Last week, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting published a story headlined, “Risky business tax breaks cost state $100 million per year.” At the time of publication, we had not yet received a response from the state chief budget officer, Sawin Millett, the commissioner of administration and finance. A response has since been sent to us, via email. Here is our question and his answer:
MCPIR question: Given the 2006 OPEGA study of 46 economic development programs (including related ”tax expenditure” data) rated some of those programs as “high risk,” why is the Governor continuing those programs?
Millett: Quite simply, three Committees of the Legislature reviewed the OPEGA report over the 2007-2008 biennium and took no action to modify or eliminate those programs – with the single exception you have referenced – thus those programs have remained in statute. It is my personal expectation, however, that there will likely be specific proposals advanced, and considerable discussion had, during the current Session as to whether all such programs should remain intact, going forward. Continue Reading →
This legislative session, many of the bills to reform ethics were prompted by the Center’s report last year that gave Maine an “F” for anti-corruption measures. Here’s the Press Herald’s editorial from today on “revolving door” legislation making its way through the statehouse:
Maine should pass tougher ethics laws – Allowing regulators to move from public jobs to jobs in industries they once regulated is dangerous. Sometimes it’s bad to be too good. After decades of honest government peopled with principled members of both parties, Maine finds itself ranked near the bottom when it comes to tough ethics rules. States that have a culture of political corruption often have the strongest protections in their laws because they needed them. Continue Reading →
The National Conference of State Legislatures is one of our favorite organizations because — even though it’s set up to be a resource for legislators — it’s also a great repository of information for reporters who cover state government. When we want to see how Maine compares, say, to other states in laws on raw milk sales, the NCSL has a section on just that. And, of course, on many other things. Last week, when newly elected lawmakers came to the statehouse in Augusta for orientation and swearing-in, one of the events organized for them was a seminar on ethics, taught by Natalie Wood, an NCSL ethics specialist. We thought you’d be interested in the ethics materials Wood distributed to the lawmakers. Continue Reading →
We’re wonks about the state budget, and love reading about tax policy. If you’re like us, here’s a link to a new roundup of research about taxes, brought to us by our friends at Journalists’ Resource, run by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. Continue Reading →
German philosopher Max Weber said, “Politics is the art of compromise.”
And, Weber might have added: Elections are the art of exaggeration. We at the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting spent much of the spring and summer checking out the claims of the three major candidates for U. S. senate, focusing mostly on what they said they had done to fix the economy and promote jobs. What we found, with some modest exceptions, had more spin on it than a Sandy Koufax (you call look him up) curveball. But there’s more to be learned from politicians “practiced in the art of deception,” to quote the Rolling Stones, which I like to do whenever the opportunity presents itself. Now that the votes have been (mostly) counted, the TV ads silenced and the pundits (there are so many) either crowing or eating crow, we thought we’d try to find some broader meaning from our months of reporting. Continue Reading →
The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting’s Matt Drange and John Christie interviewed U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill on Wednesday, July 11 at her home in Cape Elizabeth. Click on the headline above to see the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z3gqSPd_4o Continue Reading →
In the latest video from the Center, Senior Reporter Naomi Schalit talks about how you can be your own watchdog. Continue Reading →
The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting is happy to announce the launching of our video section. If you want to know what the inside of an investigative reporting organization is like, these videos will give you some insight.
Our first video is an overview of how the Center gets its stories, as told by Center Publisher and Senior Reporter John Christie. The next video will feature U.S. Senatorial candidate Cynthia Dill, and will be posted in the coming weeks. Continue Reading →
The Center welcomes Matt Drange, a recent graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, to our newsroom for the summer. Matt earned his master’s degree in journalism with a specialization in investigative reporting. As a fellow at Columbia’s Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, Matt reported on numerous deficiencies in the home health care industry in New York, culminating in a 5,000-word thesis project. At the same time, Matt spearheaded efforts for a class investigation into the safety of third party audits in the food industry. In the wake of last year’s deadly listeria outbreak, the story revealed conflicts of interest and lax oversight of a growing private auditing industry. Continue Reading →
Staff reporters John Christie and Naomi Schalit headed down to Boston University recently for a weekend conference on narrative journalism. In between the workshops on things like “Sequencing: The Basics of Story Mechanics” and “One Story, Many Paths: Interactive Documentaries/Non-linear Storytelling” (we’re still not quite sure what non-linear storytelling is, except perhaps something an excited three-year-old might do), there was time for some fun. That included a performance by a wild group of literary musicians who played …. typewriters. You can watch a video here. Continue Reading →