The year’s frenetic events in Maine's statehouse mark a turn towards increasingly incendiary, winner-take-all politics. But the histrionics also underscore a more insidious problem: Maine’s weak accountability and transparency laws aren’t keeping up with the new pace of politics here, and lawmakers are doing little to change course.
This dynamic has earned Maine an F and a numerical score of 59, placing it tied for 42nd among the states in the 2015 State Integrity Investigation, an assessment of state government accountability and transparency conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. Continue Reading →
A bill that would have tightened up regulations that allowed a Sanford legislator to pay himself and family members from a political action committee (PAC) he controlled was killed in late June by a veto by Gov. Paul LePage, which the Maine Senate failed to override. Continue Reading →
Gov. Paul LePage reversed a routine and state-approved payment to a Fairfield non-profit that operates a charter school the day it was announced that Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves was named president of the organization, according to a source inside state government.
A confidential source in the state Department of Education (DOE) said that, the day Eves’ appointment became public, a top official of the state DOE was called to the governor’s office “for an impromptu meeting.” Continue Reading →
Secret meetings in the legislature: They’re still going on.
Last week, we exposed how lawmakers on the legislature’s appropriations committee were holding secret meetings to discuss the budget.
Today, in a report by the Sun Journal’s Scott Thistle, we learned that Democratic and Republican leaders secretly negotiated a budget deal without any public input, discussion or review. Continue Reading →
The legislature's practice of conducting the public's business — such as budget negotiations — behind closed doors likely violated the state's Freedom of Access Act (FOAA). Center editor-reporter John Christie "crashed" a closed door session of the appropriations committee and confronted legislators about the practice, which one of the state's prominent first amendment attorneys says violates the sprit of FOAA and likely also the letter of that landmark law. Continue Reading →
A Republican state senator among those leading the fight to pass legislation to benefit J.D. Irving’s proposal to develop an open-pit mine in the North Woods accepted a free private plane ride to Aroostook from Irving's lobbyists and didn't report it to the state ethics commission.
Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton, said he didn’t need to report the 2013 round-trip ride because its value was not over $300, the threshold for reporting gifts from lobbyists to the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, and because the purpose was fact-finding. Continue Reading →
An Irving family company agreed to reduce by $150,000 the debt a leading Democratic legislator owed to the company – the same legislator, Democratic Rep. John Martin, who has been pushing to loosen state environmental regulations so that another Irving company can mine Bald Mountain in northern Maine. Continue Reading →
The recent two-day conference that corporate giant Time Warner put on for Maine legislators has revealed loopholes in the state’s ethics laws that make it difficult for voters to know if their elected representatives took part. Continue Reading →
Gov. Paul LePage inserted himself into a state law enforcement proceeding about a religious discrimination case and threatened to go to court if the legal process was not postponed, according to an internal memo.
The governor, however, said he was not interfering, but only trying to make sure there was no “ethical breach” in the case involving an audio recording he had been told was edited. Continue Reading →
Time Warner, the state's largest internet provider, has wined and dined legislators at the opening of this year's session in hopes of thwarting legislation that would make it easier for cities and towns who want faster internet connections to become broadband providers themselves. The wining and dining was done at an overnight event at a luxury Cape Elizabeth resort and takes place in the context of Time Warner's nationwide battle against such local efforts to get faster internet. Continue Reading →