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Follow-Up: Legislature launches inquiry into Maine PowerOptions program

The Legislature’s investigative arm launched a preliminary inquiry of the state-sponsored Maine PowerOptions electricity program Feb. 17, a month after a story by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting raised questions about the group’s transparency, oversight and benefits for its members.

The inquiry will be conducted by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA), the legislature’s investigative arm. Maine PowerOptions, which is operated as a program of the Maine Municipal Bond Bank, has received no legislative scrutiny since its inception in 1999.

Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick, D-Bangor, who requested the inquiry, said his goal is to shed light on a program that he believes to be well-meaning, but that lacks transparency in its decision making. Continue Reading →

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Follow-Up: Legislative committee questions electricity program staff

For the first time in 16 years, staff of Maine PowerOptions appeared before lawmakers Feb. 2 to explain how the quasi-state electricity consortium brings together hundreds of municipalities and school districts across the state to help them buy power. Continue Reading →

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Value of quasi-state electricity program called into question

Part 1: Five years after a scandal at the Maine Turnpike Authority landed its director in prison, a quasi-state program — Maine PowerOptions (MPO), which brings together municipalities, school districts and other state nonprofits to purchase electricity in bulk — lacks transparency and effective oversight. Continue Reading →

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State program’s cozy relationship to supplier raises concerns

Part 2: Both a confidential state probe and a subsequent independent investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, including a review of a confidential agreement between Maine PowerOptions and its electricity supplier, raise questions about whether the quasi-state program is living up to its original mission of saving Maine taxpayers money. Continue Reading →

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Boston PowerOptions is a larger, more transparent version of MPO

Part 3: Several northeastern states, including New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, have formed groups similar to Maine PowerOptions. Boston-based PowerOptions runs an organization nearly identical in mission to the Maine program, though far larger in scale — and with more transparency. Continue Reading →

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State releases preliminary findings in lottery review

Lawmakers from both parties question preliminary findings that show no evidence the state specifically targeted particular segments of the population in its marketing. The review comes after an investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting that found lottery sales in Maine jump as unemployment increases. Continue Reading →

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

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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NY State senator: tax support to weapons maker “truly outrageous”

A New York state senator has called the state’s $5.5 million in grants and subsidies to a weapons manufacturer “truly outrageous” in light of the Newtown, Conn. shooting massacre and wants the practice stopped. N.Y. State Sen. Liz Krueger’s letter to Empire State Development — click image for full letter
Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, cited a recent report by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting and The New York World that nine states, including New York, have given tax breaks, subsidies and grants to the makers of semi-automatic rifles that have been used in multiple mass shootings, including the one on Newton that killed 20 children and six adults last month. New York’s tax support went to Remington Arms, based in Ilion, since 2007. In her letter to the head of the Empire State Development Corp, the state agency that administers the tax subsidies, Sen. Krueger, the ranking minority member on the N.Y. Senate’s Finance Committee, said:

“Among the products produced by Remington at the New York plant that received these benefits is the Bushmaster model used in the murders in Newtown. Continue Reading →

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