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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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LePage killed ethics reform bill that would bar legislators from paying themselves, family members with PAC money

Money, money

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 →

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LePage ordered an approved $100K payment to charter school stopped when Eves named head of school

Gov. Paul LePage — Photo Robert F. Bukaty, BDN

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 →

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Transparency advocates question secret budget deal


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 →

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Closed door: Legislators conducting public business in private despite state’s open meeting law

Door at the back of the appropriations chamber that leads to a suite of private rooms where the committee's "chairs and leads" held a private meeting on May 28

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 →

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Key legislator promoting Irving mining proposal took unreported free flight from firm’s lobbyists

Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton   
Photo: Scott Thistle, Sun Journal

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 →

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Irving lowers Rep. Martin’s bankruptcy debt by $150k and Martin pushes another Irving firm’s mining interests

Democrat John Martin of Eagle Lake speaks with Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, in the State House.  Photo: Troy R. Bennett | BDN

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 →

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Memo: LePage inserted himself in religious discrimination case against Moody’s Diner

Gov. Paul LePage — Photo Robert F. Bukaty, BDN

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 →

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Time Warner made its case to legislators at luxury resort

The dining room at Cape Elizabeth's Inn By The Sea, where Time Warner invited Maine lawmakers to an overnight “Winter Policy Conference” at which the company tried to persuade legislators that government owned-broadband was a bad idea. The guests were served steak dinners and some were put up for the night in rooms that retail from $205 to $355 per night

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 →

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