James O’Keefe is disappointed by journalists these days.
O’Keefe, 27, founded a nonprofit organization called Project Veritas and has engaged in undercover “sting” operations where he tries to expose “waste, fraud, abuse and dishonesty.”
In an interview discussing his group’s recent effort in Maine, O’Keefe lamented the need for Project Veritas.
“Where is the mainstream media? Why aren’t the newspapers doing these types of reports and uncovering any types of misbehavior amongst these employees? Why did it take 23-year-old guys with a nonprofit to do this type of thing?” he asked.
But despite O’Keefe’s promotion, most viewers argue the 49-minute tape recently released in Maine falls far short of “shocking” as it was billed by the Maine Heritage Policy Center and Americans For Prosperity of Maine.
O’Keefe said similar efforts in several states, aimed at depicting state workers who are complicit with those seeking to defraud the Medicaid system, have been taken seriously by law enforcement.
“But people don’t do this type of good muckraking very often. There are some good journalists who do things, but for the most part … I would say that it is pathetic that 22- and 23-year-old volunteers can launch multiple state attorney general investigations,” he said.
O’Keefe also defended his work against claims that it is edited to deceive viewers or distort reality to serve a conservative end.
“Project Veritas rises to a new level of transparency and reporting accountability by releasing the full, uncut, unedited interactions of our dealings with these people,” he said.
“I frankly call upon all reporters and journalists to release their full unedited reporter notebooks to accompany their selectively edited articles. Because I think we live in a better society if people did that.”
LePage heads to Aroostook
The next Capitol for a Day event will be held in Presque Isle on Thursday, Aug. 25.
The town hall event — free and public — will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. at the University of Maine Presque Isle, 181 Main St.
This is the seventh county the governor has visited since he started the program in February. Although questions are submitted to a moderator during the event, the town-hall style program has led to interesting exchanges between the governor and the public — both with those who support him and those who don’t.
And the award goes to …
A union group has created a website for people to vote on the dubious distinction of “Worst Governor Ever.”
The Transport Workers of America also created a video that features actors portraying freshmen Republican Govs. Paul LePage, John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Scott of Florida and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, boasting why they should win the title. All four governors have invoked union ire for steps they’ve taken to cut costs and curb union bargaining power since getting elected.
The actor depicting LePage touts his tearing down of a mural deemed too “pro-labor,” telling the NAACP to “kiss my butt” and claims to be attempting to roll back child labor laws. The actor also says he hired his 22-year-old daughter and pays her “three times” the salary of firefighters and police officers.
(In reality, LePage’s daughter, Lauren, earns $41,000 as the assistant to the governor’s chief of staff, which would mean firefighters and police only earn $13,666.)
The parody video can be seen at www.worstgovernorever.com.
The new streamlining task force made it clear last week that it wants the public to post cost-saving ideas on the state’s website. (Go to maine.gov, scroll down the page three-quarters of the way and look under “Hot Topics.”)
The task force, which is charged with finding at least $25 million in savings, doesn’t want to get bogged down with public hearings. But it does want helpful suggestions from the public.
Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, emphasized the idea of “helpful suggestions,” saying last time, lawmakers were flooded with thousands of pages of ideas from people with a grudge. In particular, he said it’s not helpful to suggest the elimination of the Legislature, cutting the Legislature in half, or “doing away with legislative salaries.”
“People said ‘I hate so and so today and this is what I want,’” he said.
There are several suggestions already posted on the website, including drug testing for welfare recipients, banning state workers from Facebook and privatizing child protective services.
With the subject line: “Land for Maine’s Future is Out of Money!” an email last week from the Natural Resources Council of Maine urged people to invite lawmakers for a “walk, paddle or wildlife watching at a local LMF-funded property.”
Last month, the board that oversees the land conservation program pledged the last of its money from a 2010 bond issue. And, since no new bonds were passed by lawmakers earlier this year, there’s no money coming in for the foreseeable future.
Lawmakers may consider a bond next year, but it’s unclear what that would entail. The Appropriations Committee held over several bond proposals, but with continued national economic woes, there’s not likely to be a big appetite to borrow a lot of money.
DECD hiring now
The state Department of Economic and Community Development is in the process of hiring four “account executives” to help bolster services for businesses, DECD Commissioner George Gervais said last week.
The positions pay $60,000-$71,000 a year. Deputy Commissioner Deb Neuman will head up the unit, a key part of LePage’s plan to make the state more business friendly, Gervais said. “The governor has a strong interest in the account executives role,” he said. “That best fits here at DECD.”
On the radio
State House reporter Susan Cover will be on NewsRadio 560 WGAN at 8:08 a.m. today.
–Susan Cover and Rebekah Metzler contributed to this report