Democrats being investigated for alleged clean elections violations

Good morning from Augusta, where we need music. Let’s pull out the same hot summer soundtrack from Billy Idol that I used one day last year. You can’t have too much Billy in your life, in my opinion.

Wow, I just watched that video right to the end. I should get back to work. I’ll save Rebel Yell as my reward for finishing today’s Daily Brief.

With not a whole lot going on today, let’s take a glance one week into the future, courtesy of the Maine Ethics Commission, which published its July 20 agenda on Wednesday. The commission will be continuing on some familiar themes.

  • Democratic Rep. Diane Russell of Portland remains in the spotlight. The commission will consider two separate requests for investigations related to Russell’s email lists and whether they constitute campaign contributions. In documents filed with the commission, Russell acknowledges the value of her email lists — including one associated with her Working Families Political Action Committee — but argues that the latter qualifies as a trade secret under Maine law.
  • Former Democratic Rep. Joanne Twomey of Biddeford, who lost in the Democratic primary to incumbent Sen. Susan Deschambault, is under investigation for her use of seed money from the Maine Clean Elections Fund. Ethics commission staff found preliminarily that Twomey paid a staff member with public campaign funds for work he did prior to her qualifying for the funding. Twomey also faces scrutiny for missing a filing deadline in June.

I know that meeting is a week away but the issues are of interest because they involve the use of taxpayer money in the electoral process. Besides, ethics commission documents are juicy and full of intrigue, I’ve found. But then again, that’s only because of some fateful turn in my life years ago (I’m still trying to figure out what that was) that led to the fact I find this stuff fascinating.

Why can’t I just be addicted to the Red Sox or that new Polka Mango smartphone game like everyone else? — Christopher Cousins

Augusta lobbying powerhouse adds influential new partner

Lobbyist Chris Jackson is joining Mitchell-Tardy, the firm run by former Maine Democratic Party Chairman Jim Mitchell and former Maine House Republican Leader Josh Tardy.

Jackson, a former Republican legislative staffer, is splitting with Mike Mahoney, who started this week as in-house counsel at L.L. Bean.

The three new partners are big players in Augusta. Mitchell-Tardy represents a diverse list of powerhouse clients, from Central Maine Power, J.D. Irving, Wal-Mart and Anthem to the Maine Education Association and MaineGeneral Medical Center. Jackson has also worked with CMP and Irving.

They also get paid handsomely. Together, Jackson, Mitchell and Tardy received $293,000 in compensation from December 2015 through May, making up 12 percent of the $2.1 million paid to all registered lobbyists, according to Maine Ethics Commission data.

In an interview, Jackson said his new firm is “going to be able to do some really great things for our clients” and the merger will take effect “well in advance” of the next legislative session. — Michael Shepherd and Darren Fishell

Quick hits

  • Push poll: In Wednesday’s Daily Brief, we told you about what looks like a push poll against Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport. That report was based on a source who preferred to remain anonymous. We haven’t determined who is conducting the poll but were contacted by a handful of Mainers, all of them from Waldo County and one from Sagadahoc County, who also received the polling call.
  • Candidate drops out: The Knox County Republican Committee has announced that Wendy Pelletier has withdrawn as the Republican nominee in the race for the Rockland-area Senate District 12 seat which is currently held by Sen. David Miramant, who is seeking re-election. Knox County Republicans will gather at 6:45 p.m. on July 19 at the Trade Winds Inn in Rockland to choose a replacement for Pelletier. David Emery of Tenants Harbor is interested in the Republican nomination, according to a press release. The deadline for party caucuses to replace legislative candidates who have dropped out is July 25.
  • Toxic chemicals: Maine health professionals, educators and parents who are part of the Learning Disabilities Association of Maine will gather today at noon for a press conference at the Aucocisco School and Learning Center in Cape Elizabeth to advocate for the reduction of the use of toxic chemicals that they argue have been newly linked to a range of developmental disorders.
  • Spox moves on: Lindsay Crete, who is the spokeswoman for Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick — who is term limited out of office at the end of the year — announced Wednesday that she has taken a job as the communications director for the Hillary for Maine campaign. In sort of related news, Eves will host the second stop of his senior citizen issue listening tour this morning at Central Maine Community College in Auburn.
  • Presidential election map: The Morning Consult has published an interesting analysis of where the presidential race stands today. In short, it predicts a Hillary Clinton victory with a whopping 320 electoral votes if the election were held now (270 electoral votes are needed to win). The analysis has Maine in the “leaning Trump” category with the rest of New England for Clinton. That analysis comes after more recent national polls have shown voters’ preferences tilting toward Trump, specifically in key swing states such as Florida and Pennsylvania. Keep in mind that candidates usually see a bump in popularity as a result of their party’s convention. Republicans gather in Cleveland next week. Democrats get together the following week in Philadelphia, where airport workers announced Wednesday that they will welcome delegates to the City of Brotherly Love with a work stoppage.
  • Speaking of Republican speakers: A list of speakers for the Republican convention has been released. Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who was among the first elected officials to endorse Trump, is not on the list, nor are any other top Maine elected officials. LePage has said he does not plan to attend the convention. Also not on the list is Tom Brady, whose friendship with Trump has for months fueled gossip about endorsements and whether he would speak on behalf of the New York billionaire. Tim Tebow, a quarterback who was not good enough to earn a roster spot backing up Brady, is scheduled to speak at the convention, as are House Speaker Paul Ryan, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Trump’s wife and children, two Benghazi embassy attack survivors and retired astronaut Eileen Collins. George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, the two living former Republican presidents, do not plan to attend, nor will the party’s most recent presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain. It also appears that Clint Eastwood and the empty chair he spoke to at the 2012 convention will not be returning. See the full list here.

Reading list

Finally, my our reward

\m/ REBEL YELL \m/

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.