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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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EPA targeting Lewiston-Auburn to reduce risk to children from improper lead paint removal

The dilapidated condition of Lewiston and Auburn's housing has contributed to a childhood lead poisoning rate that's stubbornly high.

Starting next month, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is going after contractors in the Lewiston-Auburn area who are failing to follow the law that requires them to remove lead paint safely.
Improper removal of lead paint during renovation is one of the ways lead can poison adults and children. Between 2009 and 2014, there were 467 Maine children identified as lead poisoned and 97 of those children were from the Lewiston-Auburn area, where the lead paint problem is the most severe in the state. 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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DEP to make oil train data public again

A state committee is asking lawmakers to overhaul a 2015 law that restricted the release of information about transports of crude oil through Maine.

The Department of Environmental Protection will resume releasing data on oil rail shipments in Maine, reversing a five-month policy that kept the information out of the public eye.

Just last month, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting filed a Freedom of Access Act request for the monthly data. The DEP, acting on the advice of the Attorney General’s office, decided that the oil data summaries were not covered by a new and controversial law that meant to make hazardous material rail shipments secret. Continue Reading →

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Legislature sidestepped records law to end public access to oil train data

A state committee is asking lawmakers to overhaul a 2015 law that restricted the release of information about transports of crude oil through Maine.

A 2015 law that ended the public’s right to know about hazardous freight on Maine railways sidestepped normal legislative processes, ignored federal policies and overcame a gubernatorial veto. Now even the law’s sponsor agrees it needs to be changed. 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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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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