LePage opposition makes it harder for casino campaign to shake ‘phony’ label

Good morning from Augusta, where backers of a ballot question to allow construction of a casino in York County continue to weather criticism for their campaign tactics.

Gov. Paul LePage used this week’s radio address to attack the people behind Question 1 on the November ballot for being “misleading.” He called it a “phony deal” and  dismissed campaign claims that voting “yes” would lead to more jobs and improved education funding in Maine.

Meanwhile, the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee wants answers. The committee meets this morning with hopes of grilling campaign operatives about their funding sources and what some lawmakers seem to believe is a lack of transparency. But the campaign’s paid operatives do not seem poised to cooperate. Through her attorney Avery Day, who coincidentally once served as LePage’s chief legal adviser, Horseracing Jobs Fairness treasurer Cheryl Timberlake informed the committee that she would not show up today. Day’s letter cited an ongoing ethics commission investigation and the fact that Timberlake planned to be out of state.

Nevertheless, the advertising blitz for Question 1 on the November ballot is in full swing. A new “Yes on 1” ad, which makes no mention at all that Question 1 would allow a casino in York County, purports to have regular Mainers talking about the benefits of the question’s passage, such as funding for public institutions and job creation. However, campaign finance reports filed with the Maine Ethics Commission show that two women in the advertisement are being paid by the campaign. Rebecca Foster of Falmouth and Charlene Cushing of Farmington are both listed as “campaign spokespersons” in the filings and were paid $10,000 and $15,000 in September, respectively. Here’s their soundtrack.

Reading List

  • Another Republican is vying to replace LePage. Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport announced Tuesday morning that he is running for governor, setting up a June Republican primary that includes the Legislature’s top three Republicans, plus at least one other GOP heavyweight.
  • A Maine House Republican has left the party. Rep. Norm Higgins of Dover-Foxcroft said Tuesday that partisan politics — particularly around the bruising state budget debate earlier this year that led to a government shutdown — are what caused him to un-enroll from the GOP and become an independent. That leaves the balance in the House at 74 Democrats, 69 Republicans, one Green Independent and six independents, with one seat vacant.
  • Obamacare subsidies might not be dead yet. After President Donald Trump’s executive order last week appeared to spell doom for the subsidies that help make health insurance premiums more affordable for many who buy their insurance through the marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington appear to have struck a deal to restore the subsidy program. Trump praised the plan as a “short-term solution.” But this is Congress, so expect further complications.
  • The pope costume is taken, but you still might be able to buy a Cleopatra getup. In a sad story that’s another example of how internet sales are affecting classic Maine businesses, the BDN’s Beth Brogan reports that Drapeau’s Costumes is selling its full collection of handmade costumes before closing at the end of this year. The store, which started decades ago in Lewiston and moved to Lisbon Falls, put its full stock of more than 4,000 handmade items on sale. Give the seamstresses a hug after you pay for the Viking costume you will say is for Halloween, but actually wear around the house.

Look out: Shepherd is in full holiday mode

You are to be forgiven if you don’t know what the Daily Brief’s political team looks like. After all, our looks are part of the reason we’re in print journalism, not on television.

Robert Long and Christopher Cousins have both had beards and mustaches for as long as we’ve known each other and we’ll probably remain that way forever unless there’s an accident lighting a gas grill or something. Michael Shepherd, who you may have noticed has this week off, doesn’t have a single stub (we think that’s the singular of stubble; y’all will let us know if not) anywhere on his cherubic face.

“Sorry to leave you guys this week,” wrote Mike Tuesday in a chat channel. “Looks like a lot of news.”

We’ve got it handled, Mike, and it’s National No Beard Day. Time to get all crazy with some Aqua Velva or something, but keep it somewhat under control. We need you back on Monday. Here’s your soundtrack.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading it on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

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.