Recent Stories

Portland primary election challenges lead to proposed changes in campaign law

Rep. Diane Russell, at right, sits with her attorney, Kate Knox, during a meeting Wednesday of the Maine Ethics Commission. Russell was fined $500 for failing to disclose an in-kind donation of an email list that she made to her campaign.

The Maine Ethics Commission has fined losing Senate candidate Rep. Diane Russell $500 for failing to disclose her contribution to her Senate campaign of a valuable email list, closing the books on a series of ethics complaints generated by the recent Portland Democratic Senate primary. But the complaints — two against Russell and one against primary winner Rep. Ben Chipman — may end up having a broader effect on Maine campaign-finance law and how elections are run. Continue Reading →

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Complaint alleges Rep. Russell’s PAC was “money mill” for her

Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland.

A Portland resident has filed a complaint with the state ethics commission alleging that the PAC controlled by Diane Russell, a candidate for the state senate and a current member of the House, may have made fraudulent campaign finance filings. “If people know the right questions to ask then the voters can be more informed,” said Michael Hiltz, who filed the ethics complaint against the PAC controlled by Russell. Continue Reading →

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Portland legislator paid self from leadership PAC founded to support other candidates

State Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland

Since 2013, Rep. Diane Russell’s “Working Families PAC” paid her a total of $7,747 of its total expenditures of $39,583. Unlike other so-called leadership PACs, where most of the money raised goes to support fellow party members’ electoral ambitions, Russell’s PAC gave only $1,550 in contributions to Democratic candidates or organizations. Continue Reading →

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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 →

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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 →

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Maine Democrats play middleman between wealthy Clinton donors and national party

Hillary Clinton in Portland, Maine, Sept. 2015

Wealthy donors from across the country have sent nearly $100,000 to the Maine Democratic Party as part of a coordinated fundraising program called the Hillary Victory Fund. But not all of that money is staying in the state: 40 percent of it has already been transferred to the Democratic National Committee. Continue Reading →

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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 →

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


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 →

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Maine gets F grade in 2015 State Integrity Investigation

The Maine Statehouse

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 →

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