LePage takes aim at asylum seekers, says he might sue federal government

Gov. Paul LePage said his administration is considering suing the federal government to cover the state’s costs for caring for immigrants while their applications for asylum are being processed.

LePage said on his weekly radio appearance on WVOM that most of the asylum seekers in Maine don’t come directly from foreign countries but rather from other U.S. states. He also said that 70 percent of asylum seekers eventually are returned to their native countries.

“We’re looking into something we can do to sue the federal government for the resources it takes to take care of asylum seekers,” said LePage, who added that 60 asylum seekers are moving to Lewiston this week alone.

LePage’s assertions about immigrants could not be confirmed or debunked in time for the Daily Brief.

On another topic, LePage said recent events at the State House surrounding a marijuana legalization fix-it bill demonstrate that government is too gridlocked to be effective and needs to be changed. He suggested that the states hold a constitutional convention to change America’s form of government.

“The two-party system is broken and we’re probably going to be headed to a constitutional convention to fix our government,” said LePage. “It’s all about egos and ‘I want to be the one in power.’”

LePage had harsh words for some Maine legislators and, somewhat surprisingly, praise for others. He said Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon of Freeport is too inexperienced for her role and had nothing at all to say about Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport.

Predictably, he said one of his biggest allies is House Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport but here’s where the surprise was: LePage said his other ally is Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash, a Democrat with whom LePage had some of his most stormy clashes. In 2013, LePage accused Jackson of having a “black heart” and said infamously that Jackson “claims to be for the people but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.” LePage later apologized for the remark — sort of.

“He is a totally different guy than he was two years ago,” said LePage of Jackson on Tuesday. “Kudos to him. He’s not the problem.”

Despite LePage’s claim about how the Legislature is playing politics while he is not, the governor has established a pattern of attaching policy amendments to legislation and conditioning his overall support of bills on the success of the amendments. This is what he did with his last-minute amendment to the marijuana bill last week.

While this kind of maneuvering is commonplace in the Maine Legislature and elsewhere, the fact remains that it’s politics and the governor isn’t immune or innocent. — Christopher Cousins

Add Sessions to list of Trump nominees King will oppose

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King announced Monday that he will vote against confirmation of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general. King said he considers Sessions to be a friend but that “I am not voting to confirm a friendship. I am voting to confirm the next attorney general of the United States. And I believe that this individual will need to stand up to the president when they believe he is wrong. While I certainly have concerns with Sen. Sessions’ record, ultimately, I am concerned that he will not approach this critical role with the independence that is required ….”

In the same prepared statement announcing his opposition to Sessions, King said he will support Trump’s nomination of Rex Tillerson as U.S. secretary of state.

King previously said he would vote against Betsy DeVos’ nomination as education secretary.

Maine’s senior senator, Republican Susan Collins, introduced Sessions during his confirmation hearing, signalling her support for his nomination. She has not said publicly whether she would vote for Tillerson or DeVos. — Christopher Cousins

Maine Ethics Commission doles out fines

The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election practices convened Monday to adjudicate several campaign finance law violations. According to Jonathan Wayne, executive director, the commission debated some of the fines in detail but ended up with unanimous votes on the following:

  • The Senate Chairmans PAC, which supports Republican senators, was fined $500 for the late filing of a 24-hour report just before the election in November 2016. The PAC blamed a clerical error.
  • The Empowering Maine Leadership PAC, run by former veteran lawmaker Barry Hobbins, a Democrat, was fined $500 for late filings to reflect contributions it made to other PACs and a federal campaign committee.
  • The UBC Bad for ME PAC and the Friends of Maine Sportsmen Ballot Question Committee, which were opposed to last year’s gun sales background check ballot question, were fined $500 each for a series of late campaign finance filings in November 2016.
  • Former Republican Rep. Anthony Edgecomb of Fort Fairfield, who lost his reelection bid in November 2016, was fined $200 for filing a 24-hour campaign finance report 47 days late.
  • Democrat Rock Alley, who lost a Washington County Senate bid, was fined $200 for omitting a $5,063 expenditure on time in September 2016. (UPDATE: An earlier version identified Alley as Sen. Rock Alley. He lost in 2016 to Sen. Joyce Maker.)
  • Former Republican Rep. Michael McClellan of Raymond, who lost his re-election bid in 2016, was fined $200 for filing a 24-hour Report that was due in October 2016 late.

Quick hits

  • Maine DEP extends Wind Energy Act comment period: The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has released a second draft of a rule relative to the Wind Energy Act. The department held a public hearing recently in Farmington and will accept written comments until 5 p.m. on Feb. 17. For more information about the proposed rules or to make a comment, click here.
  • Maine Bureau of Insurance investigations netted nearly $1 million in 2016: Maine Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa announced Monday that his office fielded more than 7,000 calls and 790 complaints on a range of insurance-related issues in 2016 and collected $970,000 in recovered funds. The Property and Casualty and Consumer Health Care divisions handled the bulk of the investigations. Consumers with questions or complaints about their insurance coverage can visit this website, call 1-800-300-5000 or email Insurance.PFR@maine.gov.
  • U.S. Senate will receive new data on financial fraud against senior citizens: Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who chairs the Senate Aging Committee, announced that the committee will receive updated statistics on Wednesday. The 2017 Fraud Book is expected to detail some $2.9 billion in fraud committed against seniors annually as well as the committee’s “Top 10 Scams Targeting our Nation’s Seniors.”
  • Ann LePage kicks off Read to ME Challenge: Ann LePage, the governor’s wife, will kick off the annual Read to ME Challenge on Thursday at the Blaine House. Military children and parents are invited to attend from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. The idea behind the event is to spur parents to read to their children for at least 15 minutes, take a photo and post it on social media in order to spur other parents to do the same. For more information, click here.

Reading list

One thing most Americans are wrong about

If you’re not a fan of the National Football League, you can probably stop reading here. If you’re not a fan of the New England Patriots, you are entitled to your opinion, even if it’s wrong.

Maybe you knew that the Pats are playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday. Again. For a record-breaking ninth time.

New Public Policy Polling data finds that 53 percent of respondents are rooting for the Atlanta Falcons to win the Super Bowl, including 58 percent of Republicans, 54 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of independents. Only 43 percent of respondents view the Pats favorably, compared with 55 percent who feel the same way about the Falcons.

Bear with me here, this is perplexing: Pats Quarterback Tom Brady won “favorite quarterback in the NFL” with 22 percent support, AND “least favorite quarterback in the NFL,” with 24 percent “support.”

Just goes to show Brady can’t lose at anything even if he tried. Here’s your soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins


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.