Actually, Democrats do support blocking EBT cards at bars, liquor stores, strip clubs

Gov. Paul LePage. BDN file photo by Gabor Degre

Gov. Paul LePage. BDN file photo by Gabor Degre

Every week, Gov. Paul LePage and a Democratic lawmaker du jour record a radio address. They air on some stations and are posted online, and usually go with little comment. Print reporters like yours truly sometimes lean on them for a quote in a relevant story, but generally, their impact is more or less fleeting.

But not this week. Today, Jodi Quintero, spokeswoman for House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, emailed reporters about a radio address released today by LePage (click to listen).

In his address, LePage talked about his recent move to block EBT transactions at ATMs located inside bars, liquor stores, strip clubs and casinos. He said: “Democrats objected to this common-sense measure to protect taxpayers’ money. … As soon as they heard that we are now blocking ATMs, Democrats scrambled to find a reason to object to it.”

Except … they didn’t. At all.

LePage has been hammering Democrats for opposing his welfare reform bills this session and, for the most part, Democrats have attempted to pivot to other issues whenever the subject comes up. In this case, though, Quintero said she had to address the claim head-on.

Enter that email, in which she “cautioned” reporters about airing or publishing LePage’s address. This isn’t the sort of thing that usually happens.

Quintero said it wasn’t her goal to prevent anyone from airing the piece; she just wanted to point out that Democrats had in fact unanimously supported the 2012 law that made EBT transactions in bars, liquor stores, strip clubs and casinos illegal in the first place.

“The governor should be held accountable for telling the truth,” she said. “There are often different facts that support different claims, but in this case, there are no facts to support this claim. Democrats voted unanimously to support this law. In fact, we supported expanding it to smoke shops [this year]. So there is no fact out there that supports this claim; it’s not true.”

Quintero is right, for what it’s worth: Both the House and Senate unanimously passed LD 1888, which made EBT transactions at the above-mentioned vice vendors illegal. Democrats actually criticized the governor earlier this week for waiting two years to block EBT use at the ATMs — even though the law didn’t require him to do so.

LePage spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said Quintero and the Democrats were “playing semantics.”

“They’re trying to criticize in any way they can,” she said. “They say they support the law but then criticize when we try to enforce it.”

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.