Maine political fundraising in full bloom

Here at Political Party Time, we took a break from chronicling campaign shindigs when the 2014 election season ended. But we’re back now, dressed up in our best party clothes and working harder than ever so that you don’t miss any of the fun. And there’s lots of wine, beer, cheese and crackers to be had, as the political fundraising season shifts into high gear. (For the most up-to-date list of events, scroll through the Political Party Time schedule at right, provided through our partners at the Sunlight Foundation.)

We don’t actually go to any of the fundraisers that we write about. It would be unethical for us as non-partisan journalists to pay – er, contribute – money to political candidates, their parties or their PACs. Continue Reading →

DEP to make oil train data public again

The DEP will resume releasing data on oil and other hazardous materials moving on Maine rails.

The Department of Environmental Protection will resume releasing data on oil rail shipments in Maine, reversing a five-month policy that kept the information out of the public eye.

Just last month, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting filed a Freedom of Access Act request for the monthly data. The DEP, acting on the advice of the Attorney General's office, decided that the oil data summaries were not covered by a new and controversial law that meant to make hazardous material rail shipments secret. Continue Reading →

Legislators to scrutinize lottery oversight, ad tactics

Scratch tickets advertise themselves, say convenience store owners, with flashy designs and ‘carnival barking’ intended to catch the eye and attract impulse buys. These tickets are on display at the Waite General Store in Washington County.

The Government Oversight Committee wants to know if "any particular demographic groups or regions of the state" are specifically targeted by the state lottery's advertising, and "who has responsibility for overseeing those decisions."

The Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability will also determine how winning a lottery prize may affect a person’s eligibility for public benefit programs. Continue Reading →

Maine lawmakers fast-track lottery investigation

Sen. David C. Burns, R-Whiting

Reacting to an investigative series by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, the legislature's Government Oversight Committee has voted unanimously to fast-track a study of the Maine State Lottery. Panel members are keen to learn if the Lottery's advertising strategy specifically targets Maine's poor. Continue Reading →

Lawmakers, LePage: Welfare recipients shouldn’t spend benefits on lottery tickets

State Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland

Lawmakers from both parties on Wednesday called for a bipartisan effort to pass legislation implementing a ban on people on public assistance buying lottery tickets with taxpayer-funded benefits.

The call to action follows revelations this week by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting that recipients of public assistance won $22.4 million in lottery prizes since 2010, including eight jackpots worth at least $500,000 apiece. The information was obtained through a public records request to the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Continue Reading →

People on public assistance spent hundreds of millions on the lottery – and took home $22 million in winnings

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Mainers on the state's three major public assistance programs spent hundreds of millions on lottery tickets from 2010 to 2014 and won $22 million, according to a state analysis obtained by the Center through the public records law and an economist expert in state lotteries. Winning does not necessarily disqualify recipients from remaining on any of the programs (food stamps, aid to families and MaineCare). This is the fifth story in the series, "Lottery: Selling hope to the hopeless." Continue Reading →