Sen. Susan Collins is visiting Hawaii this week during part of the Senate’s two-week spring recess, but the Maine Republican won’t stay long to enjoy the sights or the weather.

Collins will appear at a fundraising luncheon Wednesday for GOP Senate candidate Linda Lingle, a former Hawaii governor. The luncheon will be held at the Sheraton Waikiki and cost $60 per person or $600 for a table for 10.

Collins will arrive in Hawaii on Tuesday night and depart Thursday, according to her office. The only events she will participate in during her time in Hawaii are campaign-related. Collins also may attend a fundraising dinner Wednesday night, according to her office.

Collins is not up for re-election to a fourth term until 2014.

Meanwhile, GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, who will retire from the Senate at the end of the year after three terms, attended a fundraiser in New York City last week for the Women’s Campaign Fund and its affiliated political action committee. The fund says it supports “women leaders who support reproductive health choices for all, regardless of political party.”

At the Parties of Your Choice Gala, Snowe was presented with a lifetime achievement award by the group. The group declined to say how much was raised at the event.

No, it’s Iowa

The governor of Iowa, a big beef-producing state, isn’t too happy with Rep. Chellie Pingree over the Maine 1st District Democrat’s attacks on the ground beef filler dubbed “pink slime” by its critics.

But Pingree isn’t backing down.

GOP Gov. Terry Branstad told reporters last week that there has been a “smear campaign” against the product that the meat industry calls “finely textured lean beef trimmings,” and he slammed Pingree in the process.

“This woman (Pingree) has put on her website a whole lot of inaccurate, false, smear information,” Branstad was quoted saying in The Des Moines Register. “We need to expose this.”

Pingree wants the product banned from school lunches — the Obama administration says schools can opt not to serve it — and has introduced a bill to mandate that any beef products containing the filler be clearly labeled.

Asked about Branstad’s comments, Pingree said Friday via email, “The outrage over pink slime is driven by consumers and parents who don’t want their families eating it. The idea that there is some sort of orchestrated smear campaign just isn’t true. Once the public found out the truth about how this stuff is made they decided they didn’t want to eat it — it’s as simple as that.”

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel.

Keep post offices open

The U.S. Postal Service should not close facilities in Hampden or elsewhere around the country until Congress acts on postal reform legislation, says Snowe.

Snowe wrote a letter last week to U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe urging him to continue a moratorium on closures through Aug. 1.

The current moratorium ends in mid-May, and the Postal Service plans to close 223 of its 460 mail-processing facilities nationwide to cut costs, including its facility in Hampden. It will move that facility’s operations to its processing center in Scarborough.

“Moving forward on this plan before Congress has a chance to act will seriously degrade service, drive away customers, and establish an untenable business model for the future — something that Congress is working to prevent,” Snowe wrote.

Collins, one of the authors of proposed Postal Service overhaul legislation, also has criticized the plan to close Hampden and other facilities, as well as other Postal Service cost-cutting moves.

Collins said last month that the Postal Service is heading down a “disastrous” path of misguided cuts to facilities and services that will cost it customers.

Wants reserve released

Rep. Mike Michaud says President Barack Obama should consider releasing oil from the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help drive down the price of gas at the pump.

Maine’s Michaud, D-2nd District, was one of more than 50 House Democrats who signed a letter to Obama last week asking him to consider the move.

Michaud said past releases from the reserve have helped to create at least short-term decreases in gas prices, though he acknowledged that a reserve release is “no silver bullet” without a comprehensive national energy strategy.

Still, “We need to be doing everything we can to reduce the price of gas,” Michaud said in a prepared statement. “High prices threaten our economic recovery and hurt millions of Americans each time they fill up. Tapping the reserve is a short-term strategy that has worked in the past to combat spiking oil prices.”

Rep. Chellie Pingree also signed the letter.

It didn’t stay in Vegas

Collins was among the lawmakers expressing outrage last week at the news that the U.S. General Services Administration spent more than $822,000 on a training conference in Las Vegas.

Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement that it is “unbelievable” that questions weren’t raised before the 2010 junket.

“It defies belief that the government paid for six planning trips to the luxury resort where the conference was held. But even that wasn’t enough for GSA,” Collins said. “The agency actually wasted still more funds – some $12,000 – to hire an organization to locate the venue for the conference. Why then would GSA send out scouts to visit nine hotels? The contracting shenanigans and apparent quid-pro-quo deals uncovered by the Inspector General are outrageous and unethical.”

GSA Administrator Martha Johnson has resigned over the scandal.

Jonathan Riskind — 791-6280

[email protected]

Twitter: Twitter.com/MaineTodayDC

 


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