It’s a day of reckoning for Maine Clean Election candidates

Good morning from Augusta, where legislative and gubernatorial candidates using Maine’s taxpayer-funded campaign system will be watching to see if Gov. Paul LePage’s administration releases a key disbursement of campaign funds pursuant to a court order.

The state must make taxpayer funds available to candidates today … unless the LePage administration appeals. A Maine judge ruled last week that the Republican governor couldn’t block roughly $1 million in payments to legislative and gubernatorial candidates using the Clean Election program. That ruling said the state must make funds owed to candidates available within three business days. Today is that third day.

We should know by day’s end if LePage’s budget department has taken steps to release the money to the Maine Ethics Commission, which would then pass it to candidates. The LePage administration could also appeal the decision to a higher court and ask for a delay in enforcing last week’s decision, which could drag things out for weeks longer.

This would be a shot in the arm for candidates, but they’re still waiting for more funding as well. The money that could be released on Tuesday was due to candidates in June, when payments were owed to 120 candidates. but that’s only one of two battle fronts around the Clean Election program that was enhanced by voters in 2015 and more money is locked away right now.

That’s because the Legislature still hasn’t returned to Augusta to strike a deal that would fix a legal drafting error keeping the $4.8 million currently in the Clean Election fund from being disbursed. Republicans in the House of Representatives have held up a fix; Democrats have held up approval of a compromise tax conformity plan.

Legislators could come back in the dog days of summer to resolve that or advocates could go back into court — an idea that they have already teased — to try to get a judge to release the money. It’s a deeply uncertain campaign season, but we’ll learn more about it today.

Campaign aims to sway Collins against Trump court pick

Progressive advocacy groups are pushing Maine’s senior senator to uphold her moderate reputation. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins could cast a crucial vote later this year when the Senate votes whether to accept President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, a coalition called Protect Our Care, which seeks to preserve components of the Affordable Care Act, launched a television ad in the Bangor market. Also planned are a number of protests in Maine.

This is just one example of the calculated, anti-Kavanaugh push that is being directed at Collins as the confirmation vote nears. Collins hasn’t revealed how she is leaning on Kavanaugh, but she hasn’t voted against a Supreme Court nominee during more than 20 years in the Senate.

Reading list

  • The House speaker asked a Westbrook legislator to resign after allegations of sexual misconduct; he may serve out his term. An article published Friday in The Bollard cited anonymous source who accused Rep. Dillon Bates, D-Westbrook, of having relationships with high school girls over the past decade, during which he has served as a coach and teacher. After that, House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, called for his resignation. Bates’ attorney called the allegations “baseless” and said he’d serve out his term. On Monday, Larry Malone, the superintendent of Regional School Unit 50, said Bates informed him that he wouldn’t return to a seasonal job as a track and field coach at Massabesic High School.
  • Trump’s voter fraud commission planned to find fraud before it started working but found no evidence to support its goal. That’s according to documents that were released last week in response to a lawsuit by Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who led the commission, Dunlap wrote that the commission documents he obtained through a court order show there was a “pre-ordained outcome” for the commission.
  • Maine power companies were cleared in their response to last year’s windstorm. The Maine Public Utilities Commission has concluded that Maine’s utility companies reacted “reasonably” to the October 2017 storm that left thousands of Mainers without electricity for days. A PUC report released last week said Central Maine Power and Emera Maine were adequately prepared for the storm but faulted them for poor communication with customers.
  • Bangor cleared a homeless encampment last month. It ended up with dozens of smaller ones. In a bid to clear out the 40 or so homeless people who lived in an encampment near the Penobscot River, the city cut down growth along the riverbank in July. Now, a local homeless shelter official says most of the people who were there “are in the same situation, just somewhere else in the city.” Some of them have gone to private property and most of the people camping outside suffer from severe mental illness or substance use issues.

Easy knocks for a tough guy

We should be used to actors landing prominent roles in government after Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others, but the news over the weekend that silver screen tough guy Steven Seagal has been named Russia’s special envoy to the United States was a bit of a shock.

In 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested to the Obama administration that Seagal be named honorary Russian consul to California and Arizona, to which the Obama administration replied “you’ve got to be kidding.”

My familiarity with Seagal dates back to a time in my life when I enjoyed watching movie toughies beat and bludgeon people. Like many teenage boys, I watched a lot of movies like that and for the most part was enthusiastic. Seagal was part of a scene in “Hard to Kill” that disturbed me, even back then, when he dispatched a bad guy by breaking his arm at the elbow by forcing it backwards.

I’m queasy just thinking about it. And humming today’s soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins


Friday’s Daily Brief had an incorrect reference to a legislative race. Rep. Jessica Fay, D-Raymond, is running against Republican Greg Foster of Raymond, not former Rep. Tom Tyler, R-Windham. Tyler is running in a neighboring district against Rep. Mark Bryant, D-Windham.

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

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Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.