PORTLAND — The Maine Heritage Policy Center, the Attorney General and a group of House Democrats are weighing in on the constitutional questions around the business activities of state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin.

The House had asked the Supreme Judicial Court to review questions about what constitutes “trade or commerce” – activities the Maine Constitution prohibits the treasurer from engaging in – and how such business activity would affect a treasurer’s status.

The state’s highest court invited interested persons to submit briefs about the matter. The court also asked whether the issue merits an opinion from the justices, which is allowed in response to questions from the Legislature or governor under certain circumstances.

Poliquin is a Republican who ran for governor in 2010 and is now running for U.S. Senate.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center argues that it would be an erosion of the separation of powers for the justices to answer the questions posed by the House.

Attorney General William Schneider contends in his brief that circumstances don’t warrant an opinion from the court.

The group of House Democrats argues that Poliquin is engaged in “trade or commerce” as the businessman behind the development of the Popham Beach Club and nearby condominium project in Phippsburg.

Poliquin applied to the Phippsburg Planning Board last year for a permit to expand the beach club.
The Democrats in the group are Reps. Emily Cain, Terry Hayes, Mark Dion, Charles Priest, Sharon Treat, John Martin, Jon Hinck and Maeghan Maloney.

Dion, who represents Portland, was the one who first raised constitutional questions about Poliquin’s business activities. He sought an opinion from Schneider, who responded that Poliquin should disassociate himself from his businesses and refrain from appearing before any governmental bodies on their behalf. Schneider also said that there was a lack of clear direction from the courts.

No one else submitted a brief to the court by today’s noon deadline.

Hinck and Schneider, a Republican, are also running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Olympia Snowe.

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