Good morning from Augusta, where the Daily Brief is on a holiday schedule through this week. A reminder: We’ll be posting in an infrequent and abbreviated fashion this week before returning to the normal daily cycle next week, when the Maine Legislature returns to work for the 2017 session.
But before that, lawmakers got a Christmas present from Gov. Paul LePage: A pamphlet called “Understanding and Appreciating the Value of Money.”
LePage spokesman Peter Steele said the governor discovered the book when it was sent to him by its author, who wrote it originally for his granddaughter.
Steele said LePage “thought it would be good for some of the legislators to have a basic understanding of how money and finance work” ahead of the session and that “too many legislators play politics with the taxpayers’ money.”
“It is a simple reminder that no matter what kind of political nonsense happens in the State House, Mainers expect their legislators to be fiscally responsible with their hard-earned tax dollars,” he said.
The pamphlets were delivered to lawmakers’ offices last week, but not all of them have gotten the message: Lindsay Crete, a spokeswoman for House Democrats, said Wednesday that the office got enough copies for all caucus members, but they haven’t been delivered to lawmakers yet.
It’s a continuation of what has been a sarcastic LePage tradition.
Last Christmas, he sent some Republican lawmakers a political allegory book called “If You’re Riding a Horse and It Dies, Get Off.” And in June 2015, he put up a Christmas tree and held a news conference puncuated by a honking toy pig to oppose the Legislature’s compromise budget. — Michael Shepherd
LePage’s chief lawyer leaving for private practice
Avery Day, LePage’s chief legal counsel, confirmed on Tuesday that he left his post last week after less than two years in the administration, citing the legislative schedule’s impact on his young family.
The former lobbyist was acting commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection before taking over as LePage’s top lawyer in February. He said he’ll start a new firm in Augusta with former Pierce Atwood colleague Dan Stevens that won’t do lobbying. Instead, he’ll focus on estate and real estate matters.
A respected voice in Augusta, Day presided over a calm period as LePage’s legal adviser, especially compared to predecessor Cynthia Montgomery, who became a judge after losing a unanimous decision in Maine’s highest court saying LePage missed his chance to veto 65 bills in 2015.
Day said he liked the job, but cited the hectic schedule’s impact on his 6- and 8-year-old kids as a main reason for the decision, saying he left now because he didn’t want to go through another legislative session.
“It was exciting and it was interesting,” Day said of the job. “You never knew what was going to happen and I really enjoyed being in the middle of it.” — Michael Shepherd
- Maine’s economy hits a benchmark in 2016, but rural areas still suffer — Darren Fishell, Bangor Daily News
- Maine tried allowing the sale of health insurance from other states. It didn’t work — Jackie Farwell, BDN
- Renewable power standards face uncertain future — Fred Bever, Maine Public
- Legislative Republican calls for special committee to tackle Maine’s drug crisis — Michael Shepherd, BDN
- Maine drank a lot in 2008. Adults are drinking even more now — Fishell
- Obama administration is close to announcing measures to punish Russia for election interference — The Washington Post
- Russians no longer dispute Olympic doping operation — The New York Times
- John Kerry, in a final, pointed plea, will outline a vision of Middle East peace — NYT
Fake news strikes in Augusta
My Facebook feed was overrun yesterday by people sharing this article about actor Will Ferrell’s trip to Augusta. The problem? It’s fake. The site traffics in cookie-cutter fake stories about celebrities’ trips to all kinds of small cities and towns.
It even got a share from The Red Barn, the seafood restaurant name-dropped in the article, with owner Laura Benedict wondering if she fed him. While she was quickly set straight by followers, many others believed it.
With all the talk of the impact of fake news around the election, this is a pretty good example of why it works. People want to believe things that reflect well on their hometown or belief system.
But it’s not hard to spot fake news and why would a site called NewsDaily12.com have the scoop if a celebrity came to Augusta instead of, say, the Kennebec Journal? Your friendly local reporters are always here to help. — Michael Shepherd