Recent Stories

Drunk on lottery’s millions, Maine asks no questions about ethics of state-run gambling

Part three graphic

The Maine state lottery receives little oversight by the state legislature because, as one ex-legislator put it, the state is "drunk" on the $50 million revenue that ticket sales add to the state treasury and no one wants to question the ethics of state-promoted gambling if it might mean giving up that money. Continue Reading →

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State spends millions to sway flinty Mainers to spend more on lottery tickets

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.

When the state lottery began in 1973, Mainers were not buying tickets at the rate officials had counted on. The state’s response, which continues to today, was to spend millions on marketing and ad campaigns to entice once-flinty Mainers to gamble on long-odds tickets in hopes of getting rich quick. The lottery has more than tripled its in-state advertising expenditures since 2003. It now budgets $3.5 million a year for promoting its Maine and Tri-State lotto games, big jackpot draw games it operates with New Hampshire and Vermont. Continue Reading →

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University study proves Maine’s lottery amounts to a multi-million-dollar tax on the poor

Shop co-owners Wayne Seidl (front right) and Joe Ruff (back right) talk with a customer at the Waite General Store. Residents of the small Washington County town of Waite, pop. 101, purchase more lottery tickets per capita than any other town in the state, according to lottery sales data.

A first-ever statistical analysis of Maine Lottery sales figures and census data by Cornell University and commissioned by The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting shows that lottery ticket sales go up when people lose their jobs. For every one percent increase in joblessness in a given zip code, sales of scratch and draw tickets jump 10 percent. Continue Reading →

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Maine’s future with Irving

Illustration by Joe Strassler

If the giant, ever-growing Irving corporations were to have a larger presence in Maine, what effects might there be on Mainers' daily life? Our final story in this three-part series looks at the Irving companies' growing domination of Aroostook County and Maine politics and the corporate giant's potential effects in Maine's marketplace, in the state's political world and, possibly, in the news media. Continue Reading →

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Irving lost mining battle, but history says Canadian corporate giant will not give up

Oil tanks at the Irving Oil refinery in St. John, New Brunswick.

"Expansion is the thing" was the motto of K.C. Irving, the twentieth-century tycoon who created the Irving family empire. An investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting of the Irving-family domination of its New Brunswick homeland and of its growing economic and political influence in Maine suggests that this is still its motto — and that Maine is its expansion target. Continue Reading →

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New Brunswick, Irving company province

J D. Irving headquarters (tan building on left) dominates St. John, New Brunswick, where an Irving Oil sign stands at an entrance to the city.

Several books and a Canadian-government report have noted that the Irving family business' power over the province of New Brunswick is probably unparalleled in the developed world. Our reporter, Lance Tapley, spent a number of days in the province, getting an unusual tour of the Irving refinery, and talking with both critics and supporters of Irving’s influence in the province. 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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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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Ethics board: change law that allowed legislator to pay himself from his PAC

Maine Statehouse, Photo John Christie

Maine’s ethics agency has proposed legislation that would tighten up lax regulations that allowed a Sanford legislator to pay himself and family members from political action committee funds he controlled.

Commission staff proposed the change in response to a story published in October by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. Continue Reading →

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