vote in the party primary can enroll as a Democrat or Republican at any time, including on Election Day.

While party enrollment is needed to vote in primary contests on June 12, there is no need to register with a party to vote on a referendum question, or in local elections.

Ranked choice voting will be used for the first time in the Maine Democratic Party primary. The Maine Republican Party is suing in federal court to be exempted from using the new voting system.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/deadline-looms-for-registering-with-a-party-before-primaries/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/boucher-lindsey-jdl-copy.jpgMon, 21 May 2018 18:34:56 +0000
Portland councilor, business owner vying for state Senate seat https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/city-councilor-business-owner-vying-for-state-senate-seat/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/city-councilor-business-owner-vying-for-state-senate-seat/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1383781 Two well-known Democratic women are looking to fill an open in seat in the Maine Senate – one of two representing Maine’s largest city.

Longtime Portland City Councilor Jill Duson and state Rep. Heather Sanborn will square off in the Democratic primary to fill a seat being vacated by Mark Dion, who is running for governor.

The winner of the June 12 state Senate primary will be the favorite to win the general election for the District 28 seat, which represents part of Portland and part of Westbrook and has long been held by Democrats.

Patrick Martin of Westbrook is running unopposed in the Republican primary and will face the winner in November.

Both Duson and Sanborn live in Portland. They both have law backgrounds and have similar positions on issues such as Medicaid expansion, school funding and gun control.

Both support funding the Medicaid expansion approved by voters last fall for an estimated 70,000 Mainers by dipping into the $141 million budget surplus.

Both support a so-called “red flag” law that would allow police or family members to ask a court to temporarily seize guns from individuals believed to pose an imminent threat to themselves or others, as well as additional gun restrictions, such as outlawing high-capacity magazines that cannot be used for hunting.

And both said they would work to ensure the state finally meets its obligation to fund 55 percent of public education costs.

But they differ greatly in their experience and how they would approach their new role as state senator.

If elected to the Senate, Duson said, she will continue to serve as an at-large city councilor, a position to which she was re-elected to a sixth term last November. She said holding two offices is not unprecedented and would benefit the district, because she is familiar with the challenges of urban communities, whether it’s homelessness, school funding or affordable housing.

“What happens in Augusta doesn’t stay in Augusta – it affects us in so many ways,” said Duson, who has served for a decade on the council’s legislative committee in addition to regional and statewide municipal groups. “My vision is to be a pretty loud and energetic voice in my own party caucus when discussions and decisions are being made about what is the ‘Democratic position.’ ”

However, Sanborn, who is co-owner of Rising Tide Brewing Co., which has a brewery and tasting room in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood and a warehouse in Westbrook, said she will be able to devote more time to being a full-time state senator. Having a steady presence is Augusta is needed in order to build relationships – whether by “breaking bread” at lunch or chatting in hallways – with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, she said.

“One clear difference is I plan on serving as state senator and doing that full time and devoting my political energies in that direction,” Sanborn said. “I think that would be very difficult to do that and serve on the council and I wouldn’t have made that choice.”

Jill Duson

DUSON

Duson, a retiree, says her personal, professional and political experience makes her “uniquely prepared” to serve in both roles. As a young child growing up in Chester, Pennsylvania, she experienced the turbulent desegregation of public schools. She was one of the so-called “smart kids” who were chosen to attend white schools, where she walked the gantlet of angry faces who wanted to keep the schools segregated.

This happened against a backdrop of police brutality against black people nationally and later the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert Kennedy. And she also learned the value of grassroots organizing to address substandard housing.

“I grew up in that soup and I came out of it,” she said. “It’s clear to me that public service is what you do. You have to be accountable for what’s in front of you.”

As an attorney, she chose to focus on rights of the elderly and the disabled, mainly because of her mother’s experience as a polio survivor.

And she has held roles in state government, most recently serving as a compliance manager for the Maine Human Rights Commission. She led the Bureau of Rehabilitative Services under Gov. John Baldacci. She said the agency had a budget of $24 million and more than 100 employees. And she said she helped turn around the agency’s budget deficit while reducing wait times.

That, coupled with her decades in local elected office, gives her the ability to approach issues – whether it’s waterfront infrastructure spending, school funding or tackling homelessness and substance use – from multiple viewpoints, she said.

And she hopes to be able to use that experience to break through the partisanship of Augusta, to push back against Gov. Paul LePage’s narrative that Portland is the enemy of the rest of the state.

“Let’s talk about what’s good for Maine because what helps in southern Maine also helps in northern Maine and western Maine,” she said. “We have to be conscious that we may be the landing area for people, but we want them to get out and experience the rest of Maine.”

Heather Sanborn

SANBORN

Sanborn is completing her first term as a state representative in District 43, which covers part of Portland and part of Falmouth. But she said she’s ready to make the move to the Senate, which she described as a “smaller, more deliberative body” where she can lead on health care and clean energy issues.

Sanborn said one of her top priorities will be health care reform, since it is something she has struggled with personally.

Sanborn said she was eight months pregnant when her husband was laid off from his job. She had already informed her boss that she was taking a yearlong leave of absence.

“It’s a very scary thing to go through that process of being pregnant and not having health insurance and not knowing if I would be able to afford it,” she said.

After her son was born, he was eligible for MaineCare and she got insurance through the now-defunct Dirigo Health program. But she’s also had experience with quality and affordable health care, when she worked for a Boston law firm, and later as a small-business owner.

“I’ve seen it from a lot of different vantage points and that’s been formative for me,” she said.

Sanborn, who serves on the Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Service Committee, said she is currently co-chairing a task force looking to reform health care in Maine. One area the group expects to make a recommendation about is the high cost of prescription drugs, she said.

“The costs are too high and there are too many Mainers who are struggling – whether they have insurance or not – with health care costs,” she said. “We have some real allies in the Republican Party in the Legislature” in this area.

A self-described “technophile,” Sanborn said she is eager to explore how the state can put new technology to work, especially with regard to renewable energy. As a member of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, she’s interested in things like micro-grids, battery storage, offshore wind and solar technology.

“My experience on health care issues and clean energy issues in this first term in the Legislature gives me a strong foundation for continuing to be a leader on those issues as a senator,” she said. “Those are state-level policy issues that are absolutely critical.”

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@pressherald.com

Twitter: randybillings

Correction: This story was updated at 9:10 a.m. on May 21, 2018 to correct the district that Heather Sanborn represents.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/21/city-councilor-business-owner-vying-for-state-senate-seat/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1383781_42198-20171012_Council1168.jpgPORTLAND, ME - OCTOBER 12: Portland City Council at large candidate Jill Duson at City Hall Thursday, October 12, 2017. (Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)Mon, 21 May 2018 09:11:34 +0000
Trump demands Justice Department look into ‘political’ surveillance https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/trump-demands-justice-department-look-into-political-surveillance/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/trump-demands-justice-department-look-into-political-surveillance/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 00:28:15 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/trump-demands-justice-department-look-into-political-surveillance/ WASHINGTON — President Trump said Sunday that he would demand that the Justice Department explore whether it or the FBI “infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes” – perhaps signaling the start of a showdown between the nation’s chief executive and its federal law enforcement apparatus.

After several tweets railing against the year-old special counsel probe into his campaign, Trump wrote, “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

The tweet seemed to be a response to recent reports about the FBI using a longtime intelligence asset to advance its investigation into Russian election interference. Trump and his allies have seized on the use of the asset to claim that the FBI has spied on his campaign.

The president’s demand is significant in its own right: the nation’s chief executive ordering an investigation into the investigation of his campaign. But it also could presage more important developments.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has sought documents on the FBI’s use of the asset and, so far, has been rebuffed by Justice Department leaders, who worry that exposing the source or the source’s work could put him in danger. The president could order the department to hand over the materials, over its objection, potentially sparking significant backlash among top officials there and in the broader intelligence community.

Law enforcement had considered the source’s identity so sensitive that the FBI had been working over the past two weeks to mitigate the potential damage if his name was revealed, according to several people familiar with the matter. It is possible that officials could resign in protest or refuse the president’s order and force him to fire them.

But the president’s tweet also left open the possibility that such a conflict could be averted.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced in March that he would explore controversial applications to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, along with the department’s relationship with a former British intelligence officer who provided information cited for those requests. That review will assess whether the FBI and the Justice Department complied with the law and their own policies in requesting and carrying out the surveillance. Horowitz also said that he would examine other matters that might arise from his work.

It is possible that Horowitz’s work might have naturally led him to look at the FBI’s use of the confidential source, who had contact with Page, in the Russia investigation. The Justice Department also would not necessarily chafe at an internal look at its conduct.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Rudy Giuliani, the president’s attorney, said Trump was “doing what the president should do. He’s telling the Justice Department the obvious, which is – they should turn over information gleaned from this source.” But he offered less-than-clear answers on what the president’s ultimate directive would be.

Asked whether the president wanted the documents released, Giuliani responded, “Yes, he wants them released in this case to Congress.” But later in the conversation, Giuliani seemed to note that the president had not yet given a formal order. He said he expected a letter would be issued Monday.

“He’s not commanding them at this point but asking them to reveal the substance of this and clear it up,” Giuliani said. “We think that’s only fair. If they don’t do it, he’s the president, the executive branch of a government that’s being maligned. He has the right to say, ‘Straighten it out.’ ”

Giuliani said he was not worried about that sparking a possible crisis at the Justice Department, saying, “I have a hard time believing they won’t go along. They have to eventually reveal something about this. This is a serious issue.”

“They may want to put some strictures on it, like it has to be confidential, or they don’t give the name but they give the information. If they don’t want to do anything, it’s a serious problem and far worse than we even believe.”

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/trump-demands-justice-department-look-into-political-surveillance/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1381386_Trump_US_Uzbekistan_354042.jpgPresident Trump reports in a new financial disclosure that he reimbursed his private attorney more than $100,000 last year, an apparent reference to the $130,000 that Cohen paid to ensure the silence of an adult-film actress who claimed she'd had an affair with Trump.Mon, 21 May 2018 09:32:15 +0000
Trump Jr. met with Mueller witness during campaign https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/trump-jr-met-with-mueller-witness-during-campaign/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/trump-jr-met-with-mueller-witness-during-campaign/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 11:24:47 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/trump-jr-met-with-mueller-witness-during-campaign/ WASHINGTON — Donald Trump Jr. met during the 2016 campaign with a private military contractor and an adviser to Middle Eastern leaders, both of whom have since become a focus of investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller, a lawyer for President Trump’s eldest son said Saturday.

Erik Prince, an informal adviser to the Trump campaign and former head of Blackwater, and George Nader, a veteran operative who has advised the United Arab Emirates and helped American contractors secure business in the Middle East, met with Trump Jr. at Trump Tower to discuss a social media proposal, lawyer Alan Futerfas said in a statement.

“They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy. He was not interested and that was the end of it,” Futerfas said.

Also at the meeting was Joel Zamel, the CEO of a social media company called WikiStrat. But he neither offered social media services to the Trump campaign, nor was he asked to help the campaign, his lawyer, Marc Mukasey, said.

“Joel Zamel offered nothing to the Trump campaign, received nothing from the Trump campaign, delivered nothing to the Trump campaign and was not solicited by, or asked to do anything for, the Trump campaign,” Mukasey said Saturday.

Mukasey also called it “misguided” to say Zamel conducts “social media manipulation,” as suggested by The New York Times, which first reported the meeting. The newspaper said the August 2016 meeting was convened primarily to offer assistance to the Trump campaign and that the outreach suggests countries other than Russia may have offered to help get Trump elected.

Mueller’s investigators have been looking into a later meeting, in January 2017 in the Seychelles, that Nader and Prince held with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian banker with close ties to the Kremlin. Nader is a witness in Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the election.

The Associated Press reported in March that Nader had been convicted on 10 counts of sexually assaulting a minor in the Czech Republic in 2003. Employees for Prince’s previous firm, Blackwater, were implicated in the deaths of 14 civilians in Iraq in 2007.

Neither a spokesman for Prince nor a spokeswoman for Nader’s lawyer immediately returned requests for comment Saturday.

Members of the House intelligence committee peppered Prince with questions about his interactions with the Trump campaign during a November 2017 interview, but Prince did not disclose the Trump Tower meeting with Trump Jr. and Nader.

Mueller has dug into various facets of the social media and digital efforts in the 2016 election as part of his expansive federal probe. In February, he filed an indictment against 13 Russians and three companies accused of running an elaborate campaign on social media to disrupt the elections.

The federal probe has also dipped into the digital side of Trump’s 2016 campaign, with Mueller’s team asking former campaign staff about the role of Cambridge Analytica, the voter data firm which former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon helped run.

The president and his closest aides have repeatedly said there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians. And the Republican-led House intelligence committee found no evidence of collusion. But Senate investigators said this past week that they believed the Russian meddling was clearly meant to harm Democrat Hillary Clinton and help Trump.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/trump-jr-met-with-mueller-witness-during-campaign/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/09/1252184_Trump_Russia_Probe_55225.2.jpgDonald Trump Jr., the son of President Trump, speaks to media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington in April. Associated Press/Carolyn KasterSun, 20 May 2018 16:31:45 +0000
Seven Democrats see similar path toward Blaine House https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/1381530/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/1381530/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:38 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1381530 The seven Democratic contenders for governor agree on many of the broad issues facing the state, such as the need to expand Medicaid and put more money into K-12 education.

But the candidates differ on the details of how to accomplish those goals and who among them has the best work experience, life skills and political know-how to get the job done in an increasingly divided state.

The seven candidates – Attorney General Janet Mills of Farmington, former House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick, attorney and veteran Adam Cote of Sanford, advocate and lobbyist Betsy Sweet of Hallowell, senator and former sheriff Mark Dion of Portland, former lawmaker and progressive activist Diane Russell of Portland, and former Biddeford Mayor Donna Dion – are outlining progressive platforms likely to appeal to the party loyalists who will turn out for the June 12 primary.

And while the four Republican gubernatorial candidates are vowing to continue Gov. Paul LePage’s legacy, the Democratic Blaine House hopefuls insist Maine needs a more inclusive, collaborative and open-minded leader to face its social, demographic and economic challenges.

MEDICAID EXPANSION

Despite the fact that 59 percent of Maine voters approved a ballot measure expanding Medicaid last November, the 70,000-plus would-be beneficiaries appear no closer to receiving health coverage. The LePage administration has yet to take steps to implement expansion, and the 2018 legislative session collapsed in the final days amid partisan bickering over the issue.

All seven Democrats strongly support expanding Medicaid immediately to take advantage of the 90 percent funding offered by the federal government. They all agree that reserve funds in the state’s Medicaid account will cover much of the first-year costs, estimated at $45 million to $55 million. But some have different ideas for funding, as well.

“Medicaid expansion would be funded in my first budget, and the way we fund it is by making corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share,” said Eves. He said his plan includes closing corporate tax loopholes, expanding the sales tax to apply to more goods and services, and “rebalancing our income inequality” by rolling back some of the recent income tax cuts that benefited wealthier Mainers.

Eves and Mark Dion also talk about the need for a Medicaid or MaineCare “buy in” that would allow other Mainers to purchase insurance through the program, with rates depending on income levels.

But before the expansion happens, Dion said the state needs a special health care cost commission – similar to the Public Utilities Commission – to examine fee structures charged by hospitals and other providers as a way to move toward uniformity of costs.

Mills, meanwhile, has proposed using $35 million in newly negotiated legal settlement funds with tobacco companies to help pay for the first year of the expansion. Furthermore, Mills said the current budget surplus – estimated at $140 million – as well as unspent funds in the state’s Medicaid account could be used to help cover any additional costs.

“Why is it there is such a surplus?” Mills asked. “Are we taxing too much somewhere or are we not allocating those funds or revenues appropriately? Or can those be devoted to health care?”

Russell agreed with Mills’ proposal to tap into the $35 million in additional legal settlement fees plus the available Medicaid funds.

“We just need to get it going because once you start seeing the money come in from the federal government, … that is where we are going to see savings over time,” Russell said.

Sweet, who has lobbied on behalf of low-income Mainers at the State House for 35 years, said the state should tap into the existing reserves in the Medicaid program, eliminate corporate tax loopholes, reinvest in the state’s public health infrastructure, emphasize healthy lifestyles and conduct a full audit on the Department of Health and Human Services’ Medicaid account.

She also accused the LePage administration of turning down millions in federal dollars that could have been used for preventative care, which ultimately lowers health care costs.

Cote predicted that the estimated influx of $500 million in federal funds into Maine’s health care system will help boost the economy, which will in turn boost the revenue available for future state budgets.

“We have a biennial budget of about $7.5 billion and we are looking at $500 million coming into our economy to help us address not only providing coverage to 70,000 Mainers but helping us deal with the opioid crisis and the other challenges we have with the oldest population,” Cote said. “This is something that we absolutely need to do.”

Donna Dion also believes that, over the long run, Medicaid expansion will pay for itself in part by spurring growth in the health care sector. But Dion said she would also look into other ways to help pay for expansion.

For instance, while working for a Portland-area nonprofit that supports individuals with developmental and behavioral challenges, Dion said she noticed that the organization had to pay a 6 percent “user tax” back to the state for some federally funded Medicaid services. That equated to $45,000 to $50,000 a month for their nonprofit, but Dion said she was unsure how the state utilized that money.

“I would like to have a total audit of those funds and see what is coming in on a monthly basis and whether that could help us pay for the cost of Medicaid expansion,” she said.

K-12 FUNDING

Maine voters approved a ballot initiative in November 2016 to charge wealthier residents a 3 percent tax surcharge to fulfill the elusive 55 percent state-funding benchmark for schools approved years ago by voters.

Months later, lawmakers repealed the tax surcharge and allocated $160 million in additional funding – roughly half the $300 million envisioned – to schools. But the allocation only covered one year, and lawmakers left school funding levels in limbo last month by adjourning the 2018 session without finalizing the budget language.

At least three of the Democratic contenders – Sweet, Russell and Eves – said their primary way of funding schools would be to reinstate the 3 percent tax surcharge on wealthy Mainers.

Russell said Democratic lawmakers “caved immediately” on the surcharge even before last year’s state government shutdown “because they were afraid of rich people being mad at them.”

Sweet said that without a “first-class, quality education,” the state will never achieve its goals of keeping young Mainers in the state and attracting other young families. Eves, meanwhile, said his first budget proposal released within weeks of taking office would fund schools at 55 percent through a combination of ending corporate tax loopholes and increasing taxes on the wealthy.

Mark Dion said 55 percent is achievable but, to get there, the governor and his or her legislative allies will “have to say ‘no’ or minimize resources going to other agenda items.”

Dion has said repeatedly during forums and interviews he will not make pie-in-the-sky promises – whether about education funding or “universal health care” – without making clear that they come with costs, oftentimes to taxpayers. “Talking to people about taxes, I think people are willing to pay taxes for something that is truly a benefit,” he said.

Others said they would seek revenues elsewhere.

Cote, a former member of the Sanford School Board, said LePage’s focus on tax cuts has merely placed more of the burden on municipalities facing shrinking state allocations through revenue sharing. At the same time, schools across the state have been forced to work to comply with the proficiency-based learning standards mandated by the state.

But while he supported the 3 percent surcharge in November 2016, Cote said Maine needs to leverage federal dollars left on the table by the LePage administration as well as grow the economy to generate more tax revenue.

“I’m not looking to increase taxes,” Cote said. “I am supportive of our progressive tax structure in Maine. My growth strategy is focused on more support from the federal government.”

Donna Dion – no relation to Mark Dion – said the state needs to “bite the bullet” and get to the 55 percent funding level but didn’t have any concrete proposals for how to get there. She said the state should look at eliminating tax incentives that are not offering a good return on investment, “tighten up” revenue streams and improve communication within state departments – particularly within the Maine Department of Health and Human Services – to reduce duplication.

Dion said she didn’t support the November 2016 ballot initiative because she didn’t like the process.

“You can’t keep saying we’re just going to keep going to the rich because it doesn’t resolve the problem,” she said. “You’ve got to be fair across the board. I want those people with money and businesses with money to stay here, expand, invest and increase wages, … which will then take the burden off of the people. It’s like a domino effect.”

Mills said the state needs to look at its funding formula to figure out why some districts are doing better than others, with some actually exceeding the 55 percent state-funding goal and others not. But the state needs to take a larger role in ensuring that computer sciences – including programming and coding – are offered in every high school.

“These are the critical needs and talents that we need to develop, and the skills,” she said.

Mills said her office used funds from a legal settlement with Bathfitters to create plumbing technical training programs in four high schools. In the past two years, those programs have graduated more than 100 students.

REBUILDING MAINE’S WORKFORCE

By all accounts, Maine is facing a workforce crisis.

Already the oldest state in the nation on a per-capita basis, 50 percent of the state’s population will be at retirement age within the next several decades. That trend will merely increase the challenges of finding high-skilled workers – including nurses, shipbuilders and engineers – needed to keep the economy humming.

All seven candidates talked about the need to expand vocational and technical training at the high school and postsecondary level, echoing concerns raised by LePage and Republicans about an overemphasis on all students attending college.

But in a clear difference with the anti-immigration rhetoric often heard from Republicans, every Democratic candidate emphasized the importance of welcoming highly skilled immigrants to Maine.

Mills, Mark Dion and Russell specifically called for taking steps to expedite the licensing and certification process for immigrants who were highly trained professionals in their home countries.

“If somebody is an engineer in their home country and they come here, we should do whatever we can to accelerate their acceptance into the workforce as an engineer in Maine,” Dion said. “It’s a loss of talent and economic leverage when they are compelled to take a job below their means of contribution in order to participate in our economy.”

Dion said the state needs a more robust apprenticeship program, but it will also have to address issues such as affordable housing, health care and student debt to keep young workers in Maine or draw others here.

Cote has proposed a $75 million to $100 million bond package “to create a modern, responsive, one-stop place for small businesses, trade organizations, and individual Mainers to gain access to the training and development.”

Cote said he sees opportunities in the sustainable forest products industry, renewable energy and agriculture. And he says repeatedly that Maine’s next governor needs to be “transformational.”

Mills said the state needs to ensure businesses’ workforce needs are paired with the training curricula of high schools, universities and community colleges. But the governor and administration officials should lay out a vision and push those priorities through the Legislature as well as the appropriate boards, she said.

Mills said she would like to see another tuition freeze and credited the University of Maine System with adopting policies that encourage more out-of-state students.

Sweet said Maine needs broadband throughout the state and could do more to help start-up businesses, especially in the field of agriculture, where young people are driving a growth in the industry without much government help.

“We have to stop asking old people how to keep young people in Maine,” Sweet said. “When we ask young people, they say we have to deal with broadband, we have to deal with student debt. We have young families who cannot afford to buy a house or land or pay back their debt because it is so high.”

Likewise, Russell said one of the key components of addressing Maine’s skills gap and workforce issues is addressing the state’s student loan debt problem.

She said Maine needs to make two-year colleges more affordable while lifting barriers that prevent working-class parents from improving their education, such as high housing costs and a lack of child care options.

“I don’t even like using (the term) ‘skills gap’ because it puts it on employees for not being smart enough to get the skills they need,” Russell said. “I disagree. I think you have all of these people who are really, really hardworking but you have a lot of barriers.”

Donna Dion said there are many opportunities to tap into federal programs – and dollars – to help with workforce development. She said she worked with York County Community College to establish a metal trades program that has yielded several hundred graduates and was later expanded to other locations.

“We should be working with the colleges, such as community colleges,” Dion said. “Whatever they are investing in, they should be training in the areas of need where we would keep those students in Maine.”

Eves said he would seek to boost centralized vocational training programs to help young Mainers find steady, good-paying jobs after high school. He said the governor also needs to promote industries he believes Maine can lead: renewable energy, aquaculture, agriculture, and niche industries such as craft beer.

But he also said Maine needs to be a more welcoming state to all types of immigrants.

“Whether they are coming from New Hampshire or some other foreign country,” Eves said with a laugh, “we need to do everything we can to get them into our workforce.”

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/1381530/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/DemGovsNoNamesWeb0518.jpgDemocratic gubernatorial candidates governor 2018 Adam Cote Donna Dion Mark Dion Mark Eves Janet Mills Diane Russell Betsy SweetSun, 20 May 2018 16:49:44 +0000
Profiles of the Democratic candidates for governor https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/profiles-of-the-democratic-candidates-for-governor/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/profiles-of-the-democratic-candidates-for-governor/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:34 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1383516 Adam Cote
Age: 45
Hometown: Sanford
Occupation: Attorney, CEO of Thermal Energy Storage and Maine Army National Guard veteran
Political/public offices: Sanford School Committee, Midcoast Regional Development Authority board
Family: Married, with five young children

Adam Cote was the first Democrat to declare his candidacy for governor. Since then, he’s held or attended over 500 events around the state. In his campaign, Cote has emphasized his experience in business (co-founding a company focused on off-peak heating and cooling), in policy work as an attorney and as a leader. A major in the Maine Army National Guard, Cote deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia during his 20-year career with the Guard. Frequent talking points include economic development, renewable energy, infrastructure investment and improving the civility of politics in Maine.
He has touted himself as an independent outsider able to work with all parties in Augusta and someone who will promote Maine as “the best place in the world” as a way to build the economy, retain young families and attract new workers. Cote is running as a privately financed candidate and had raised just over $804,000 for his campaign as of April 24.

Donna Dion
Age: 66
Hometown: Biddeford
Occupation: Retired after finance career in nonprofit and public sector.
Political/public offices: Biddeford mayor, Biddeford School Board, Biddeford/Saco Economic Development Council, Biddeford Comprehensive Planning Committee, Coastal Counties Workforce board member
Family: Married, with one adult son

Donna Dion touts her experience as mayor of Biddeford – Maine’s sixth-largest city – from 1998 to 2003 as well as more than 30 years working in finance for two nonprofit organizations and for Time Warner. Dion retired at the beginning of the year just as she was launching her second bid for governor.
In her campaign, she has pledged to bring more financial insights to the governor’s office and believes her professional experience will help her identify areas for cost-savings, efficiencies and investment. She also says her time as mayor of Biddeford and serving on multiple city boards will help her navigate complex issues. Dion had hoped to run as a Clean Election Act candidate but was unable to collect enough qualifying donations to participate in the public campaign financing system. She reported raising slightly more than $1,000 for her campaign as of April 24.

Mark Dion
Age: 63
Hometown: Portland
Occupation: Attorney, former Cumberland County sheriff, former Portland police officer and deputy chief
Political/public offices: Senate District 28 (current), House District 43 (six years), Cumberland County sheriff
Family: Married, with two adult children

Mark Dion (no relation to Donna Dion) is campaigning on a pledge to be a bridge-builder in Augusta thanks to his record of working with diverse groups. Dion says his 40 years in public service – 21 with the Portland Police Department, 12 years as sheriff and eight years in the Legislature – have given him the ability to tackle complex issues while at the same time understanding that “listening is sometimes more important than speaking.”
In his campaign, Dion has emphasized the need for increased education funding, renewable energy, addressing the opioid crisis and for political candidates not to make campaign promises they cannot afford to keep.
Dion is running a privately financed campaign and had raised just over $31,400 as of April 24.

Mark Eves
Age: 41
Hometown: North Berwick
Occupation: Counselor/family therapist, administrator for community health organization
Political/public offices: Speaker of the Maine House (four years), House District 146
Family: Married, with three young children

Mark Eves emerged onto Maine’s political scene in 2012 when he was elected speaker of the House. Eves presided over the House during four years when Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s push to cut taxes and trim welfare programs created deep divisions in Augusta. Eves and LePage clashed repeatedly and tensions culminated in a high-profile lawsuit and legislative investigation into LePage’s role blocking Eves from landing a job with an educational nonprofit.
On the campaign trail, Eves has highlighted his willingness to stand up to LePage as he urges Democrats to nominate a progressive candidate who will clearly stand out from the Republican nominee and any independents on the ballot in November. He has called for increased spending on education, health care and other initiatives, paid for by eliminating tax “loopholes” for corporations and increasing taxes on the wealthy.
Eves is running a privately financed campaign and had raised more than $305,000 as of April 24.

Janet Mills
Age: 70
Hometown: Farmington
Occupation: Attorney general, assistant attorney general, district attorney for Franklin, Androscoggin and Oxford counties, attorney
Political/public office: Attorney general (2013-present, 2009-11), assistant attorney general, district attorney, Maine House District 89 (eight years), former vice chair of the Maine Democratic Party
Family: Widowed, with five stepchildren

Janet Mills has been elected twice by the Legislature to serve as attorney general, all of that time during Gov. Paul LePage’s tenure in the Blaine House. A former district attorney, Mills often points to her track record of standing up to LePage (she has declined to represent his administration on numerous occasions) and her participation in lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, car manufacturers and other corporations. On the campaign trail, Mills often talks about the opioid crisis, her plan to tap $35 million in legal settlement fees to expand Medicaid, her willingness to stand up to “bullies” and the need for more civility in politics. She frequently points out that she is the only Democratic candidate to win elections in the 2nd Congressional District and that she comes from a family with deep political roots in the state. Mills is running a privately financed campaign and had raised just over $571,500 as of April 24.

Diane Russell
Age: 41
Hometown: Portland
Occupation: Grass-roots organizer, consultant and public relations
Political/public office: House District 39 (eight years), Democratic National Committee delegate (2016), organizer for multiple campaigns
Family: Single

Diane Russell has been an outspoken progressive voice in Maine politics dating back to her early years in the Legislature. She was an early advocate for legalizing marijuana in Maine (introducing numerous bills) and helped to lead the ballot initiative campaigns for legalization as well as ranked-choice voting. She also helped lead the fight within the Democratic National Committee to change the superdelegate system for presidential nominations and had a speaking spot during the 2016 convention.
On the campaign trail, Russell has called for “Medicare for all” as a universal health care plan, restoring the 3 percent tax surcharge on wealthy Mainers to fund education, addressing student debt as well as paid sick leave and other changes to help women in the workforce. She has also been heavily involved in pushing for a more robust response to the opioid crisis.
Russell is running a privately financed campaign and had raised just shy of $67,500 as of April 24.

Betsy Sweet
Age: 61
Hometown: Hallowell
Occupation: Founder of Moose Ridge Associates advocacy and lobbying firm
Political/public office: Former director of Maine Women’s Lobby and Maine Commission for Women, co-managed U.S. Rep. Tom Andrews’ 1990 campaign
Family: Three children

Betsy Sweet has been an advocate/lobbyist at the State House for 35 years, focusing primarily on issues affecting women, the elderly, the disabled, low-income Mainers, the LGBTQ community and the nonprofit sector. She helped craft the Maine Clean Election Act. Sweet claims her decades of building bipartisan relationships, navigating State House politics and involvement in the budget process will help her as governor. On the campaign trail, Sweet has called for universal health care, a $15 minimum wage, two years of free college tuition in return for a year of community service after high school, regional economic development centers, paid family medical and sick leave, and making Maine a more welcoming environment for immigrants. As the only Democrat running as a Clean Election candidate, Sweet said she is not beholden to big-money special interests.
Sweet has received roughly $400,000 in public campaign financing and raised $99,000 in seed money contributions as of April 24.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/profiles-of-the-democratic-candidates-for-governor/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2010/07/portland-press-herald_3054283.jpgSat, 19 May 2018 21:20:11 +0000
Maine Democrats hear from candidates for governor at state convention https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/19/maine-democrats-hear-from-candidates-for-governor-at-lewiston-convention/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/19/maine-democrats-hear-from-candidates-for-governor-at-lewiston-convention/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 22:39:23 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/19/maine-democrats-hear-from-candidates-for-governor-at-lewiston-convention/ LEWISTON — In a series of stem-winding speeches, Maine Democrats hoping to be their party’s nominee in the election for governor this November made their pitches to the party faithful Saturday at the Democratic State Convention.

Voters will choose the Democratic and Republican nominees for the Blaine House in primary elections set for June 12.

But Saturday before a crowd of about 2,000 people at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, the seven Democratic candidates – one of them via video – got their first chance to address a big crowd and test out their most fiery rhetoric as they tried to distinguish themselves and at the same time show party unity.

“I fight like a girl,” candidate and former state Rep. Diane Russell of Portland told the crowd as she promised to defend many of the recent ballot box laws passed by voters, including ranked-choice voting, which will be used for the first time in the June primaries.

Candidate Betsy Sweet, a lobbyist from Hallowell and the only Democratic candidate in the race running as a publicly financed Clean Election candidate, said her campaign was about getting money of out of politics.

“The reason we haven’t drained the swamp is because we haven’t pulled the plug, and that plug is money in politics,” Sweet said to a cheering crowd.

The candidates had similar themes, expressing support for progressive values such as Medicaid expansion for low-income Mainers, stronger gun control laws, higher wages for the working class, help for graduates struggling with student debt, and support for women’s rights, including the right to seek an abortion and equal pay for equal work.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills urged the audience to reject the politics of “fear and division” and to embrace the politics of “trust, hope and love.”

“There are those who are willing to exploit the politics of fear to get ahead,” Mills said, “to tell us we can solve our problems by finding some scapegoat, whether they are immigrants, the poor and, in fairness, students, LGBTQ folks, and racial and religious minorities. … And I say to you today a victory using those methods is no victory at all.”

But one of Mills’ Democratic rivals, state Sen. Mark Dion of Portland, told the audience Mainers couldn’t eat “hope.”

“We can’t pour hope into our gas tanks,” Dion said. “They don’t take hope at the cash register of the grocery store. If the next leader of our state is going to come from our party, then Democrats must be prepared to offer more than hope.”

Dion said what the common people of Maine needed was not hope but power.

Former House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick, who works as a family therapist and counselor, said his skills would be valuable in the wake of Maine’s firebrand Republican governor, Paul LePage.

“And if there is ever a time we need a family therapist in state government, it is after eight years of Paul LePage,” Eves said.

Just a day after another deadly school shooting, this time in Texas, all of the candidates spoke up for stronger gun control laws. But Adam Cote, a Sanford attorney, said nobody could match his record on guns. Cote, a 20-year combat veteran of the Maine National Guard, said he would work to build common ground on common-sense gun control measures, including limiting access to assault-style weapons and requiring background checks for all gun sales in Maine.

Cote said while he owned many guns and comes from a family with a hunting tradition – including a grandfather who was a Maine hunting guide – he also has five children who have been subjected to active shooter drills in their schools.

“We can bring people together on this issue,” Cote said. “We can respect our hunting heritage in this state without allowing people to have the same firepower I had in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Only one of the seven Democratic candidates running for the governor’s office did not address the delegates at the convention in person. Former Biddeford Mayor Donna Dion presented her address by prerecorded video because she was attending her granddaughter’s college graduation on Saturday. Dion laid out her resume as mayor and the work she did in the private sector in asking delegates for their support.

The convention’s keynote speaker, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said Democrats were well poised to take power away from Republicans in 2018, even hinting that if they won the majority in Congress it could be a way to remove President Trump from office.

The Founding Fathers didn’t write any provisions in the Constitution to prevent a person like Trump from being elected president, “but they did guarantee us a way for us to get rid of him,” Castro said to applause and cheers.

Maine Republicans criticized the Democrats’ positions and their candidates on Saturday.

“From their platform to their roster of candidates, today we will see Maine Democrats embrace socialism and extremism as they make a boat load of promises they can’t afford and probably have no intention to keep,” Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, said in a prepared statement.

 

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How Maine’s members of Congress voted https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/19/how-maines-members-of-congress-voted-last-week-52/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/19/how-maines-members-of-congress-voted-last-week-52/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 19:59:04 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/19/how-maines-members-of-congress-voted-last-week-52/ Along with roll call votes last week, the Senate also passed the Improve Data on Sexual Violence Act (S. 2349), to direct the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to establish an interagency working group to study federal efforts to collect data on sexual violence and to make recommendations on the harmonization of such efforts; the Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act (H.R. 3249); the SEA Act (H.R. 2772), to provide for requirements relating to the reassignment of Department of Veterans Affairs senior executive employees; and the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act (S. 346), to provide for the establishment of the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System.

HOUSE VOTES

PROTECTING FEDERAL PRISON GUARDS: The House has passed the Lieutenant Osvaldo Albarati Correctional Officer Self-Protection Act (H.R. 613), sponsored by Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., to require the federal government’s Bureau of Prisons to allow officers at prisons to store their guns and carry concealed firearms in areas adjacent to the security perimeter of the prison at which they work. McKinley said that allowing prison guards to have access to their personal firearms before and after work would protect them against being targeted for retaliatory attacks related to their job. The vote, on May 15, was unanimous with 378 yeas.

YEAS: Chellie Pingree, D-1st District; Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District

DNA AND VIOLENT CRIMES: The House has passed the Justice Served Act (H.R. 4854), sponsored by Rep. John R. Carter, R-Texas, to require the Justice Department to allocate at least 5 percent of its grant funds to state efforts for processing DNA evidence related to the backlog of violent crime cases. A supporter, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said: “This bill will allow victims of crime and their families to receive justice by giving prosecutors the tools they need to investigate, solve, and close cold cases.” The vote, on May 15, was 377 yeas to 1 nay.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

ATTACKS AGAINST POLICE: The House has passed the Protect and Serve Act (H.R. 5698), sponsored by Rep. John H. Rutherford, R-Fla., to establish fines and imprisonment penalties for those convicted of attacking or attempting to attack federal law enforcement officers. Rutherford said the bill sought to “show those who wish to target police officers with violence that those attacks will not be tolerated.” The vote, on May 16, was 382 yeas to 35 nays.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

REFORMING VA PROGRAMS: The House has passed the VA MISSION Act (S. 2372), sponsored by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. The bill would establish a single community health care program, Choice, at the Department of Veterans Affairs, provide $5.2 billion to fund Choice, and establish a review process for closing and renovating various VA medical facilities. A supporter, Rep. David P. Roe, R-Tenn., said the bill’s VA reforms “will positively impact the daily lives and well-being of millions of veterans and their families.” An opponent, Rep. Timothy J. Walz, D-Minn., said the bill lacked a long-term solution for funding the Choice program, raising the danger that soon funding Choice will mean cutting funding for other vital VA programs. The vote, on May 16, was 347 yeas to 70 nays.

YEAS: Pingree, Poliquin

MANAGING FEDERAL FORESTS: The House has approved an amendment sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., to the Agriculture and Nutrition Act (H.R. 2), that would require the U.S. Forest Service to take long-term environmental health into account when making collaborative management plans for federal forests and the impacts of either taking no action or actively managing a given forest. Westerman said a new approach to forest management was needed because current Forest Service practices often degrade forest health by failing to remove overgrowth that raises the danger of devastating wildfires. An amendment opponent, Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., said it “significantly alters critical environmental review requirements and limits opportunity for the public to challenge forest management projects.” The vote, on May 17, was 224 yeas to 191 nays.

NAYS: Pingree

YEAS: Poliquin

SENATE VOTES

APPEALS COURT JUDGE: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Michael Y. Scudder to serve as a judge on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. A supporter, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., cited Scudder’s six years of experience as a federal government attorney and counsel, and award-winning pro bono work in his subsequent time as a private practice lawyer and law professor in Chicago. Durbin said Scudder “is well respected across the political spectrum, and he has the experience, the integrity, and the judgment to be an outstanding federal judge.” The vote, on May 14, was unanimous with 90 yeas.

YEAS: Susan Collins, R-Maine; Angus King, I-Maine

SECOND APPEALS COURT JUDGE: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Amy J. St. Eve to serve as a judge on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. A supporter, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., praised St. Eve for her outstanding service as an Illinois federal district court judge for the past 16 years, and said “she has the qualifications and judgment to step up and be an outstanding member of the Seventh Circuit.” The vote, on May 14, was unanimous with 91 yeas.

YEAS: Collins, King

THIRD APPEALS COURT JUDGE: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Joel M. Carson III to serve as a judge on the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Carson, currently a U.S. magistrate judge in New Mexico, has also worked as a private practice lawyer specializing in appeals, commercial and energy litigation, and employment litigation. A supporter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., cited wide praise for Carson from his bipartisan peers in New Mexico. The vote, on May 15, was 77 yeas to 21 nays.

YEAS: Collins, King

FOURTH APPEALS COURT JUDGE: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of John B. Nalbandian to serve as a judge on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Nalbandian, a private practice lawyer in Cincinnati since 2000, has also been on the board of directors of the State Justice Institute since 2010. A supporter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Nalbandian “has the impressive credentials, the preparation, the broad support – every indication that he will be a worthy and capable judge.” The vote, on May 15, was 53 yeas to 45 nays.

YEAS: Collins

NAYS: King

NET NEUTRALITY RULES: The Senate has approved a resolution (S. J. Res. 52) to disapprove of and void a 2017 Federal Communications Commission rule that overturned the FCC’s so-called net neutrality rules governing regulation of broadband Internet service. A resolution supporter, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said restoring the net neutrality rules was needed “to prevent large internet service providers from segmenting the internet into fast and slow lanes, from selling faster service to folks who could pay and slower service to others.” An opponent, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said going back to the net neutrality rules would stifle investment and innovation to make faster, more reliable networks, and Congress should instead develop a new legal framework that guarantees net neutrality without discouraging innovation. The vote, on May 16, was 52 yeas to 47 nays.

YEAS: Collins, King

DEPUTY EDUCATION SECRETARY: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Mitchell Zais to serve as Deputy Education Secretary. Zais had spent four years as South Carolina’s Superintendent of Education, 10 years as president of Newberry College, and 31 years as an Army officer. A supporter, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., cited Zais’s extensive experience, and criticized Democrat senators for their “unreasonable and unnecessary obstructions and delays” of a confirmation vote. An opponent, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Zais “largely opposes the federal role in education and, like [Education] Secretary DeVos, seems to lack even an understanding of key issues important to public schools.” The vote, on May 16, was 50 yeas to 48 nays.

YEAS: Collins

NAYS: King

CUTTING GOVERNMENT SPENDING: The Senate has rejected a motion to proceed to consideration of a resolution (S. Con. Res. 36), sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to put forth a 10-year budget plan that would cut spending from 2017 levels by 1 percent annually. Paul said the program of steady spending cuts would spur the federal government to address waste and the danger posed by trillion-dollar annual deficits. A motion opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, ID-Vt., said the budget plan “would lead to devastating cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and education, while paving the way for even more tax breaks to the top 1 percent and large, profitable corporations.” The vote, on May 17, was 21 yeas to 76 nays.

NAYS: Collins, King

CIA DIRECTOR: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Gina Haspel to serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Haspel, CIA Deputy Director for the past year, joined the agency as a career intelligence officer in 1985 and has held various senior leadership posts at the CIA. A supporter, Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., said he accepted Haspel’s statement regretting the CIA’s Bush-era program of enhanced interrogation of suspected terrorists, and said Haspel “will act in accordance with the principles and values of our country.” An opponent, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said rejecting Haspel’s nomination was necessary “to make a clean break from the odious history of torture.” The vote, on May 17, was 54 yeas to 45 nays.

YEAS: Collins

NAYS: King

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Democrats eager to put LePage in rearview at ‘pivotal’ state convention https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/18/democrats-eager-to-put-lepage-in-rearview-at-pivotal-convention/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/18/democrats-eager-to-put-lepage-in-rearview-at-pivotal-convention/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 01:38:21 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/18/democrats-eager-to-put-lepage-in-rearview-at-pivotal-convention/

Jacqueline Morris of Bangor looks for a spot to plant a sign for 2nd District congressional candidate Lucas St. Clair outside the Colisee at the Democratic convention on Friday in Lewiston. The state’s Democrats are eager to move past the era of Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Associated Press/Robert F. Bukaty

LEWISTON — Maine Democrats eager to move past the era of Republican Gov. Paul LePage say that trashing him is not the way to win an election.

So when the Maine Democratic State Convention began Friday night at The Colisee, gubernatorial candidates like Diane Russell arrived with a plan of sticking to issues, such as affordable college education and universal access to health care. She said focusing on the term-limited LePage is “a recipe for disaster” for Democrats.

“That’s not who matters,” she said. “The voters matter.”

Democrats will try to sort through a crowded field to replace LePage, who has feuded with liberals in the state since his election in 2010. They also are putting a premium on winning back the state Senate and 2nd Congressional District seat held by Republican Bruce Poliquin, with the three candidates to replace him wasting no time in going on the offensive.

State Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett said this year’s convention is about “offering a forward-looking message.” He expects candidates and party members to focus on issues that include income inequality, job growth and the state’s opioid epidemic.

Gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet, a former director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, called the election “a pivotal moment in our history, not just as a party but as a state.” She said Democrats need to focus on environmental protection, a living wage and affordable health care.

“We have a moment to do things really differently. Put LePage in the rearview mirror and see what we can do going forward,” she said.

There are seven Democratic gubernatorial candidates on the June 12 primary ballot, and voters will use a ranked-choice voting system for the first time in the state’s history.

Congressional candidate Lucas St. Clair addresses the Maine Democratic convention in Lewiston on Friday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Other Democratic gubernatorial candidates are Attorney General Janet Mills, attorney Adam Cote, state Sen. Mark Dion, former Biddeford Mayor Donna Dion and former state Speaker of the House of Representatives Mark Eves. The convention runs through Sunday.

Republicans held their convention earlier this month in Augusta. Republican voters will choose between House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, state Sen. Garrett Mason, former Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew and businessman Shawn Moody.

Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree, who is up for re-election against Republican Mark Holbrook and independent state Rep. Marty Grohman, said her party’s convention will be “busy and big.” It’s critical for Democrats to take advantage of an electorate that could be in a mood for change, she said.

She cited successes Democrats have had in special elections since the election of President Trump, such as Doug Jones’ victory in a U.S. Senate in Alabama last year.

“People are anxious to end the LePage era in Augusta, without a doubt,” Pingree said. “We see this as an important turning point.”

Jared Golden, one of three Democratic congressional candidates, riles up the crowd at the Maine Democratic convention on Friday evening. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

The first day of the convention focused partly on the congressional races, with Pingree and others speaking to a crowd of more than 2,000.

The three 2nd Congressional District candidates also spoke, and wasted no time in ripping into Poliquin’s record and character, riling the crowd and drawing cheers.

Jared Golden portrayed Poliquin as a political coward who hides in bathrooms to avoid hard questions. Craig Olson declared that the time has come for the Republican congressman to be replaced with a Democrat before he can do more damage. Lucas St. Clair described Poliquin as a man who lacks compassion and who is friend only to wealthy corporations and big donors.

“Health insurance for kids is at risk. Our environment is in jeopardy,” said St. Clair, of Hampden. “Bruce Poliquin voted for a massive tax giveaway to wealthy corporations and big donors. They blew a huge hole in the budget – and now, whether they’ll admit it or not – they’re taking aim at Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to pay for it.”

Golden, a former U.S. Marine, echoed those themes.

“In the 2nd Congressional District, Congressman Bruce Poliquin has consistently voted on the side of special interests to prop up the few at the expense of the many,” said Golden, of Lewiston. “He voted to repeal of the Affordable Care Act without any plan to replace it. Then he let the wealthy, big corporations, and foreign investors rewrite our tax code to pad their own pockets with permanent tax cuts, while you and I, and nearly everyone we know will be asked to pick up the tab. What’s worse is he refuses to answer questions about his votes.”

Craig Olson, seen on a large projection screen, addresses the Maine Democratic convention in Lewiston on Friday at The Colisee. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Olson, a former dairy farmer, sounded the note of party unity.

“If I don’t win this race, I will proudly support whichever candidate takes on Bruce Poliquin and work my hardest to make sure that Democrats reclaim this seat,” said Olson, of Islesboro. “Here’s to an enormous blue wave in November.”

Saturday is mostly dedicated to candidates for governor.

Cote said the convention and the governor’s race would be about “being able to excite and energize the Democratic Party in Maine.” That means talking about working-class issues, not bashing the governor, he said.

“It’s not enough to simply say, ‘We’ll stand up to Paul LePage or Donald Trump.’ We have to tell people what we’re doing,” Cote said. “We have to demonstrate that we know how to govern.”

Sun Journal Staff Writer Mark LaFlamme contributed to this report.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/18/democrats-eager-to-put-lepage-in-rearview-at-pivotal-convention/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1383089_Maine_Democratic_Conventi2-e1526694677145.jpgJacqueline Morris of Bangor looks for a spot to plant a sign for 2nd District congressional candidate Lucas St. Clair outside The Colisee at the Democratic State Convention on Friday in Lewiston. The state's Democrats are eager to move past the era of Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who is nearing the end of his two terms in office.Fri, 18 May 2018 22:31:36 +0000
House defeats farm bill as conservatives revolt on immigration https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/18/house-defeats-farm-bill-as-conservatives-revolt-on-immigration/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/18/house-defeats-farm-bill-as-conservatives-revolt-on-immigration/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 17:47:03 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/18/house-defeats-farm-bill-as-conservatives-revolt-on-immigration/ WASHINGTON – In an embarrassment for House Republican leaders, conservatives on Friday scuttled a bill that combines stricter work and job training requirements for food stamp recipients with a renewal of farm subsidies popular in Republican-leaning farm country.

Hard-right conservatives upset over the party’s stalled immigration agenda opposed the measure, which failed by a 213-198 vote. Some 30 Republicans joined with every chamber Democrat in opposition.

The vote was a blow to Republican leaders, who had hoped to tout its new work requirements for recipients of food stamps. The work initiative polls well with voters, especially those in the Republican political base.

More broadly, it exposed fissures within the party in the months before the midterm elections, and the Freedom Caucus tactics rubbed many rank-and-file Republicans the wrong way. A handful of Republican moderates opposed the bill, too, but not enough to sink it on their own.

“You judge each piece of legislation on its own,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. “You don’t hold one thing hostage for something that’s totally different and has nothing to do with it. I would say that’s a mistake in my view.”

Key conservatives in the rebellious House Freedom Caucus opposed the measure, seeking leverage to win procedural advantages to in a debate on immigration next month. Negotiations with Republican leaders Friday morning failed to bear fruit, however, and the unrelated food and farm measure was defeated.

Conservative Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said some members had concerns over the farm bill, but said, “That wasn’t my main focus. My main focus was making sure we do immigration policy right” and “actually build a border security wall.”

Beyond the drama and infighting among Republicans, the debacle appears to make it even more likely that Congress will simply extend the current farm bill when it expires in September.

The farm bill, a twice-per-decade rite on Capitol Hill, promises greater job training opportunities for recipients of food stamps, a top priority for House leaders. Democrats are strongly opposed, saying the stricter work and job training rules are poorly designed and would drive 2 million people off of food stamps. They took a victory lap after the vote.

“On a bipartisan basis, the House rejected a bad bill that failed farmers and working families,” said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “Republicans wrote a cruel, destructive Farm Bill that abandoned farmers and producers amid plummeting farm prices and the self-inflicted damage of President Trump’s trade brinkmanship.”

Currently, adults 18-59 are required to work part-time to receive food stamps, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or agree to accept a job if they’re offered one. Stricter rules apply to able-bodied adults 18-49, who are subject to a three-month limit of benefits unless they meet a work or job training requirement of 80 hours per month.

Under the new bill, the tougher requirement would be expanded to apply to all adults on SNAP, with exceptions for of seniors, pregnant women, caretakers of children under the age of 6, or people with disabilities.

“It sets up a system for SNAP recipients where if you are able to work, you should work to get the benefits,” said Ryan, R-Wis.” And if you can’t work, we’ll help you get the training you need. We will help you get the skills you need to get an opportunity.”

The measure would have greatly expanded funding for state-administered job training programs, but Democrats and outside critics say the funding for the proposed additional job training would require huge new bureaucracies, extensive record-keeping requirements, and that the funding levels would fall far short of what’s enough to provide job training to everybody covered by the new job training requirements.

“While I agree that there are changes that need to be made to the SNAP program, this is so clearly not the way to do it,” said Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, top Democrat of the Agriculture Committee. “The bill cuts more than $23 billion in SNAP benefits and will result in an estimated 2 million Americans unable to get the help they need.”

He said it “turns around and wastes billions … cut from SNAP benefits to create a massive, untested workforce training bureaucracy.”

In addition to food stamps, the measure would renew farm safety-net programs such as subsidies for crop insurance, farm credit and land conservation. Those subsidies for farm country traditionally form the backbone of support for the measure among Republicans, while urban Democrats support food aid for the poor.

On Thursday, supporters of the agriculture safety net easily defeated an attempt to weaken the government’s sugar program, which critics say gouges consumers by propping up sugar prices.

The measure mostly tinkered with farm programs, adding provisions aimed at boosting high-speed internet access in rural areas, assist beginning farmers, and ease regulations on producers. But since the measure makes mostly modest adjustments to farm policy, some lawmakers believe that the most likely course of action this year is a temporary extension of the current measure, which expires at the end of September.

In the Senate, the chamber’s filibuster rules require a bipartisan process for a bill to pass. There, Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., promises a competing bill later this month and he’s signaling that its changes to food stamps would be far more modest than the House measure.

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Maine advocates angry at Trump proposal to deny funds to clinics that refer clients for abortion https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/18/trump-to-deny-funds-to-clinics-that-refer-clients-for-abortion/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/18/trump-to-deny-funds-to-clinics-that-refer-clients-for-abortion/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 13:10:14 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/18/trump-to-deny-funds-to-clinics-that-refer-clients-for-abortion/ Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and other Maine family planning advocates expressed outrage Friday over a Trump administration proposal that would ban federally funded clinics from referring women for abortions.

Alison Bates, a nurse practitioner for Planned Parenthood in Portland, said her first responsibility is to her patients and to “provide accurate, nonjudgmental and nonbiased information.”

The proposed new rule, she said, amounts to a gag order for practitioners.

“It would allow politicians to insert themselves into exam rooms,” Bates said during a news conference Friday.

The proposal had not been officially announced by Friday, but a senior White House official told The Associated Press that it will eliminate a requirement put into place during President Bill Clinton’s tenure that ensures women who visit family planning clinics are given counseling on all options, including abortion.

Nicole Clegg, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said the proposal could be catastrophic for organizations like hers who receive federal funding through Title X, the nation’s largest family-planning funding program.

“A domestic gag rule would essentially dismantle the Title X program as we know it – jeopardizing affordable birth control and reproductive health care for 4 million people, including 22,000 Mainers,” Clegg said. “Everyone, regardless of their race, their income, or where they live, deserves the best medical care and information available. Under this rule, they won’t get it.”

Title X provides $260 million in annual funding for family planning, including $2 million to Maine. Those funds are managed by Maine Family Planning, which operates 18 direct-service clinics and subcontracts with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Greater Portland Health community center to provide services in southern Maine.

“The Trump administration’s ideological attack on Title X pulls the rug out from under tens of thousands of Mainers who depend on Maine Family Planning for expert care,” said George A. Hill, president and CEO of Maine Family Planning. “This is clear political pandering to right-wingers obsessed with undermining abortion rights and access in this country. But when these political points are won at the expense of people’s health care, we cannot stand for it.”

‘GAG RULE’ NOT NEW

President Trump, during his first year and a half in office, has made several attempts to restrict access to abortion, but Clegg said this proposal is by far the most significant.

Federal funds already cannot be used to pay for abortion procedures by family planning clinics. Money for abortion procedures must come from other sources. But advocates say if clinics can’t even talk about abortion as a safe – and legal – option, and can’t even share space with abortion providers, which is possible, women will suffer.

The rule would potentially defund, at least partially, Planned Parenthood, something Trump and the Republican-led Congress have tried unsuccessfully to do.

The “gag rule” was first proposed during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. It never went into effect as written, although the Supreme Court ruled that it was an appropriate use of executive power. The policy was rescinded under President Clinton.

The Trump administration also has reinstated what’s known as the global gag rule, which applies to any U.S.-based health organization offering services outside of the country and bans them from providing or discussing abortion.

Clegg said Friday that there likely would be legal challenges to the proposed rule, but she hoped that the outcry from the medical community, and pressure from lawmakers, might be enough to scuttle the plan.

“Now is not the time to walk progress backwards,” she said.

But Republicans have been trying, aggressively in some cases, to roll back abortion rights. Although the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, some states have been successful in passing restrictions. In other states, health advocates are pushing back.

A KEY VOICE

This week, justices on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, which has sued the Department of Health and Human Services for refusing to pay for abortions through the state’s Medicaid program. A decision on that suit could come in the next few months.

The new rule being proposed by the Trump administration could help galvanize both Republicans and Democrats ahead of the November midterm elections.

A key voice could be Susan Collins, Maine’s senior U.S. Senator and a Republican. She has consistently supported Planned Parenthood and family planning services, often going against the majority in her party.

Collins’ spokeswoman, Annie Clark, said Friday that the senator will review any official proposal from the White House before offering comment.

“In keeping with the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, Sen. Collins believes the difficult decision about whether to have an abortion should be made by the woman in consultation with her family and her doctor,” Clark said. “Sen. Collins has been a strong proponent of funding for the Title X Family Planning Program. She has also consistently opposed ‘gag rules’ that prevent health care providers from providing their patients with full and accurate medical information and referral services.”

Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, signed a letter last week to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in support of the Title X program. On Friday, he spelled out his concerns about the ramifications Trump’s proposed rule would have, particularly for low-income women.

“A woman’s health decisions are between her and her health care provider. These regulations would prevent women from knowing their full health care options, and erode their access to the information and advice they may require to make informed decisions that fit their medical needs,” King said in a statement. “Even more troubling, the restrictions would prevent many women – particularly low-income women – from accessing vital health services like cancer screenings at facilities that are funded through the Title X program.”

Patients already are concerned about what the administration’s move could mean.

Melissa Hue, a patient at Planned Parenthood and an immigrant from the Ivory Coast, said she sought health care from the organization and was amazed how empathetic staff was. She said she and others within the immigrant community don’t have a lot of places they can go where they aren’t judged or shamed.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/18/trump-to-deny-funds-to-clinics-that-refer-clients-for-abortion/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1382215_nkorea-1stld-writethru-8d6dce90-5a25-11e8-8836-a4a123c359ab.jpgPresident Trump is scheduled to hold a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Jabin BotsfordFri, 18 May 2018 23:08:58 +0000
LePage warns taxpayers that some may need to file amendments to their 2017 returns https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/lepage-warns-taxpayers-that-some-may-need-to-file-amendments-to-their-2017-tax-returns/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/lepage-warns-taxpayers-that-some-may-need-to-file-amendments-to-their-2017-tax-returns/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 21:37:14 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/lepage-warns-taxpayers-that-some-may-need-to-file-amendments-to-their-2017-tax-returns/ Gov. Paul LePage warned Thursday that some taxpayers might need to file amendments to their 2017 tax returns because the Legislature failed to pass a bill to conform the state’s income tax code to the new federal tax code.

But a liberal economic policy research group said the issue affects only a small group of tax filers – businesses that take bonus depreciation and individuals who itemize very high medical expenses.

And if the Legislature is able to return for a special session, lawmakers could pass a tax conformity bill that would make the amended tax filings unnecessary.

The new federal tax code made the bonus depreciation and medical expense deductions retroactive to the 2017 tax year. Another provision of the federal code generates new revenue from multinational corporations that are repatriating foreign income to the U.S.

If Maine doesn’t conform to the federal code, the state risks losing its share of that new revenue from repatriated income, estimated at $31 million.

Sarah Austin, a tax policy analyst with the Maine Center for Economic Policy, said a relatively small number of people might need to file amended returns because most individual taxpayers do not itemize deductions. Austin also said the bonus depreciation conformity for businesses involves only about $2 million in revenue.

LePage took aim at Democrats in a statement about the amended returns, blaming them for not supporting a tax conformity bill that was left in limbo when the Legislature adjourned in April – although it was House Republicans who refused to provide the votes needed to extend the lawmaking session.

“Their failure to act on my proposal has left Maine aligned to a federal tax code that no longer exists, placing an undue and preventable burden on both individuals and businesses,” LePage said of Democratic lawmakers.

His tax conformity bill would have cut taxes in Maine by about $90 million overall, even after the state collected its share of revenue from repatriating multinational corporations.

Lawmakers couldn’t agree on how much of LePage’s tax conformity package they wanted to accept.

The governor has the authority to call the Legislature back into session, but so far he has not been willing to do so.

Rep. Ryan Tipping, D-Orono, House chairman of the Legislature’s Taxation Committee, said LePage’s announcement and the new tax alert only highlighted the uncertainty that was created when House Republicans refused to extend the session.

“If the governor and his allies in the Legislature truly want to consider the tax conformity bill, it’s time for them to support a special session without any further delay,” Tipping said. “We’re at the table and ready for when the governor and House Republicans decide to get back to work.”

But Julie Rabinowitz, LePage’s press secretary, said it was Democrats who held out on the tax conformity bill, hoping to use it for leverage on other issues.

“They could have put in their own bill. They didn’t,” Rabinowitz said in an email. “They could have held a couple double sessions or stayed late a night or two in April to hash it out. They didn’t. The Legislature failed to address it and they need to solve the problem.”

House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, also blamed Democrats, saying they insisted on attaching proposals to fund Medicaid expansion to other bills that had bipartisan agreement.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

sthistle@pressherald.com

Twitter: thisdog

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/lepage-warns-taxpayers-that-some-may-need-to-file-amendments-to-their-2017-tax-returns/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/04/830061_854078_irs_refund-e1478317401482.jpgMaine residents have until April 19 to file their income tax returns.Fri, 18 May 2018 08:49:38 +0000
Collins, King among senators calling for rural broadband https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/collins-king-among-senators-calling-for-rural-broadband/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/collins-king-among-senators-calling-for-rural-broadband/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 21:29:15 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/collins-king-among-senators-calling-for-rural-broadband/ AUGUSTA – Maine’s two U.S. senators are joining 61 of their colleagues in a call for the Federal Communications Commission to advance broadband services in rural America.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King are joining other senators in sending a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. The senators say improving accessibility of broadband is necessary to make sure rural residents have “access to high quality voice and broadband services.”

The senators say they support a recent order that addressed budget shortfalls in the Universal Service Fund’s high-cost program.

They say the high-cost program is important because it’s responsible for helping the FCC provide reliable and affordable communications to everyone in the country. They say it’s especially important where deploying broadband is expensive and difficult.

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Gina Haspel is confirmed as CIA director, despite scrutiny of role in interrogation program https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/senate-set-to-vote-on-trump-nominee-gina-haspel-for-cia-director/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/senate-set-to-vote-on-trump-nominee-gina-haspel-for-cia-director/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 19:23:53 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/senate-set-to-vote-on-trump-nominee-gina-haspel-for-cia-director/ WASHINGTON – The Senate confirmed Gina Haspel on Thursday as the first female director of the CIA following a difficult nomination process that reopened an emotional debate about brutal interrogation techniques in one of the darkest chapters in the spy agency’s history.

The 54-45 vote split both parties, with six Democrats joining most Republicans in support. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is battling brain cancer, was absent for the vote.

Maine’s senators have been divided in their support of Haspel, with Susan Collins, a Republican, backing her, and Angus King, an independent, opposed.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called President Trump’s choice of Haspel to lead the agency “the right woman at the right time.”

McConnell steered the confirmation swiftly past opponents, including the ailing McCain, whose long-distance rejection of the nominee over her role in the CIA’s torture program hung over an impassioned debate.

Ahead of voting, McConnell said Haspel “demonstrated candor, integrity, and a forthright approach” throughout the confirmation process and “has quietly earned the respect and admiration” of intelligence community leaders at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and abroad.

Supporters cited Haspel’s 33-year career at the agency. Former top intelligence officials said she earned the chance to take the helm of the intelligence agency.

But Haspel’s nomination was contentious because of her role in a former CIA program to brutally detain and interrogate terror suspects at covert sites abroad following 9/11.

Her opponents said it wasn’t right to promote someone who supervised a black site in Thailand. They said the U.S. needs to close the book forever on the program that marred America’s image with allies abroad.

Several senators said Haspel was not forthcoming in answering questions about her role in the torture program or the CIA’s decision to destroy videotaped evidence of the sessions. They also had questions about her rejection of the now-banned techniques.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a floor speech that Haspel “offered up almost the classic Washington nonapology.”

He asked how the Senate could take seriously Haspel’s “conversion on torture.”

Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jeff Flake of Arizona were among the Republicans who voted against Haspel.

Among Democrats supporting Haspel are several who are up for re-election this fall in states where Trump is popular, including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Sen. Bill Nelson in Florida. Other Democrats voting yes were Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

Other Trump-state Democrats, though, including Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, opposed the nominee. Most other Democrats, including those eyeing presidential runs in 2020, voted against Haspel in what may become a defining issue for Democrats.

Jones said this week that “it’s just hard to get over” the torture issue.

A protester in the Senate visitor gallery briefly disrupted speeches ahead of the vote with shouts against the CIA.

Haspel, 61, is a native of Kentucky but grew up around the world as the daughter of an Air Force serviceman. She worked undercover for nearly all her three decades at the CIA in Africa, Europe and classified locations around the globe. Haspel, who learned Turkish and Russian, was tapped as deputy director of the CIA last year. She worked under former CIA director Mike Pompeo until President Donald Trump moved him to secretary of state. She has been serving as acting director.

Haspel received robust backing from former intelligence, diplomatic, military and national security officials. Among those who supported her nomination were six former CIA directors – Porter Goss, John Brennan, Leon Panetta, George Tenet, William Webster and Mike Hayden – and three former national intelligence directors – James Clapper, Mike McConnell and John Negroponte.

On the opposing side are groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which says she should have stood up against the interrogation practices then. More than 100 former U.S. ambassadors who served both Republican and Democratic presidents sent the Senate a letter opposing Haspel, saying that despite her credentials, confirming her would give authoritarian leaders around the world the license to say U.S. behavior is “no different from ours.”

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/senate-set-to-vote-on-trump-nominee-gina-haspel-for-cia-director/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1382003_CIA_Haspel_Senate_24727.jpg.jpgCIA nominee Gina Haspel testifies during a confirmation hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee this month on Capitol Hill in Washington.Fri, 18 May 2018 00:43:51 +0000
LePage administration responds to Medicaid lawsuit, blames Legislature for not funding expansion https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/gov-lepage-responds-to-medicaid-expansion-lawsuit-says-maine-doesnt-have-the-money/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/gov-lepage-responds-to-medicaid-expansion-lawsuit-says-maine-doesnt-have-the-money/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 17:58:38 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/gov-lepage-responds-to-medicaid-expansion-lawsuit-says-maine-doesnt-have-the-money/

Gov. LePage has said he would “love” to expand Medicaid, if Maine lawmakers would only give him the right tools. Staff file photo by Ben McCanna

The LePage administration argued in a court filing this week that it can’t implement voter-approved Medicaid expansion because the Legislature didn’t make a “specific allocation” to do so.

Without money dedicated to expansion, the state Department of Health and Human Services “plainly lacks legal authority” to spend money on it, says the court brief, which was filed Monday in Superior Court in Augusta and released Thursday by the office of Gov. Paul LePage.

LePage, a Republican and staunch opponent of Medicaid expansion, said in a statement accompanying the release that “now that Medicaid expansion is the law, it is my responsibility to implement it, and I will. But until (the Legislature) adequately funds it, there is nothing we can do. Before we can proceed with expansion, DHHS needs both the staff to implement it and the money to pay the bills that will come due when the state plan amendment is approved” by the federal government.

On April 30, Maine Equal Justice Partners filed a lawsuit that, if successful, would compel the administration to implement Medicaid expansion, which voters approved by a 59-41 percent margin in November 2017.

Maine adults under age 65 who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level – $16,643 for a single person, $22,412 for a family of two and $25,100 for a family of four – could have started signing up for Medicaid in this July had the administration taken steps to begin implementing expansion. But the administration has not prepared for the expansion, and has not filed documents with the federal government to do so, arguing that the Maine Legislature needs to do more to fund the program.

Medicaid is a blended federal-state program, funded with both state and federal dollars but operated by the states. The option for states to expand it and cover more lower-income people is one of the key elements of the Affordable Care Act. About 70,000 Maine residents will be eligible for Medicaid health insurance once the expansion goes into effect.

About 20 million Americans, including more than 70,000 in Maine, have ACA coverage. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have approved Medicaid expansion.

Democrats and Maine Equal Justice Partners say the funding is already in place to begin implementing Medicaid expansion now.

“There is more than enough funding already appropriated to last until at least May 2019, maybe longer,” said Jack Comart, litigation director for Maine Equal Justice Partners, a progressive advocacy group. “Plenty of time for the next Legislature to address if needed.”

Lawmakers approved an initial $3.8 million expenditure in April to enable DHHS to hire additional staff and cover administrative costs of expansion. However, that funding was caught up in a partisan standoff when the Legislature adjourned May 2 before funding a number of bills.

The full cost of Medicaid expansion is about $45 million in state funds in the first full year of implementation, according to the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review. The office estimates the cost would grow to $55 million by 2021. The state’s current two-year budget is about $7 billion.

Expansion would unlock more than $500 million per year in federal funds that would begin flowing to Maine to cover the health care costs of lower-income Mainers.

LePage has rebuffed every effort to expand Medicaid – including by vetoing bipartisan bills sent to his desk – because he argues that expansion will prove too costly for the state, even with the federal match. After voters intervened last November, LePage sent lawmakers a lengthy letter insisting that the Legislature fund the expansion – without increasing taxes, tapping into the state’s Rainy Day Fund or employing other “one-time funding mechanisms or budget gimmicks” – and also eliminate the wait lists for DHHS programs for the elderly and disabled.

LePage is leaving office in January, which means Medicaid implementation may fall to the next governor. Seven Democrats and four Republicans are running in party primaries to replace him, with several independent candidates also in the race.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

jlawlor@pressherald.com

Twitter: joelawlorph

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/gov-lepage-responds-to-medicaid-expansion-lawsuit-says-maine-doesnt-have-the-money/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1375629_editorial.0506.jpgGov. LePage, above, has said he would "love" to expand Medicaid, if Maine lawmakers would only give him the right tools. But in practice he has made that impossible.Thu, 17 May 2018 23:22:44 +0000
Maine secretary of state says Republicans’ lawsuit over ranked-choice voting is based on speculation https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/maine-secretary-of-state-objects-to-republican-party-lawsuit-over-ranked-choice-voting-in-june-primary/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/maine-secretary-of-state-objects-to-republican-party-lawsuit-over-ranked-choice-voting-in-june-primary/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 16:55:14 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/maine-secretary-of-state-objects-to-republican-party-lawsuit-over-ranked-choice-voting-in-june-primary/ The Maine Republican Party’s claim in a federal lawsuit that ranked-choice voting could lead to the election of a candidate who isn’t the party’s true “standard bearer” is based on speculation, says an attorney for Secretary of State Matt Dunlap in a formal response to the suit.

“The underlying factual assumptions for this theory are highly debatable and empirically unproven,” Assistant Attorney General Phyllis Gardiner writes in a response filed for Dunlap in U.S. District Court in Portland on Thursday.

“Moreover, (Maine Republican Party) cites no case law to support its contention that a method of voting – as distinct from rules governing who can vote in the primary or what requirements party candidates must meet to qualify for the ballot – could somehow harm (the party’s) First Amendment rights of association,” Gardiner wrote.

“The candidates whose names will appear on the Republican primary ballot have already met the threshold requirements to become the party’s nominees (or ‘standard bearers’) for state office.”

The party went to court after changing its rules at its May 4 convention in hopes of stopping the use of ranked-choice voting, approved by voters in 2016, in the party’s June 12 primary elections.

The Republican Party filed its suit on May 4.

Under Maine’s traditional voting system, the candidate who gets the highest vote total, or a plurality, is declared the winner, even if the winner receives less than 50 percent of the vote in a race with three or more contestants.

In the ranked-choice system, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If after the first count no one wins a clear majority – more than 50 percent – of the vote, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who chose the eliminated candidate would have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots would be retabulated. The process continues until one candidate has a majority and is declared the winner.

The party announced the suit shortly after delegates at its biennial convention voted unanimously to change the party’s platform rules to say they preferred using a plurality vote in their primary.

In her answer, Gardiner also details how Maine’s underlying primary election law was enacted by ballot initiative in 1911.

“Similar laws were adopted in a number of states as part of a wave of Progressive Era reforms designed to remove control of the nomination process from ‘party bosses’ and ‘smoke-filled rooms’ and place it in the hands of the party’s rank-and-file voters,” Gardiner wrote.

The response to the federal suit comes just a day after the judge in the matter, U.S. District Judge Jon D. Levy, denied a request by the Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting to intervene in the lawsuit. With the primary election less than a month away, Levy said participation by the committee “would complicate a case that badly needs to be expedited.” Levy said the committee should instead file a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Secretary of State’s Office by Monday.

The first hearing on the suit is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at:

sthistle@pressherald.com

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/17/maine-secretary-of-state-objects-to-republican-party-lawsuit-over-ranked-choice-voting-in-june-primary/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/12/1241430_608938_dunlap-e1512128589787.jpgFri, 18 May 2018 12:51:18 +0000
Judge rules ranked-choice voting group can’t intervene in lawsuit to block it https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/judge-rules-ranked-choice-voting-advocacy-group-cant-intervene-in-lawsuit-aimed-at-blocking-it/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/judge-rules-ranked-choice-voting-advocacy-group-cant-intervene-in-lawsuit-aimed-at-blocking-it/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 01:32:27 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/judge-rules-ranked-choice-voting-advocacy-group-cant-intervene-in-lawsuit-aimed-at-blocking-it/ A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a statewide committee supporting the use of ranked-choice voting in the June 12 primary election should not be allowed to intervene in a pending lawsuit that seeks to block use of the voter-approved system next month.

In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Jon D. Levy said The Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting’s participation in the lawsuit “would complicate a case that badly needs to be expedited.” Levy said the committee should instead file a friend of the court brief in support of the Secretary of State’s Office by Monday.

Earlier this month, the Maine Republican Party announced it had filed a lawsuit in Bangor seeking to block Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap from deploying the new voting system in the Republican primary.

Dunlap’s office has already printed the June 12 primary ballots and posted extensive voter education materials on the state website, putting Maine on track to become the first state in the nation to use ranked choice in a statewide election.

“In this litigation, the Secretary’s and the Committee’s goals are aligned, as the Secretary is defending the validity of the Ranked-Choice Voting Act, which the Committee supports,” Levy wrote in his ruling. “I see no indication that the Secretary will fail to put forth arguments in support of the Ranked-Choice Voting Act, that the Committee would otherwise make.”

In the ranked-choice system, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no one has won more than 50 percent of the vote after the first count, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who chose the eliminated candidate would have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots would be retabulated. The process continues until one candidate wins a clear majority and is declared the winner. In April, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling ordering that ranked-choice voting be used in the June 12 primary.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/judge-rules-ranked-choice-voting-advocacy-group-cant-intervene-in-lawsuit-aimed-at-blocking-it/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/03/1355508_20111108_VotingFeats_04-2-e1522379282871.jpgToo many races go uncontested, so voters have no choice on Election Day. That gives people with no business of being in a position of authority a chance they don't deserve.Thu, 17 May 2018 00:32:13 +0000
Senator catches Pruitt in contradiction as he tries to deflect questions at hearing https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/senator-catches-pruitt-in-contradiction-as-he-tries-to-deflect-questions-at-hearing/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/senator-catches-pruitt-in-contradiction-as-he-tries-to-deflect-questions-at-hearing/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 00:07:14 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/senator-catches-pruitt-in-contradiction-as-he-tries-to-deflect-questions-at-hearing/ WASHINGTON — Lawmakers at a Senate hearing Wednesday hammered Scott Pruitt with his toughest questioning to date amid federal investigations about his spending, bodyguards and ties with lobbyists. The exchanges included the dramatic production of a newly released internal email that appeared to contradict the embattled Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

Pruitt, appearing before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, denied direct responsibility for alleged ethical missteps that have prompted about a dozen investigations, including ones by Congress, the EPA’s inspector general, the Government Accountability Office and the Office of Management and Budget. He stuck to his practice in a previous round of congressional hearings of deflecting blame onto subordinates at EPA, including its security agents and public-affairs workers.

Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, the panel’s top Democrat and a former state attorney general like Pruitt, led Democrats’ questioning. At one point, Udall asked Pruitt about news reports that the agency head liked his motorcade to switch on flashing lights and sirens to cut through traffic.

“I don’t recall that happening,” Pruitt said, asked repeatedly by Udall if he had ordered lights and sirens. “There are policies that agencies follow. The agency has followed the policy to the best of my knowledge. No, I don’t recall.”

Udall then disclosed an internal email indicating Pruitt did.

The email, written by then-EPA special agent Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta just days after Pruitt’s confirmation in February 2017, has the subject line “Lights and Sirens.” It added “Btw – Administrator encourages the use.”

Pruitt later promoted Perrotta to lead his round-the-clock personal protective detail. Former EPA officials have told the Associated Press that Pruitt made the change after Perrotta’s predecessor refused to use lights and sirens in non-emergencies.

Time and again, Pruitt responded to questions by saying he either couldn’t recall details or was unaware of decisions made by aides. Asked why comment from The Dow Chemical Co. wound up in an agency document, for example, Pruitt suggested public affairs staffers were responsible.

He newly confirmed a few points from recent news stories, including the launch of a legal defense fund, which he said was done by others on his behalf. He acknowledged that an aide, Millan Hupp, shopped for Washington housing for him, although he said it was on her personal time. Udall called it a violation of federal law.

The questioning was notably more aggressive than during appearances that Pruitt made before House subcommittees last month, when at least one Republican chairman repeatedly cut off Democrats the moment their limited time expired and allowed Pruitt not to answer.

In contrast, Republican Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski of Alaska gave the Democrats plenty of freedom to press Pruitt and ask courtroom-style follow-up questions when Pruitt, a lawyer who previously served as Oklahoma’s state attorney general, offered answers that were not as specific as lawmakers wanted.

Murkowski set the tone from the start, opening the hearing by expressing concern that allegations over Pruitt’s missteps were overshadowing the Trump administration’s pro-business regulatory rollbacks.

“I’m being asked, really constantly asked, to comment on security and on housing and on travel. I’m reading about your interactions with representatives of the industries that you regulate,” Murkowski told Pruitt at a hearing normally expected to focus on budget matters.

“There have been decisions over the last 16 months or so that, as I look back on those decisions, I would not make the same decisions again,” Pruitt said.

EPA’s inspector general revealed earlier this week that Pruitt requested and received 24-hour security beginning with his first day in office. That challenges Pruitt’s account that the round-the-clock security was a result of threats against him after taking office.

On Wednesday, Pruitt repeatedly dodged directly answering whether he requested the stepped-up security coverage, saying career EPA officials below him made the final decision.

Perrotta, who wrote the email about the use of lights and sirens, also drafted a memo last year saying Pruitt needed to fly in premium class seats because of security threats.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont mocked that explanation.

“What a silly reason to fly first class,” Leahy said. “Nobody even knows who you are.”

Despite the mounting investigations into Pruitt’s actions, President Trump has said he still supports his EPA chief. Asked Friday if he still had confidence in Pruitt, Trump told reporters, “I do.”

During the hearing, protesters sitting behind Pruitt silently rose up, waving signs suggesting that Pruitt should be fired. Others wore green T-shirts with white lettering that read “Impeach Pruitt.”

As Pruitt left the hearing room, protesters trailed him through the halls of the Senate office building shouting “Mr. Pruitt, you should be fired!” and “You should be ashamed, Mr. Pruitt.”

The EPA chief, ringed by his staff and security team, appeared to ignore them. He briskly made his way out to a waiting black SUV with tinted windows and drove away.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/senator-catches-pruitt-in-contradiction-as-he-tries-to-deflect-questions-at-hearing/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1381629_EPA_Pruitt_58239.jpg-4b5e5.jpgMembers of the audience hold signs reading "Fire Him" as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, center, testifies Wednesday before a Senate appropriations subcommittee.Wed, 16 May 2018 21:33:10 +0000
Maine Democrats to descend on Lewiston for state convention starting Friday https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/maine-democrats-to-descend-on-lewiston-for-convention-friday/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/maine-democrats-to-descend-on-lewiston-for-convention-friday/#respond Wed, 16 May 2018 23:36:09 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/maine-democrats-to-descend-on-lewiston-for-convention-friday/ LEWISTON — Maine Democrats will gather in Lewiston for their annual convention Friday, intent on energizing their voters for upcoming primary elections on June 12.

The convention is expected to draw over 1,500 Maine Democratic Party loyalists with a keynote rallying speech delivered by U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, on Saturday. Castro is known for his advocacy for public schools and universities, health care and good-paying jobs, according to a release from the party.

Also in the lineup will be all seven Democratic candidates running for the chance to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Paul LePage. The docket also features three candidates running to represent the party against U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican seeking his third term in the 2nd District.

Organizers were touting the record number of Democrats pre-registered for the convention at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in the state’s second largest city – where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a more than a 2-1 margin, according to the most recent voter data from the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.

The Maine Republican Party held its convention at the Augusta Civic Center earlier this month.

With a theme of “Victory Starts Here,” Democrats hope to retake the governor’s office in 2018 as well as capture enough seats to give them congressional majorities.

Phil Bartlett, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, said the convention will focus on Democrats’ desire to improve the economy, create jobs, expand health care access and affordability and end the state’s ongoing opioid crisis, which claims on average one life a day to overdoses.

“With a record-breaking number of Democrats prepared to attend our convention, it’s clear that we have energy and momentum on our side and we are ready to elect Democrats up and down the ballot this year,” Bartlett said.

The Democratic candidates hoping to replace Poliquin include state Rep. Jared Golden, a Lewiston resident and Marine Corps veteran; Craig Olson, a rare bookseller from Islesboro and Lucas St. Clair, a small businessman from Hampden, the son of philanthropist Roxanne Quimby and a key player in the creation of the Katahdin Woods and Water National monument.

Also in the lineup for Friday evening is 1st District U.S. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, running for her fifth term, and Zak Ringlestein of Portland, who hopes to unseat incumbent independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, who also faces a Republican challenger.

The candidates for governor include former state Rep. Diane Russell of Portland; former state Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick; former Biddeford Mayor Donna Dion; Maine Attorney General Janet Mills of Farmington; state Sen. Mark Dion of Portland; Adam Cote, a Sanford attorney, businessman and Army veteran; and lobbyist Betsy Sweet of Hallowell. They will each take the podium for 10-minute speeches Saturday afternoon.

They will be followed by Castro, who is scheduled to speak at 4:15 p.m.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

sthistle@pressherald.com

Twitter: thisdog

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Senate votes to reinstate net neutrality, but odds are long in the House https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/democrats-lead-push-to-reinstate-net-neutrality/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/democrats-lead-push-to-reinstate-net-neutrality/#respond Wed, 16 May 2018 20:21:07 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/democrats-lead-push-to-reinstate-net-neutrality/ WASHINGTON — The Senate has voted to kill a Federal Communications Commission rule that repealed the Obama administration’s ban on internet providers blocking or slowing down certain content.

Back in December, the FCC repealed “net neutrality” rules that ensured equal treatment for all web traffic.

The Obama-era rule prevented providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from interfering with internet traffic and favoring their own sites and apps. Critics, including the Trump administration, said over-regulation was stifling innovation.

Three Republicans joined with Democrats in voting to repeal the FCC rule that was scheduled to go into effect next month. The final vote was 52-47.

Both of Maine’s senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, voted in favor. Collins was one of only three Republicans to do so.

Democrats are hoping to energize young voters who support the principle of net neutrality, though the Republican-controlled House is unlikely to go along with the effort.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/democrats-lead-push-to-reinstate-net-neutrality/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1381509_netneutrality-qanda-c64cc702-5377-11e8-9c91-7dab596e8252.jpgSenate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., during a news conference after a Senate Democratic weekly luncheon meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on May 8.Wed, 16 May 2018 16:37:35 +0000
Trump reports apparent payment to adult-film star in new financial disclosure https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/trump-reports-apparent-payment-to-adult-film-star-in-new-financial-disclosure/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/trump-reports-apparent-payment-to-adult-film-star-in-new-financial-disclosure/#respond Wed, 16 May 2018 18:05:24 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/trump-reports-apparent-payment-to-adult-film-star-in-new-financial-disclosure/ WASHINGTON — In new financial disclosure documents, President Trump reported reimbursing his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for an expenditure over $100,000 last year – an apparent reference to the $130,000 that Cohen paid to ensure the silence of an adult-film actress who claimed she’d had an affair with Trump.

“In 2016 expenses were incurred by one of Donald J. Trump’s attorneys, Michael Cohen,” Trump reported in a footnote to his official Personal Financial Disclosure report, required of top federal officials. “Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement of those expenses and Mr. Trump fully reimbursed Mr. Cohen in 2017. The category of value would be $100,001 – $250,000 and the interest rate would be zero.”

That statement was couched in a footnote on the 45th page of a 92-page disclosure.

Earlier this year, Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he had not known about Cohen’s payment to Daniels.

“Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?” a reporter asked at the time.

“No,” Trump said. “I don’t know.”

More recently, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani – newly hired as part of Trump’s legal team – said in interviews that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for the payment.

The payment by Cohen to actress Stormy Daniels was made in the last weeks before the 2016 presidential election, as part of a non-disclosure agreement meant to ensure Daniels would not speak about the alleged affair publicly.

After the payment to Daniels was first revealed by the Wall Street Journal, Cohen acknowledged making the payment himself. He said he had not been reimbursed by Trump’s company or Trump’s campaign.

“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly,” Cohen said, using Daniels’ real name, Stephanie Clifford. The payment to Daniels was made via a limited-liability company, Essential Consultants, which Cohen had set up in 2016.

The Office of Government Ethics, which oversees the financial-disclosure documents, said in its own footnote that it had concluded Trump had to report the payment to Cohen in a section that detailed Trump’s legal liabilities over the course of 2017 and the first half of 2018.

“OGE has concluded that the information related to the payment made by Mr. Cohen is required to be reported and that the information provided meets the disclosure requirement for a reportable liability,” the agency said.

In addition, the Office of Government Ethics released a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein saying that it had concluded that Trump was required to disclose this liability owed to Cohen.

Michael Avenatti, an attorney representing Daniels, on Tuesday questioned why Trump was acknowledging the payment – and his reimbursement of Cohen – now. “Was he lying then or was he lying now? He previously denied any knowledge of the agreement or the payment – and did so aboard Air Force One on video.”

That letter was written in response to a complaint from a watchdog organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which said that Trump should have reported the payments to Cohen in last year’s disclosures.

Before taking office, Trump said he shifted day-to-day control of his business to his sons, primarily Eric Trump. But the president retains ownership of those businesses, through a trust, and can take money out of them at any time.

The Washington Post’s Emma Brown and Beth Reinhard contributed to this report.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/trump-reports-apparent-payment-to-adult-film-star-in-new-financial-disclosure/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1381386_Trump_US_Uzbekistan_354042.jpgPresident Trump reports in a new financial disclosure that he reimbursed his private attorney more than $100,000 last year, an apparent reference to the $130,000 that Cohen paid to ensure the silence of an adult-film actress who claimed she'd had an affair with Trump.Wed, 16 May 2018 16:24:04 +0000
The Trump Tower meeting documents: What you need to know https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/the-trump-tower-meeting-documents-what-you-need-to-know/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/the-trump-tower-meeting-documents-what-you-need-to-know/#respond Wed, 16 May 2018 17:24:56 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/the-trump-tower-meeting-documents-what-you-need-to-know/ A meeting two years ago between members of Donald Trump’s inner circle and a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer has been the focus of multiple investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Transcripts of Senate Judiciary Committee interviews with some of the participants released on Wednesday are shedding new light on the June 2016 sit-down, which took place at Trump Tower in the heat of the presidential campaign.

The meeting was attended by Donald Trump Jr., who agreed to attend the meeting after organizers dangled the promise of damaging information on his father’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. Other attendees included Paul Manafort, then the chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign; Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and several Russians, including the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, and their representatives.

The committee released 2,500 pages of transcripts and other documents from interviews it conducted with some of those who were present. Here are highlights from the documents:

• Trump Jr. in “charge”

Rinat Akhmetshin, a lobbyist and former Soviet counterintelligence officer, recalled that Trump Jr. led the meeting.

“He was definitely in charge,” he said. After small talk about the view and a recent win in the primaries, the younger Trump got down to business, Akhmetshin said. “Mr. Trump, Jr., said, ‘So I believe you have some information for us.’ ”

Akhmetshin said that Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer at the center of the meeting, began discussing some wealthy contributors to the Clinton Global Initiative.

Akhmetshin recalled, “So Mr. Trump, Jr., said, ‘So can you show us how does this money go to Hillary?’ Like specifically, do you have paperwork? Or just indicate how money goes to Hillary. And she kind of said, ‘No. I am just a Russian lawyer.”

• Trump Jr. on “love” for Russian help

Senate investigators asked Trump Jr. about an email he sent to Rob Goldstone, the British music promoter who arranged the meeting, concerning the prospect of receiving damaging information about Clinton from the Russian lawyer. “I love it, especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. had written.

In the interview, Trump Jr. deflected, saying he didn’t know how to gauge the credibility of the offer and dismissed the expression as colloquial.

But, he acknowledged, “I wanted to see if there was anything to it.”

• Trump Jr. says he didn’t tell his dad before meeting Russians

Trump Jr. also testified that he had no reason to believe Russia supported Trump before getting a message from Goldstone that the promised information was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

A Democratic Senate panel lawyer challenged him on the promise of Russian government help. “Did you also love that?” the lawyer asked.

Trump Jr. said he didn’t recall, and dismissed a followup question about whether such support from Russia would be “problematic.”

“I didn’t think that listening to someone with information relevant to the fitness and character of a presidential candidate would be an issue, no,” he said.

The president’s son said that, in the end, the information offered at the meeting didn’t amount to anything, it was apparent they weren’t representing the Russian government and he didn’t discuss it beforehand with his father. “My skepticism was justified,” Trump Jr. said.

• “Sizable birthday gift” for Trump

The day after the Trump Tower meeting, Goldstone said that Aras Agalarov, the founder of Crocus Group, one of Russia’s largest real-estate companies, and his pop-singer son Emin wanted to send a “sizeable birthday gift” for the senior Trump to his offices.

In an email to Trump’s executive assistant Rhona Graff the next day, Goldstone said he ran into Trump’s bodyguard, who he identified as Keith. The bodyguard told Goldstone that any packages would have to go through “TSA-style scanning,” Goldstone wrote in a reference to the Transportation Security Administration. Keith Schiller was Trump’s longtime head of security.

Graff responded to Goldstone via email, saying any package would have to come through the building’s sub-cellar, where it would be screened by the Secret Service.

• Russia talk “eerily weird”

On June 14, just days after the meeting, Goldstone wrote to Emin Agalarov and Ike Kaveladze, a California businessman who was born in Russia. Goldstone said he was concerned that the press seemed to be focusing on Trump’s close ties to Russia, pointing out a Bloomberg story, “Trump’s long romance with Russia.”

“Top Story right now” Goldstone wrote, apparently referring to another story related to a hacking attack on Democratic National Committee. “Seems eerily weird based on our Trump meeting last week with the Russian lawyers etc.”

• Goldstone promising “massive exposure”

The publicist who set up the meeting offered to arrange for Russia’s largest social network to promote Trump’s candidacy to more than 1.6 million Russian-American members of the network, according to some of the documents.

“I can get massive exposure for Mr. Trump on the site for sure – and it will be covered in Russian media also – where I noticed your campaign is covered positively almost daily — which (sic) extremely gracious comments from President Putin etc.,” Goldstone wrote on Jan. 19, 2016, to Trump Jr. and his father’s assistant, Graff.

Graff replied hours later, calling the offer a “terrific opportunity” and referring Goldstone to Dan Scavino, the Trump campaign’s social media director.

About six months later, just after the Trump Tower meeting, Goldstone reiterated his offer in an email to Trump Jr., Scavino and Graff.

“It would merely require Mr. Trump to drop in a short message to Russian American voters – or a generic message depending on your choice – and the page can be up a running very quickly,” Goldstone wrote.

The email included a sample campaign page on the social network using the hashtag #MakeAmericaGreatAgain.

• Early outreach to Trump

Five weeks after Trump launched his presidential campaign, he received an invitation to an oligarch’s birthday party in Moscow where the prospect of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin was eventually dangled.

The invitation came in July 2015, in an email from Goldstone to Graff, Trump’s executive assistant, asking whether Trump would be able to attend Aras Aragalov’s 60th birthday party. Citing Trump’s busy schedule, Graff declined.

Goldstone then followed up with a suggestion of a meeting with Putin. “I totally understand re Moscow – unless maybe he would welcome a meeting with President Putin which Emin would set up,” he wrote on July 24, 2015.

Trump didn’t travel to Moscow, but the emails show focus on the part of people working on behalf of Russian interests to establish close ties with him shortly after he launched his campaign.

Trump Jr., said he was at the time not aware of this supposed offer, and that he was not aware of any other instances in which Goldstone sought to arrange meetings between Russian government officials and the Trump campaign.

• Attempts to coordinate response to furor

The participants scrambled to square their stories in July 2017 after public scrutiny began of the Trump Tower meeting that had occurred a year earlier, according to various emails.

Goldstone, who instigated the meeting, messaged with key participants, Emin Agalarov, whom he had worked with on Trump’s Miss Universe pageant, and Kaveladze about how to respond to the media furor.

Though the early contacts described a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” and an “ultra sensitive” matter, Goldstone after the fact suggested the meeting was “in no way connected with the Russian Government or any of its officials.”

Then Trump Jr.’s lawyer sent a proposed statement for Goldstone to issue. In an apparent effort to keep their stories consistent, Goldstone then forwarded that proposal to Kaveladze, who worked for an Agalarov company.

The proposed statement read: “As the person who arranged the meeting, I can definitely state that the statements I have read by Donald Trump Jr. are 100 percent accurate. The meeting was a complete waste of time and Don was never told Ms. Veselnitskaya’s name prior to the meeting.”

But Trump Jr.’s shifting explanations had complicated the task. The president’s son ultimately released a series of his emails that revealed the Trump team was seeking dirt on Hillary Clinton as reporters pieced together the story and pressed meeting participants for details. The attempt to quiet the controversy caused some consternation.

A subsequent email has the sender’s name redacted. “Why did he release this e-mail admitting to collusion?” the unidentified person wrote Kaveladze. The subject line was “dt jr.”

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Russia favored Trump in 2016 election, Senate panel says, breaking with House Republicans https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/russia-favored-trump-in-2016-election-senate-panel-says-breaking-with-house-republicans/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/russia-favored-trump-in-2016-election-senate-panel-says-breaking-with-house-republicans/#respond Wed, 16 May 2018 16:43:22 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/russia-favored-trump-in-2016-election-senate-panel-says-breaking-with-house-republicans/ The Senate Intelligence Committee has determined that the intelligence community was correct in assessing that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election with the aim of helping then-candidate Donald Trump, contradicting findings House Republicans reached last month.

Both of Maine’s senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“Our staff concluded that the (intelligence community’s) conclusions were accurate and on point,” the panel’s vice chairman, Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., said Wednesday in a joint statement with Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., its chairman. “The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton,” Warner continued.

But that last determination – that Russia intended to help Trump – sets up a clash within the Republican Party over which record of events is most accurate, a dispute that could complicate the party’s messaging surrounding the Russia investigations as it heads into the 2018 election season. While the House Republicans’ report also concurred with the bulk of the intelligence community’s findings about Russian meddling, it accused officials of not following their own best practices in determining that Moscow hoped Trump would win.

Trump has taken umbrage at the intelligence community’s determination that the Kremlin favored his candidacy over that of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The president cheered the House Intelligence Committee’s findings and report on Twitter, claiming it vindicated him by finding there was no evidence of collusion or coordination with Russia.

The Senate intelligence panel has yet to weigh in on the collusion allegations, a subject that will be left to its final report. But Burr and Warner have been dropping hints for days that their panel’s interim findings on the intelligence community would depart from those of the House Intelligence Committee Republicans. House Democrats also roundly disagreed with those findings.

“I’m not sure that the House was required to substantiate every conclusion with facts,” Burr told reporters last week, when asked whether the Senate Intelligence Committee would also find fault with the intelligence community’s assessment. He promised the Senate panel would “have the facts to show for” its conclusions.

“Everyone that we’ve ever had testify still stands by the full findings of the ICA,” Warner said Monday, referring to the intelligence community’s assessment. “We’ve had all the Obama officials, we’ve had all the Trump officials. Every person.”

Collins and King said in a joint statement Wednesday that they concurred with the Senate committee’s assessment.

The committee’s review is not yet complete: On Wednesday, panel members huddled behind closed doors with former intelligence chiefs to discuss their impressions and conclusions. Former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., former CIA director John Brennan, and former National Security Agency director Adm. Mike Rogers were in attendance. Former FBI director James B. Comey also was invited.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/russia-favored-trump-in-2016-election-senate-panel-says-breaking-with-house-republicans/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1381341_aptopix_trump_germany_g20_2.jpgPresident Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit on July 7, 2017, in Hamburg, Germany. The Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that Russia meddled in the 2016 election with the intention of helping Trump, a finding that runs counter to what House Republicans say.Wed, 16 May 2018 16:13:02 +0000