Politics – Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel https://www.centralmaine.com Features news from the Kennebec Journal of Augusta, Maine and Morning Sentinel of Waterville, Maine. Sun, 23 Sep 2018 13:15:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Alan Caron: Longtime builder of coalitions first had to rebuild himself https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/23/alan-caron-longtime-builder-of-coalitions-first-had-to-rebuild-himself/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/23/alan-caron-longtime-builder-of-coalitions-first-had-to-rebuild-himself/#respond Sun, 23 Sep 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=1044766 FREEPORT — He’d heard his mother crying behind the closed bedroom door one too many times. She had had a child out of wedlock 18 years earlier. The church had excommunicated her.

He was the child.

Several of his friends had private grievances of their own with the Catholic clergy of Waterville, then a powerful and not entirely accountable force in the Franco-American community they belonged to. They decided to do something about it, something that would set Alan Caron’s life back before it had really begun.

“We went off to every Catholic church and took all of the silk robes of the priests in an attempt to disrobe or defrock them,” Caron recalls, 49 years later. “They had no monetary value – if we were interested in money we would have been taking other things. But as a political statement, it was a dismal failure.”

A few days later, they’d repacked the stolen items so they could be returned, Caron says, when the police raided his apartment. He’d wind up serving eight months in prison, no great start in life for a ninth-grade dropout from a struggling family who’d already suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Yet he turned his life around, became a community organizer, earned a graduate degree from Harvard, helped an upstart politician rise to the Maine House, the state Senate and the United States Congress, and became one of the state’s most sought-after political strategists of the early 1990s. He helped stop the widening of the Maine Turnpike, discrimination against Portland’s gays and lesbians, and abuses by prison administrators. He brought the Brookings Institution to Maine to study how to transform the economy and became a voice for postpartisan politics as an informal campaign adviser to Angus King and as a columnist in this newspaper.

Now Caron, who’ll turn 67 this week, is one of two independent candidates for governor in this year’s four-way contest, the first bid for office of a man who has helped advise so many campaigns. His priorities include expanding Medicaid and broadband internet access; fostering energy independence via renewable technologies; supporting small manufacturers and other entrepreneurs who are trying to grow Maine businesses; offering two years of no-cost higher education to students who stay in Maine; and improving the efficiency of government. The only poll of the race so far, released last month, placed him last among the candidates, with only 2.6 percent of the vote, far behind Republican Shawn Moody and Democrat Janet Mills.

“I’m somebody who has survived and lifted myself out of a series of accidents, bad luck and bad choices,” Caron says. “And the skills that you develop when you have been at the bottom looking up and climbed your way out I think are exactly the kind of skills that will be useful for Maine right now, because in a sense we have to climb our way out of a lot of accidents, bad luck and bad choices.”

A childhood accident

Alan Reginald Caron was born Sept. 26, 1951, at Sisters Hospital in Waterville, where his mother, Lucille Labbe, had been born. Lucille had two older children from a previous marriage and, when Alan was 19 months old, married Hank Caron, who adopted his stepson. They lived in an apartment on the city’s South End, then a solidly Franco-American neighborhood of millworkers and home to most of Caron’s aunts and uncles.

His mother worked multiple jobs – short-order cook, house cleaner, stitcher of cuffs at the Hathaway shirt factory – and was the first in her family to speak English. His stepfather was a big band jazz musician who had played for Sam Donahue in the 1940s, before alcoholism derailed his career and nearly killed him when Alan was in elementary school.

His sister married when Alan was 8, and his brother was working full time the following year. “And my father was drinking or gone on the road,” he adds. “I grew up having to be really self-sufficient.”

Caron at his first communion with his mother, Lucille, who worked as a short-order cook, house cleaner and stitcher. Photo courtesy of Alan Caron

In the summer of 1962 his neighborhood friends hung a rope “Tarzan swing” from the second-floor outdoor stairwell of a triple-decker apartment building. It let go, dropping 10-year-old Alan to the pavement, face first, knocking him unconscious and injuring his brain. Thereafter he had seizures and blackouts and would often wake up on the ground with friends or bystanders trying to restrain him. He says doctors medicated him heavily – anti-seizure medication “and other stuff.” When he was 12, a doctor gave him devastating news.

“He looked at me and he said, ‘You will never be able to work. You should never exert yourself. You will never drive. And I highly recommend that you don’t get married, because it could be hereditary,’ ” Caron says. “There’s probably nothing worse you can say to a pre-teen than that you have no future, and I incorporated the idea that I had none.” Between the drugs and the injury, his school performance collapsed, despite the efforts of teachers and his principal. “By the time I got to the ninth grade, it was senseless to continue.” He dropped out and fell into destructive behavior.

At age 15, the seizures stopped – his brain had apparently healed itself – but Caron says the doctors kept him on heavy medications, dissuading him from dropping them when he would bring it up. He continued his downward spiral. “I did drugs. I did rock ‘n’ roll. I got in trouble with the law,” he says. “Everything was crazy. Everything was an expression of anger.”

Then he and his friends got caught with the stolen vestments. He got probation, married another high school dropout, had two kids and worked as a carpenter. In the fall of 1971 he was charged with stealing cameras, jewelry and a gun – falsely, he says – and the case was promptly dismissed. But Caron was arrested four days later, brought before the same judge, and charged with violating his probation for the incident.

Alan Caron pauses outside the Waterville apartment building where he grew up. He had a brain injury when he was 10 after falling from a “Tarzan swing” he and his friends hung from a second-floor outdoor stairwell. The seizures stopped five years later, but the fall began a downward spiral that led him to drop out of high school. He’d later gain notoriety as the “dropout at Harvard” after being accepted to the school’s Master’s in Public Administration program. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

The next day he was delivered to the prison in Windham to begin a one-to-three-year sentence. He spent eight months there, and would later report witnessing staff using prison labor to refurbish their own furniture, repair their cars, or cut hay and firewood on their property.

Caron had a knack for organizing. A bassist, he formed a prison rock band and persuaded the chaplain to let them hold a talent show. The production – they played the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” – led the men to organize an inmates’ council, which published a mimeographed newsletter and aired grievances with administrators. It was shut down months later in the aftermath of a minor riot.

Caron, who was by then on work release, says he was the one who got word of the uprising to the press, surreptitiously placing a phone call from his work site to Pine Tree Legal Assistance, the federally funded organization that represented poor plaintiffs. Months later he and many of his friends, having finished their sentences, gathered at Pine Tree’s Portland offices to organize a class-action lawsuit to stop the use of unpaid labor. Instead they founded a statewide organization to advocate for prisoners’ rights and prison reform, the Statewide Correctional Alliance for Reform, or SCAR. Caron was its president.

A brush with violent radicals

“The sources of crime are rooted in poverty, unemployment, underemployment, competitiveness and pressure,” Caron told the Maine Sunday Telegram in 1974. “People get drunk and commit crimes. But why do people drink? Maybe because they work in fish factories 40 hours a week.” SCAR, he promised, was going to change the system.

The tiny organization had early successes and favorable press. It introduced legislation to guarantee working prisoners received the minimum wage and to allow conjugal visits for married prisoners, and its members testified at legislative and sentencing hearings and organized large outdoor rock concerts to raise money at a farm in Bowdoinham intended to be a future halfway house. Their bills were tabled, but legislators asked Gov. Ken Curtis to set up a task force to investigate prison conditions, to which Caron was appointed. Five months after forming, the group claimed hundreds of members, many of whom were idealistic young people who had never been imprisoned themselves. Caron helped build alliances with progressive legislators and funding relationships with the United Way of Greater Portland, the Roman Catholic Church and the Quakers.

Alan Caron, right, in 1973. Around this time, Caron created an advocacy group for prisoners’ rights and reform called SCAR. It wasn’t long before a rogue faction took shape, led by a hardened convict by the name of Raymond Levasseur. Photo courtesy of Alan Caron

But SCAR had a dark side, a faction led by a hardened convict named Raymond Levasseur, whose own Augusta-based prisoner advocacy group merged with Caron’s in the middle of 1973. With Cameron Bishop, a federal fugitive from the Weather Underground, Levasseur began building an underground guerrilla cell and opened a Maoist bookshop, Red Star North, at 865 Congress St. in Portland. Levasseur’s militancy only increased in August 1974, when the Portland Police Department revealed it had arrested one of its patrolmen and admitted him to a psychiatric ward because, over meetings and target practices, he had been trying to recruit fellow officers into a death squad that would kill ex-convicts and dispose of them outside the city. The group started to shatter.

“We were all hippie dippies, peace and love, but he was hard-edge but very, very intelligent,” Caron recalls. “He slowly, systematically took things over and tried to oust me, brutally attacked and threatened me. I lived in the real danger of being killed for standing up to those guys.”

In March 1975, Levasseur and Bishop were arrested in a Rhode Island bank’s parking lot minutes ahead of an armored truck’s arrival, sitting in a car full of guns. Levasseur posted $31,000 bail with the help of a SCAR girlfriend’s trust fund and went underground. Subsequently SCAR’s founding vice president, Richard J. Picariello, was charged with helping bomb a jet at Boston Logan and a Massachusetts courthouse. At Picariello’s trial, Caron testified that he had talked another SCAR member, Joseph Aceto, out of a plan to assassinate Curtis, a federal judge and others, The Associated Press reported at the time.

SCAR never recovered from the adverse publicity, and the group disbanded in April 1976. Caron led a series of study groups trying to build a “Maine Poor and Working People’s Party,” but attendees told University of Massachusetts Amherst researcher Daniel Chard, who wrote his 2011 history master’s thesis on SCAR, that these were “often incredibly boring and dogmatic,” and the effort fizzled.

Community organizer

Around this time, Caron says, he spurned his doctors’ advice, weaned himself off his medications and began pulling himself together.

“What happened to me since then is that anger gave way over time to other things, affection, all the good stuff,” he recalls. “All these things had to be rediscovered. I had to leave the old circles of friends, because they were destructive. I had this picture on my desk of me at 8 years old, and I knew I had to get back to that kid, I had to remember who I was and go back there, before the (Tarzan) swing, strip it all away.”

He started a newspaper, the Maine Issue, aimed at organizing working people and forming an organization to effect social change. It failed after a few months, leaving him with a new typesetting machine and payments on the $10,000 he borrowed to purchase it. To support his family – he was raising his two kids alone in an apartment above the business – he started a graphics business that, amazingly, grew quickly before it, too, collapsed in 1980. “We had three graphic artists, printing presses, the whole thing, and we had no idea what we were doing,” he says. “But it was an important transition for me, from full-time activist to someone who had to have a business plan.”

Not long thereafter, Caron walked into the annual meeting of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Association, just around the corner from his building. Members were complaining about the kids on the streets. “I went up and said, ‘I was one of those kids on other streets. I think I can help here,’ ” he recalls. A year later he was the group’s president.

The association grew rapidly, “from six people around a kitchen table” to 600 members and five staffers in just three years. It won a federal grant to install solar panels on homes, administered a heating fuel club to buy in bulk, and started a housing co-op. “He knew how to find the right allies, to see the fundamentals of what was possible, to break down the challenges into fundamental steps and build an organization based on his values and needs,” says former U.S. Rep. Tom Andrews, who served on the association’s board. “He was very good at all that.”

His life completely turned around. Gov. Joe Brennan, a Munjoy Hill native himself, pardoned him in 1982. “I pardoned a good number of people who made not such smart decisions when they were very young, and I’m proud of those, even when it hurt me in the future campaigns,” Brennan says. “I thought it made sense to give people a second chance.”

In 1983 Caron applied to the Master’s in Public Administration program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. After contentious debate within the admissions committee, he was accepted, becoming the first person ever admitted to the one-year program – where half the students already had at least one graduate degree – without a college diploma. He gained notoriety as the “dropout at Harvard” and was featured on the “CBS Morning News.”

He borrowed $20,000, moved to Cambridge with his two teenagers and adjusted to an academic environment. “In the past I’ve been guilty of doing too much acting and not enough planning,” he told the Press Herald that winter. “Here many of the people are just the opposite – brilliant people, but with theories that my practical experience tells me are really off the wall.” He also said Harvard had given him “time to reflect” about what he wanted to do next.

The go-to political strategist

Caron graduated in 1984 and returned to Munjoy Hill, where he threw himself into helping his friend Tom Andrews win the local Democratic state Senate primary against the sitting state Senate president, Gerry Conley Jr. “We were given no chance in the world of beating him,” says Caron, who had also helped Andrews win his state House seat in 1982.

Andrews won the election and in 1990 went on to win the 1st District U.S. House seat against sitting Attorney General Jim Tierney, this time with Caron as his communications consultant.

“In community organizing, you do so much with so little and you pick up skills in doing that that end up being valuable for an electoral campaign,” says Andrews, a progressive Democrat who’d led campaigns against the Maine Yankee nuclear plant. “In all these races it was an uphill climb, but the key to success was the nuts and bolts of organizing: knocking on doors, understanding people’s concerns and needs, and translating that into an army of volunteers who believe what you believe. Then you have a depth and capacity that others who do not approach politics this way do not have.”

By now, Caron had become the go-to political strategist in southern Maine. He campaigned against nuclear weapons in 1984, led the successful effort to block the widening of the Maine Turnpike in 1991 and helped striking lobstermen win the right to sell their catch at the Portland Fish Exchange. In 1992 he helped the LGBT community defend employment discrimination protections in the city of Portland and served as state political director for a dark-horse presidential candidate named Bill Clinton.

In 1991, Alan Caron helped manage a coalition that was able to block the proposed widening of the Maine Turnpike. In back is Peter Troast, one of the organizers of the effort. Staff file photo by Gordon Chibroski

No longer rubbing elbows with Maoists, he represented business leaders like Paul D. Merrill of Merrill Marine Terminal and waterfront condo developer Eastern Point Associates, and fought against the successful 1984 Portland waterfront referendum that restricted non-marine development on the water side of Commercial Street. These campaigns and clients, the Press Herald reported in 1992, “simultaneously boosted his stock in the political mainstream and permanently alienated some of his former comrades.”

At the peak of his influence on electoral politics, he led a group called New Leadership – ’94, which sought to elect progressive Democrats in place of the state’s entrenched party leaders. “There was an exhaustion with Joe Brennan, so this group assembled to interview all the Democratic gubernatorial candidates and Angus King to see if we could come to some agreement around something,” Caron recalls. “It was a fantastic process, but we couldn’t agree.” Stalemated, the group disbanded, and Caron, ironically, signed on with the Brennan campaign as communications director. “I didn’t think anyone could beat him,” he recalls.

He was wrong about that. King defeated Brennan and Republican nominee Susan Collins in a four-way race. Caron emerged from the campaign disillusioned with electoral campaigning.

“I’d always functioned with what I was passionate about, with hopefulness, and then I found myself locked in with people lobbing missiles at one another and attacking each other, and these professional industry people who were paid assassins and mercenaries,” he recalls. “I had friends who had been along the same steps as me and went on to be national political consultants, and I didn’t want that.”

He decided to make some money, pivoting Caron Communications to strategic consulting work for Bath Iron Works and other companies. The transition wasn’t entirely smooth. In 1997 he was slapped with a short-lived federal lien for $53,717 in overdue taxes – payroll tax liability, he says, garnered because he hadn’t had the heart to lay off employees as quickly as he should have. But business picked up thereafter. He bought a waterfront home in South Freeport in 1998 and stabilized his finances; this year he and his wife loaned $485,000 to his gubernatorial campaign.

Alan Caron speaks with his friend Liz Colburn on Wednesday inside an RV that doubles as a campaign office. Caron, who turns 67 this week, wants to enact ideas he put forth in two books: making government more efficient and creating an economy driven by innovation.

Smart growth champion

In 1999 he joined Freeport’s planning board, where an interest in smart growth policies was kindled. Freeport was in the midst of an effort to combat sprawl – low-density development that eats up open spaces and makes provision of services inefficient. He researched the issue and rose to chairman by 2001, championing ordinance changes that would encourage denser, village-like development and protect streams and other environmental features, a plan that would improve the town’s finances, foster growth, and protect the town’s brand and quality of life. Much of it was passed by the town council, but not a plan to create an entirely new village west of Interstate 295.

“I came to believe we needed a single statewide organization that could bring all the folks together working on land use protection and smart growth,” he says. In 2002 he convened a meeting of 30 of those very folks at the home of the late Maine Times founder Peter Cox, the result of which was the creation of GrowSmart Maine, a nonprofit intended to take the lead on fighting sprawl.

Caron, the group’s president, responded to a call for proposals from the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, which was looking for cities and regions to partner with. There were a dozen competitors, but GrowSmart had the winning proposal, including $1 million in philanthropic commitments to underwrite and promote the Brookings study. “He was a superb coalition builder, very strategic about messaging and execution and clearly understood the different networks within Maine,” says Bruce Katz, who directed the Brookings program at the time. “He was one of the best I’ve met in my life, and really able to capture what makes Maine so special.”

The resulting 2006 report, “Charting Maine’s Future,” shaped discussion of Maine’s economic future for several years. Its central pitch: Improve government efficiency and invest the savings in a $200 million R&D fund and other measures to jump-start an innovation-driven economy. But the Great Recession of 2008 and the 2010 election of Paul LePage – whose administration showed little interest in many of the recommendations – left the study on the shelf.

During this period, Caron met Kristina Egan, executive director of a similar organization in the Bay State, the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance. “I was intrigued by his ideas, because he was really bringing the economic development piece into how we make our communities stronger, and many of our colleagues weren’t doing that at the time,” says Egan, who is now executive director of the Greater Portland Council of Governments. “So we had this great philosophical and intellectual relationship before the rest.” They married in 2009 and have a son.

The 2008 recession dealt a brutal blow to GrowSmart, however. In June 2009 it announced it was scrapping a follow-up report, laying off six of 12 staffers, and would need $60,000 in short order to avoid a complete shutdown. Caron, who says donors had reneged on $110,000 in pledges over a two-week period, stepped down. “It shocked me that people could do a written pledge and then reverse them,” Caron says.

Maggie Drummond-Bahl, a staffer who took over as interim CEO, says the parting of the ways was amicable but had also been driven by tensions between the board – which had signed on to an anti-sprawl outfit – and Caron’s increasing interest in wider economic development issues. “The organization wasn’t ready to continue down that road,” she says.

Caron did, however. He started Envision Maine, a one-person nonprofit that spearheaded efforts to implement the Brookings plan. He published and co-authored two books, “Reinventing Maine Government” in 2010 and “Maine’s Next Economy” in 2015, which made detailed recommendations on government efficiency and how to create an innovation-driven economy, respectively. (Disclosure: In 2011 this reporter worked on the early phases of the second report and wrote a chapter on Maine’s historical context.) But Caron admits the broader effort hasn’t lifted off the launch pad.

“I’m not sure we have deliverables, which is part of the problem and is why I’m running,” he says. “People ask all the time how we do it, but we can’t with leadership that’s looking backward and resents the future.”

Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

cwoodard@pressherald.com

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/23/alan-caron-longtime-builder-of-coalitions-first-had-to-rebuild-himself/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1576230_988949-20180919_alan-caro9-1.jpgAlan Caron outside the former Notre Dame Catholic Church in Waterville, the city where he was born. The church excommunicated his mother when she had him out of wedlock. Caron retaliated when he was older, stealing priests' vestments from as many churches as he could find. The "political statement" was capped off by time in prison, where his affinity for bringing people together took root.Sun, 23 Sep 2018 08:05:06 +0000
How a member of Maine’s political elite found himself in Mueller’s cross hairs https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/23/how-a-member-of-maines-political-elite-found-himself-in-muellers-cross-hairs/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/23/how-a-member-of-maines-political-elite-found-himself-in-muellers-cross-hairs/#respond Sun, 23 Sep 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=1044810 Four years before working to boost participation in Iraq’s first democratic elections in generations – and nearly two decades before his lobbying for foreign clients drew scrutiny from special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigators – Sam Patten was helping lead a political ground game in Maine.

“Pulling in some kind of a big-league speaker at this point is not going to change the nature of the game,” a 29-year-old Patten, then George W. Bush’s campaign coordinator in Maine, said one day before the historically close 2000 election. “In order to win, we’ve just got to concentrate on getting out our voters and also making our very best possible effort at making our case in the remaining hours to independents, undecided voters and fair-minded Democratic voters.”

For nearly a quarter-century, the Camden native and grandson of a well-known Washington, D.C., political socialite embedded himself in campaigns from Bangor to Baghdad. Patten worked with congressional candidates, nonprofits espousing democracy in troubled nations and also mega-corporations and foreign political parties willing to pay big bucks for access.

He advised opposition leaders in Russia and helped elect a pro-NATO president of Georgia (only to help elect his Russian-backed replacement eight years later). An international adviser pledging to deliver “commitment, discretion and high-impact solutions” to clients, Patten has also worked in multiple countries where on-the-ground political consulting requires a cadre of heavily armed security guards.

“People like me are not agents of change,” Patten told The Washington Post in 2014, when he was being paid $20,000 a month to advise an official hoping to be elected Iraq’s prime minister. (He wasn’t). “We’re helpers, perhaps enablers, of a historical process that is going to happen eventually, one way or another.”

Yet playing the enabler or foreign power broker – in political environments with few rules but plenty of available cash – can also be a risky, messy business. And for Patten, the mess has turned very real, with potentially damaging consequences.

FASCINATED BY RUSSIA EARLY ON

Last month, the 47-year-old pleaded guilty to failing to register as a “foreign agent” while lobbying members of Congress and the executive branch on behalf of Ukrainian political clients. He also arranged for an illegal donation from a Ukrainian citizen to President Trump’s inaugural committee – and then misled the Senate Intelligence Committee about the arrangement.

Patten’s partner in the lobbying business and in arranging for the “straw donor” donation to Trump’s inaugural committee, Russian citizen Konstantin Kilimnik, is a business partner of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman at the center of the swirl of allegations over Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

Patten was even listed as a potential witness in Manafort’s second trial before Manafort pleaded guilty earlier this month to conspiring to defraud the U.S. of taxes and conspiring to obstruct justice.

It’s a long way from Camden-Rockport High School, where Patten graduated in 1989, and his early political years working for the likes of Republican Sens. Bill Cohen, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.

News of Patten’s Aug. 31 guilty plea and potential involvement in the high-profile Manafort case caught the attention of some in the Camden area, where his father, Bill, once occupied a prominent position as the former owner of the Camden Herald weekly newspaper.

Doug Hufnagel, a former Camden Herald columnist who worked for Bill Patten, said he was surprised the son would “fall into” that sort of situation. Hufnagel remembered Sam Patten as studious and bright but also the type of child who benefited from his family’s wealth and political connections.

“Sam would be a perfect example of someone who comes from money,” Hufnagel said. “How did he end up working for Susan Collins or working for William Cohen? The door was opened because of his father.”

At the same time, Hufnagel recalled an interesting – and enlightening, given recent events – conversation sometime after Sam Patten had graduated from college. Patten talked about plans to try to work in the oil industry in Russia or other former Soviet bloc countries – a concept that Hufnagel said “seemed absurd to me at the time.” But Patten followed through on his plans, eventually creating an advisory firm in Kazakhstan in the late-1990s that “provided public and government relations” services to such clients as Texaco, Coca-Cola and the Fortune 500 power company AES Corp., according to his website.

“Even back then, he had his eye on that part of the world,” Hufnagel said.

Patten and his attorney both declined to talk about his career or his current legal situation.

“Neither I or Mr. Patten will be making any statements or answering questions at this time,” Patten’s attorney, Stuart Sears, said earlier this month. “Should that change, I will let you know.”

The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram also reached out to multiple campaign or political staffers who worked with Patten in Maine as well as a number of Washington, D.C., consultants who knew Patten, but all either did not return phone calls or declined to comment.

However, previous media accounts in Maine and around the world illustrate Patten’s career path from a congressional intern from Maine to a highly compensated consultant providing advice – and access – to foreign clients.

After graduating from Camden-Rockport High School, Patten attended Georgetown University in the same affluent D.C. neighborhood where his grandmother, the late Susan Mary Alsop, entertained Washington’s political and social elite. Alsop’s second husband was the nationally syndicated political columnist Joseph Alsop.

FOSTERING DEMOCRACY ABROAD

After graduating from Georgetown, Patten worked as press secretary during Collins’ failed gubernatorial campaign in 1994 and then served as finance director for her successful Senate bid two years later. In 1996, according to a story in The Washington Post, Patten suffered a knife wound to the hip while trying to protect his grandmother when the two were mugged while walking home from dinner in Georgetown.

After his stint advising corporations interested in investing in Kazakhstan, Patten returned to Maine to work as a spokesman and campaign coordinator for Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Dwayne Bickford, a former executive director of the Maine Republican Party, said he crossed paths with Patten numerous times during those years as the young politico worked on campaigns in the state, although they never worked closely together. Bickford said he periodically followed Patten’s work as he shifted his focus overseas.

“He seemed like a smart, intelligent and nice guy,” Bickford said.

Patten would spend much of the next decade working on democracy-related issues in countries around the world.

From 2001 to 2004, he led the Moscow office of the International Republican Institute, a nonpartisan organization funded by Congress – along with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs – that works on “democracy development” in more than 30 countries. Patten worked with nongovernmental organizations as well as democracy-promoting political organizations and candidates – including the pro-capitalism opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin who was later assassinated.

Later in 2004, Patten was working for the International Republican Institute in Iraq as that country prepared for the first open elections since the U.S. invasion helped topple Saddam Hussein. As the organization’s political director in Iraq, Patten strove to educate Iraqis about the election process as the country prepared to create a new parliament and to bring together different political groups, or factions, to start the coalition-building process.

He told the Press Herald at the time of the January 2005 elections that it was the type of basic “get-out-the-vote” efforts that he and others employed in political races in Maine and throughout the U.S., including focus groups and producing television commercials. But rather than showing up at the polls with the “four or five foreign, heavily armed” security guards that had to accompany him around Iraq, Patten watched the results from his Baghdad building and was delighted by the massive turnout despite the threats of violence by extremist groups.

“There continues to be gunfire throughout tonight, and I think that insurgents are going to want to make some kind of statement … to punish people for having voted,” Patten told the Press Herald. But “the fact that so many Iraqis went out and voted today is an extraordinary act of courage and a very strong reflection on these people. It reflects very well on the future.”

‘CHASING JEFFERSONIAN SUNBEAMS’

As it turned out, Iraq’s transition to democracy was not smooth. A decade later, in 2014, Patten was still having to surround himself with armored glass and security guards as he advised Saleh Mutlaq – then Iraq’s deputy prime minster – as he ran for prime minister. As The Washington Post put it in a profile of this American advising an Iraqi candidate, Patten was still “chasing Jeffersonian sunbeams in a country where bombs keep going off” but was getting paid $20,000 a month to do it, although the consultant said that didn’t cover all of his enormous expenses.

Sam Patten talks with lawyer Riad al-Samarrai in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2014. Patten was a political force in his home state as well as abroad, playing key roles in Susan Collins’ Senate bid and George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.

“It’s one thing to be a star adviser to a campaign in, say, the United Kingdom,” the Post piece reads, “and another to ’embed,’ as Patten puts it, in an untidy, austere apartment in Jordan for four months and shuttle regularly to Baghdad, requiring an armored SUV to visit his candidate.”

A year later, Patten would form another international consulting firm – Begemot Ventures International, offering “influence without borders” – with a Russian citizen he worked closely with while heading the Moscow office of the International Republican Institute. It was that person, Konstantin Kilimnik, who would later become Paul Manafort’s close business associate while working in Ukraine and who special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s team reportedly views as having close ties to Russian intelligence.

Between 2015 and 2017, Begemot Ventures received more than $1 million from the Ukrainian Opposition Bloc and for other Ukrainian consulting work, according to Patten’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors. Patten pleaded guilty to failing to register as a “foreign agent” for his lobbying work to “influence United States policy” and efforts to set up meetings between Ukrainian political figures and members of Congress or their staff.

Additionally, Patten admitted to working with a Russian national – widely believed to be Kilimnik – to help a Ukrainian citizen donate $50,000 to President Trump’s inaugural committee. The pair reportedly used a “straw donor” to secure inaugural tickets because foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing. The three men plus a fourth unnamed person then attended the inaugural celebrations.

PATTEN FACES FIVE YEARS IN PRISON

Patten faces up to five years in prison for the charges to which he pleaded guilty, although he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in hopes of leniency during sentencing. The timeline for those events is unclear, given Manafort’s recent guilty plea.

But in a Facebook post immediately after his guilty plea – which is no longer publicly available but was preserved by a “friend” on the social media network – Patten apologized “for the embarrassment this lapse in my own high professional standards has caused my family, my friends and my past and present work associates.” Patten went on to say that he dedicated much of his career in international politics to “helping democratic forces engage in competitive, non-violent election campaigns and helping improve governance in challenging parts of the world.”

“I am ashamed that failing to register (as a foreign agent) in these instances undermines much of my life’s work, and am committed to making amends for this transgression,” he wrote.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/23/how-a-member-of-maines-political-elite-found-himself-in-muellers-cross-hairs/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1576374_326319-SamPattenBAG36413981-1.jpgSam Patten, left, speaks with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq in Baghdad in April 2014. As Patten advised him in his bid to become prime minister that year, the Maine native had to protect himself with armored glass and security guards. Patten, 47, pleaded guilty last month to failing to register as a foreign agent related to his lobbying work in Ukraine. He also coordinated with a Russian national to help a Ukrainian citizen donate $50,000 to President Trump’s inaugural committee. Khalid Mohammed for The Washington Post Sun, 23 Sep 2018 09:15:55 +0000
Waterville roots, energy, rapport with people inform Poliquin’s quest, those who know him say https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/22/waterville-roots-energy-rapport-with-people-inform-poliquins-quest-those-who-know-him-say/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/22/waterville-roots-energy-rapport-with-people-inform-poliquins-quest-those-who-know-him-say/#respond Sat, 22 Sep 2018 23:41:41 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/22/waterville-roots-energy-rapport-with-people-inform-poliquins-quest-those-who-know-him-say/

Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final profile running weekly in the Sunday edition on the candidates for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat.

CANTON — Moving slowly and often alone, three dozen elderly and sometimes frail residents eagerly filtered into the activity room at the Pinnacle Nursing Home last fall.

They made no secret about why they’d come: ice cream.

Most had been told that morning that U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s sprawling 2nd District, would be stopping by to give some war medals to a 100-year-old veteran who served in U.S. Gen. George Patton’s Army as it chased the Nazis from France. But it didn’t appear they all remembered the congressman was coming.

Instead, they argued a little about whether the chairs had been lined up in preparation for an ice cream social or for some music, a decidedly less popular option.

They wound up getting the congressman, the ice cream and a cake decorated with a Purple Heart.

So everybody left happy, even if some didn’t know where to go. Poliquin carefully steered more than one confused older woman down the hall to aides who could help her find her way.

In between, though, the setting offered a glimpse of the one-on-one touch the former Wall Street executive and longtime Maine businessman used to win an open congressional seat and hang on to it through a bitter re-election battle.

The two-term lawmaker spoke to each resident in turn, chatting warmly about their children, his son, their common French heritage, his mother’s dog, how much he enjoyed the Fryeburg Fair and how to celebrate the birthday of one woman born on a long-ago Christmas Day.

“What do you do? Give two presents?” Poliquin asked, grinning. “Was that fair? Christmas and your birthday — it’s always fair.”

Handing out plates with ice cream and cake, Poliquin bounced back and forth between the residents and the soft-serve machine, beaming.

“This is fun,” Poliquin said.

That honest-to-God joy he showed as he raced around with ice cream for the elderly is perhaps one of his secrets.

“My dad is incredibly fun and funny, something that probably isn’t apparent from his day-to-day job,” his son, Sam, said during interviews with the Sun Journal from his home in Los Angeles.

Being fun and having a good sense of humor are good traits for a person to have, especially when they’re facing another grueling re-election campaign.

‘BRUTAL, BRUTAL ELECTION’

Poliquin, who briefly answered only a few questions for this story, has never had an easy election.

His first bid for public office came up short in 2010 when he sought to win the state’s top job. He finished sixth in a seven-person field in the Republican primary that Paul LePage won on the way to serving two terms as Maine governor.

Two years later, while serving as the state’s Legislature-appointed treasurer, Poliquin tried again — losing the GOP primary for the open U.S. Senate seat that independent Angus King wound up winning.

But Poliquin is not a guy who gives up easily.

In 2014, he muscled through a tough primary to claim Republican backing in a general election to fill an open seat in Maine’s hardscrabble 2nd District, the largest and most rural east of the Mississippi River.

After one of the more contentious and costly contests in Maine history, Poliquin defeated Democrat Emily Cain and independent Blaine Richardson to win the U.S. House seat and his first elective position.

Two years ago, in an even more costly and bitter re-election fight, Poliquin beat Cain by a larger margin than the first time.

This year, it appears he again has his work cut out for him as he squares off against Democrat Jared Golden, of Lewiston, and two independents, Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar.

Poliquin’s campaign consultant, Brent Littlefield, told supporters at the state GOP convention to expect a “brutal, brutal election,” and nothing that’s happened since has made that prediction seem off the mark.

Both of the major parties are gearing up for a major clash in a district that experts rate either “a toss-up” or one that gives Poliquin a slight edge.

It’s close enough, in short, that political action committees and campaign professionals on each side are preparing to spend millions to convince Maine voters that Poliquin should stay — or go.

WATERVILLE UPBRINGING

Born on Nov. 1, 1953, Poliquin said he grew up “in a very small ranch home in a neighborhood loaded with kids.”

He lived with his parents — father Lee, a high school teacher, and mother Louise, a nurse — and shared a room with his older brother, Jimmy.

Their house was on quiet Violette Avenue in Waterville, a street that doesn’t look much different today from the way it did then — lined with little houses in a residential section that doesn’t have sidewalks or curbs.

Poliquin’s son, Sam, said his grandparents had “a simple yet comfortable old central Maine home” where everything “seemed to come from the 1950s and 1960s: the dishware, the carpet, the furniture and the books.”

When he visited, Sam noted “photos of my dad and my uncle” were all over the place.

“I’ll never forget my grandfather’s raccoon hat or his baseball-cap stretcher,” he said. His grandparents’ favorite activity, he said, “was to sit in lawn chairs outside of the garage and watch the squirrels and chipmunks.”

Sam remembered his grandfather’s mischievous nature — how he would teach what he called “bad habits” to his grandson to get a rise out of his wife.

“For example, he would take me to McDonald’s every Sunday morning for pancakes when I was a kid, and let me throw his empty coffee cups over my shoulder and into the back of the cab of his pickup truck,” he said. “My grandmother would give him such a hard time for doing this.”

He recalls his grandmother’s sense of fun, too.

“When I was a kid I would chase her around the dining room table with a dishcloth, both of us screaming,” Sam said. “Somehow that turned into one of my favorite activities.”

Growing up in that household, the future congressman was “always very smart,” recalled one of his uncles, Ray Cyr, of Ormand Beach, Florida.

When he got a little older, Poliquin earned money by cutting grass or shoveling snow, saving up enough cash to afford his own metallic-green Stingray bike with a banana seat, the height of cool for kids in that era.

His favorite treat, according to his son, was Bolley’s Famous Franks in Waterville — a place he still frequents, along with Simones’ Hot Dog Stand in Lewiston and Dysart’s in Hermon. He also loves lobster, plain, without so much as a bit of butter.

Cyr said Poliquin adored sports from early on, especially baseball. He played a number of sports, including the game that his French-Canadian forebears had brought with them from Quebec: ice hockey.

Despite his small size, Poliquin displayed some skill on the ice and proved a pretty tough goalie for teams that generally did quite well. The Waterville High School team that he played on won a state championship.

Then came the sort of lucky break that, in retrospect, clearly set him on a path that would take him far from the old neighborhood.

As he described it years later, a guidance counselor advised his family to look into boarding schools as the next step toward fulfilling a longtime wish to attend Harvard University.

Based on his smarts and athletic prowess, Phillips Academy Andover, in Andover, Massachusetts, accepted him with a scholarship that made it possible for Poliquin to attend by working sometimes in the library and washing windows for faculty members.

One of the school’s many prominent graduates, writer Buzz Bissinger, described Andover at that time as a place filled with “all those young men with all that talent and ambition, where everyone knows who is going to be who in later life.”

“We know who is going to be the great lawyer and the star of Wall Street or the CEO or the great doctor and the great biologist,” Bissinger said.

Las Vegas lawyer Mace Yampolsky, a classmate who hailed from Revere, Massachusetts, said Poliquin arrived at the famed preparatory school as “this boy from a small town” in Maine “and he embraced it. He did everything.”

Yampolsky said Poliquin made friends easily with his humor and his constant smile.

Among the sports he played at Andover were lacrosse and football — on a team that included center Bill Belichick, who went on to coach the New England Patriots.

Yampolsky said he didn’t remember Poliquin as an academic superstar, but he said he must have done well. “He got into Harvard” after all, he said.

Poliquin adored Andover, as he’s made clear on many occasions over the years, including giving classmates a private U.S. Capitol tour one night in 2015.

“I love Andover. This is home to me. This is my family. One of the greatest accomplishments of my life has been graduating from this place,” Poliquin said in a 2016 interview with The Phillipian during a visit to the school.

Poliquin made lots of friends at Andover and found more at Harvard, which also covered most of his costs with financial aid. What it didn’t cover, he earned at jobs that included painting metal roofs, digging sewer lines and working the night shift at the Wyandotte Spinning Mill in Sidney.

Those close to him have never questioned his willingness to work.

Despite his middle-class roots, his natural exuberance helped him fit in among a student body filled with the offspring of America’s elite families, many of them wealthy.

Poliquin has always “had that same personality,” Cyr said, calling him “just a wonderful guy” who has lots of friends and loves to have his family around.

On Harvard’s lacrosse team, where Poliquin also tended goal, his hustle and team spirit made him stand out.

“He was an energetic guy,” said William Tennis, general counsel and executive vice president of DiamondRock Hospitality Co. in Maryland, a teammate who graduated with Poliquin. “He showed an enormous amount of spirit to the team.”

Poliquin “was one of the most spirited and energetic players that I ever had the pleasure of coaching,” recalled Bob Scalise, Harvard’s athletic director, who coached the lacrosse team when Poliquin played.

“Although Bruce was not a starter, he was instrumental to our team’s success,” Scalise said. “Opposing coaches would often comment about ‘that kid on the sideline that got your team fired up. He was worth a couple of goals for your team.'”

As graduation rolled around, Poliquin borrowed a suit from his roommate for interviews and had his father mail him the dress shoes the father had worn at his wedding four decades earlier.

His formal education complete, Poliquin, an economics major, snagged a job in Chicago with Harris Bank, where he worked for a few years, and then moved on to a consulting firm in New York City that evaluated corporate pension funds.

He joined a small investment management firm in New York in 1981, Avatar Associates. During the next 15 years, he became one of its managing partners as it grew from overseeing $35 million to handling $5 billion.

One of its partners, Charles White, said the company offered “good professional advice” and “a very conservative” investment strategy that was a good fit for pension funds in particular.

Poliquin, who spent a fair amount of time on the road talking to companies interested in Avatar’s advice, was “very successful” in the business and instrumental in his firm’s growth, White said.

He called Poliquin “a hardworking, dependable guy who cared about every employee in the shop, from the receptionist to the head guy.”

All that while, though, White said he knew Bruce “would end up back in Maine” because he never stopped talking about it.

Then something happened that made it almost inevitable.

MEETING SWEET JANE

To earn some cash to buy textbooks while at Harvard, Poliquin said, he took a job painting metal roofs one summer in Waterville.

Driving an old station wagon for work one day, he got stuck behind “a ding-ding truck” selling ice cream, moving about 2 mph and playing loud, insipid tunes to alert children to its presence.

When it slowed to a stop, Poliquin had to hit the brakes, too.

Then, he said, “out walks this beautiful young lady,” not at all who he expected to see selling cones.

So he hopped out and promptly purchased two Popsicles, whipping out a check to pay for them so she would know his name. He asked for hers at the same time.

That was the beginning of a 17-year fast friendship with Jane Carpenter, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and studied art conservation at the University of Delaware, later working at the Fogg and Peabody museums at Harvard and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Carpenter, whose father founded the art museum at Colby College in Waterville, worked at the Brooklyn Museum’s art restoration laboratory in the 1980s.

When their relationship became more than just friendly, Poliquin said, she finally told him, “Look, buddy, are we getting married or not?”

So they did.

Cyr said they had a nice wedding in Phippsburg. He remembered that Jane was “a very, very smart person” and lovely as well.

“She was just a really sweet person,” White said.

Poliquin told his son “she never said anything bad about anyone, ever.”

After a bit, the couple left New York and moved back to Maine, where they had a house in Cumberland that included a studio for Jane. She gave birth to their son.

They came back to Maine “a year before I was born,” Sam Poliquin said, because his father “didn’t want to raise me” in the elite environment of New York. What he wanted for his son was what he’d had growing up.

White said they were “living the life they had dreamed of.”

Then in February 1992, Poliquin headed for a vacation at the Palmas del Mar resort in Humacao on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico with his wife, 16-month-old Sam and his in-laws.

Surrounded by sunny ocean water, beaches and plenty of palm trees, the resort offered a respite from winter back home in Maine.

Jane and her father, James Carpenter, decided to take a swim.

“They were sitting around the pool,” Cyr said, and “she handed Sammy to Bruce” and told him she was going to take one last swim.

Poliquin gave her a kiss, he told a reporter years later, and told her to be careful.

He never saw her alive again.

A rip current began to sweep Jane away from the beach. She tried to swim against it as her 77-year-old father sought to help. Both drowned.

Poliquin recalled hearing “screams and commotions” and soon learned the pair had vanished. Their bodies turned up hours later on a nearby beach.

“It’s one of the great tragedies, what happened to her,” White said. “It still breaks my heart.”

RAISING SON ALONE

The early years after his wife died were “very hard” on his grieving father, his son remembers.

Poliquin “lost his patience a lot,” his son said, surely caused “by the everyday challenges of raising a child” without his wife.

Fortunately, said Sam, grandparents “stayed with us most weekends” to lend a hand; and his father “had a group of friends, all of whom were mothers, who gave my dad advice on anything and everything from cooking to discipline.”

It took a while, but Poliquin ultimately got the whole solo parenting thing down, at least from his son’s perspective.

“My dad is a very pragmatic and fun guy, and I think that came through in his parenting style,” Sam said. “I think he was a relatively strict father in terms of chores, rules and consequences,” stuff his son is convinced helped him greatly in later years.

“At the same time, my dad gave me a ton of freedom to explore and grow, in ways that few parents would,” he said. “He supported anything I ever did, whether it was music, art, cooking, writing or playing sports.”

Poliquin’s son recalled that “when I was about 5 years old, my dad was having trouble getting me to eat my vegetables and protein for dinner. I would always complain about what he made.”

So his father “wrote up a ‘menu,’ for lack of a better word, of five options for dinner. Handwritten on a legal pad, the five options were something like pasta with butter, pasta with sauce, meatloaf with peas, chicken with peas, and chicken with broccoli.”

Every option had a check box beside it “so I could choose what I wanted him to make. His hope was that I wouldn’t have reason to complain any more about what I chose for dinner,” his son said.

“Of course there was still plenty reason to complain,” Sam added, because his father “wasn’t that good of a cook.”

He said the two of them “really wanted a pet, but I was allergic.”

They managed to solve the problem, though, when they found a hairless cat named Smiley, who lived for 15 years before her death in 2012.

“Anyone who came over thought we had a rodent infestation when they saw her, but my dad and I loved her so much,” Sam said.

He remembers having a list of chores to do as a kid, which “taught me the importance of earning my own money and being fiscally responsible.”

It was something his father emphasized. For instance, “one time in fifth grade I accidentally spilled acrylic paint on the carpet. My dad freaked out and made me pay for a cleaning service with my allowance. It almost bankrupted me, but I definitely learned the importance of accountability,” Sam said.

He recalled having “a frustratingly small allowance to spend at the mall on clothes” and being “the last kid to get a cellphone in 10th grade of high school.”

During college, when he attended Tufts University, every semester his father would have Sam “bring home the tuition bill myself, which we would review at the kitchen table together, along with my grades. He wanted to make sure I understood the expense of my education and wanted to make sure I was going to class and squeezing every dollar out of the experience.”

“To this day, whenever I come home, he reminds me to use only one bath towel for the entirety of my stay,” Poliquin said. “He hates waste.”

In short, “my dad is incredibly frugal, and always has been. He made a point of raising me this way and instilling this in me,” his son said.

The congressman “drives a car from 2008. He wears the same pair of jeans until they wear out. He might have to dress up in a suit for work, but I guarantee you my dad is most comfortable in his sweatpants with his hair sticking straight up,” his son said.

Sam said his father coached baseball “for most of my childhood,” something he kept up for 17 years with enough success that the Portland Press Herald named him Maine’s High School Baseball Coach of the Year in 2003.

His love of baseball obviously spurred Poliquin to coach, but his son said it was more than that.

“He also wanted to teach youth the importance of hard work, focus and having fun to get good results,” Sam said. “I know for a fact that he was a role model for most of his players and a grounding influence in many of their lives.”

While Sam was growing up, the father and son enjoyed themselves.

Hitting a few county fairs every year ranked high on their list of favorite activities, making sure they got on all the rides. One year, Sam said, they managed to hit 10 fairs.

In high school, he said, he dragged his father to Six Flags, where “he didn’t hesitate to go on the upside-down roller coaster with me.”

Every Christmas, they watch the film “Love Actually” together. Sam said his father also “loves end-of-the-world movies, such as ‘The Book of Eli’ and ‘The Road,'” attracted to the latter in part because it’s about a father and son on the move in a bleak landscape

And all along, Poliquin talked about his wife often, telling stories over and over about her.

“Any time something reminded him of her, he would point it out for me,” Sam said.

His father would say things such as: “You know who was an expert on Native American art? Your mother!” or “You know who had an incredible sense of humor? Your mother!”

“And whenever he said he was proud of me, he never failed to remind me that my mom would be proud too,” the congressman’s son said.

“My dad has done an unbelievable job of keeping my mother’s memory present in my life,” Sam said. “I think it comes naturally to him. To this day, it is clear to me how much he loves her and how frequently he thinks of her.”

The two release balloons together on Jane’s birthday, or as close to it as possible if they’re not in the same place. “We never miss a year,” Sam said.

Looking back on his childhood, Sam said he “took for granted how awesome growing up with my dad was.”

“It was just my dad and I, so all the focus and attention was on me,” he said, admitting that “in my adolescent years, that was a lot to handle.”

Sam said he “always wished I had a sibling, but in retrospect, my dad and I formed a very tight bond because of these circumstances.”

“We are incredibly close,” he said. “We talk almost every day.”

That’s probably why Sam can laugh about one thing his father does that makes him cringe.

“My dad knows I hate spiders, so whenever he finds one he puts it in his hand and chases me with it, both of us screaming. This happens at least once a year,” he said.

FROM WALL STREET TO POLITICS

In some ways, at least, Poliquin has never strayed far from his Maine roots.

Poliquin’s official address is an apartment beside 9-mile-long Messalonskee Lake in Oakland where he’s been spending time since childhood. Oakland, located in the 2nd Congressional District, is the next town west of Waterville, which is in the 1st District.

His son said the congressman “has remained best friends with four or five of the kids he grew up with in central Maine” — guys he gets together with for meals, ball games and ice fishing.

It’s the sort of life he wanted for his son, too.

It didn’t take long after his wife’s death for Poliquin to realize that he didn’t want to keep traveling around the country dealing with pension funds for Avatar.

For his son’s sake, and his own, Poliquin had “to find other things to do in Maine” that would keep him close to the home he loved, White said.

So he cashed out of Avatar and plunged into real estate development in Maine.

He had some hits and misses in real estate, but the bottom line is that between his career in finance and his real estate dealings, Poliquin’s personal wealth totaled more than $5 million by 2015, according to his financial disclosure form. OpenSecrets.org, which studies congressional financial forms, estimated he had $11.6 million, putting him well ahead of most House members.

Since then, he has sold the Messalonskee Lake property he got from his parents in 2007, not long after they moved to a senior housing place in Brunswick, where they still reside. That netted him another $450,000. He leases an apartment on the property from the buyers.

He also has a 12-acre place on Maine’s south-central coast in Georgetown where he spends time, as well, which has been written up in architectural magazines.

Cyr said Poliquin opens his house on the shore to his cousins, with whom he is close.

“He’s very, very warm to the family,” Cyr said. “I just love that kid.”

Poliquin got a shock in 2006 when his big brother, Jim — a musician and artist — died after a long period struggling with substance abuse. Cyr said Poliquin used to take him to the doctor sometimes, trying to get him help.

The two brothers had been “incredibly close,” his son recalled, and Jim’s death was difficult for his father, who mentions it occasionally as one reason he is determined to try to help deal with the opioid problems afflicting so many Mainers.

Around that time, in perhaps the most surprising decision of his life, Poliquin decided to leap into politics, taking aim at the governor’s office.

Sam said he never thought his father would seek elective office.

“I knew that current events and political issues interested him but never thought he would become a public figure,” he said.

“But in retrospect, it doesn’t surprise me,” the congressman’s son said. “My dad has always had the desire to help people.”

Sam said his father likely waited until he went off to school out of state because he “didn’t want the job to be a distraction when he was raising me, or have it impact my life when I was growing up.”

In his campaign, Poliquin talked about the hardship of running a business in Maine and the need to bolster the state’s economy so young people could stay instead of heading off to locales with more opportunity.

He got shellacked in the race. But after a stint as state treasurer and another losing race, for U.S. Senate, he jumped at the chance to run for the U.S. House seat four years ago and notched his first win.

On Election Night in 2014, Cyr hugged his grinning nephew during the victory party at Dysart’s, a moment that wound up on the front page of the Bangor Daily News the next morning.

“I was very thrilled about it,” Cyr said, and glad that Poliquin would get a chance to serve in Congress.

‘A HUGE BELIEVER IN AMERICA’

Poliquin, who rarely makes himself available to the press, paused for a while after talking to seniors in Canton to talk to the Sun Journal, to explain why he enjoys serving in a Congress that only 1 American in 6 thinks is doing well and even fewer actually trust.

“I’m a huge believer in America. I love our country. I love our state,” Poliquin said, before adding that he’s worried about what will happen to his 27-year-old son’s generation.

He said lawmakers have a responsibility to protect the nation, its families, its veterans and its seniors — especially those in places such as Maine, where many are largely isolated in rural areas where help is hard to find.

Poliquin said he knows he faces a lot of criticism, particularly on a controversial health care bill that he favored last year, that Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine played a key role in blocking.

But, he said, he doesn’t listen to “the noise” because to get anything done for his district he has to “block out the distractions” and focus on the tasks at hand.

Poliquin said he learned the importance of doing what he can for his community from his parents.

“We always gave back,” he said. “I know who I am. I know who my family is.”

Through the years that he worked in business and raised his son on his own, Poliquin said, he always looked for ways to lend a hand to others.

“It’s a calling I feel I have,” Poliquin said, one that fits perfectly with what he sees as the honor of serving in the House.

He said it’s the job of legislators “to fix things that are broken” and ensure that the “very special place” that is Maine remains a community that can nourish the dreams of a new generation.

To do that, the congressman said, takes “constant vigilance.”

Poliquin said his business skills help, but government really isn’t like business.

Congress, for example, is “designed to be slow” and to make incremental changes that allow people to adjust over time, Poliquin said. For people in the business world, that plodding pace is frustrating, he said, but it’s what’s required in government.

Poliquin said patience is one of his best skills, along with the ability to listen to what people tell him.

He said he wakes up every morning ready to get to work.

“I don’t have an apartment or a house” in Washington, Poliquin said, pointing out that he sleeps on a pull-down Murphy bed in his congressional office, showers at the congressional gymnasium and focuses from morning to night on doing what he can “for the folks in the 2nd District.”

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/22/waterville-roots-energy-rapport-with-people-inform-poliquins-quest-those-who-know-him-say/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1045078_483871-Poliquin-Bruce-Sam.jpgU.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin poses with his son, Sam, whom Poliquin raised as a single father. "To this day, whenever I come home, he reminds me to use only one bath towel for the entirety of my stay," Sam said.Sat, 22 Sep 2018 19:41:41 +0000
Lawyers for Kavanaugh accuser say she accepts Senate committee’s request to testify https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/22/lawyers-for-kavanaugh-accuser-say-she-accepts-senate-committees-request-to-testify/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/22/lawyers-for-kavanaugh-accuser-say-she-accepts-senate-committees-request-to-testify/#respond Sat, 22 Sep 2018 19:33:53 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/22/lawyers-for-kavanaugh-accuser-say-she-accepts-senate-committees-request-to-testify/ WASHINGTON — The woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a decades-old sexual assault has accepted a Senate committee’s request to tell her side next week but Christine Blasey Ford wants to resume negotiations over the exact terms of her appearance, her lawyers said Saturday.

It was not immediately clear whether the Republican-run Senate Judiciary Committee would agree to more talks with Ford’s team. Also unclear was when she might come to Capitol Hill and she was offering to speak in a public session or a private one. The committee wanted her to appear Wednesday, but she prefers her earlier request for Thursday, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Her lawyers’ letter to the committee’s GOP majority was released just at the 2:30 p.m. deadline set by the chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, to respond to the panel’s latest offer. Grassley, R-Iowa, had set a possible Monday vote to decide whether to recommend Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate.

As Republicans were considering their next move in private talks Saturday, they also made it clear they viewed Ford’s offer as a way to delay voting on President Donald Trump’s pick for the court.

A senior official at the White House said the letter amounted to “an ask to continue `negotiations’ without committing to anything. It’s a clever way to push off the vote Monday without committing to appear Wednesday.” The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the Senate negotiations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The White House views Ford’s potential testimony with trepidation, nervous that an emotional performance might not just damage Kavanaugh’s chances but could further energize female voters to turn out against Republicans in November against the backdrop of the (hash)MeToo movement.

Moreover, the West Wing aides who had urged Trump to remain muted in his response to the accusations worried about how the president might react if she ended up partaking in an hourslong, televised hearing. In a single tweet Friday, Trump broke his silence to cast doubt on Ford’s story in ways Republicans had been carefully trying to avoid.

Trump mused to confidants that the “fake” attacks against his nominee were meant to undermine his presidency, according to a White House official and a Republican close to the White House. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.

Other Republicans scoffed at Ford’s willingness to accept the committee’s request to tell her story.

“When?” tweeted the No. 2 GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the committee.

The lawyers for Ford wrote that she “accepts the Committee’s request to provide her first-hand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct next week.”

Attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks said many aspects of Grassley’s latest offer were “fundamentally inconsistent” with the committee’s promise of a “fair, impartial investigation.”

They said they remained disappointed by the “bullying” that “tainted the process.” Yet they remained “hopeful that we can reach agreement on details.”

It was unclear whether Grassley would permit more negotiations Saturday, with patience among Republicans is running thin. The GOP is facing enormous pressure from its base of conservative leaders and voters to swiftly approve Kavanaugh, who would become the second of President Donald Trump’s nominees to sit on the nation’s highest court, before the Nov. 6 election.

A spokesman for GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a committee member, tweeted that Ford “agreed to nothing. She rejected the committee’s offer to testify Wednesday.”

Earlier Saturday amid the latest deadline standoff Vice President Mike Pence called Kavanaugh “a man of integrity with impeccable credentials.” He expressed confidence that

Republicans “will manage this confirmation properly with the utmost respect for all concerned” and said he expected Kavanaugh to join the high court soon.

Grassley had set a Friday night deadline for the 51-year-old California psychology professor to agree to the committee’s latest offer setting terms for her appearance. Grassley said that if she missed that deadline, he would scrap the hearing and his committee would vote on sending Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate.

Ford’s lawyers asked for another day. In a tweet aimed at Kavanaugh shortly before midnight, Grassley said he was giving them additional time.

“She shld decide so we can move on. I want to hear her. I hope u understand. It’s not my normal approach to b indecisive,” Grassley wrote.

Ford’s accusations and the standoff over the terms of her appearance have left the appeals court judge’s confirmation in jeopardy. And just seven weeks from an election in which

Democrats are hoping to capture control of the House and maybe the Senate, her emergence also has drawn intensified attention to the (hash)MeToo movement’s focus on sexual abuse.

Ford says an inebriated Kavanaugh pinned her on a bed, muffled her cries and tried removing her clothes when both were teenagers in the 1980s. Kavanaugh has denied doing this and said he wants to appear before the committee as soon as possible to clear his name.

In backing away from his deadline, Grassley underscored the sensitivity with which Senate Republicans have tried handling Ford. Moderate female voters will be pivotal in many races in the elections and the (hash)MeToo movement has elevated the political potency of how women alleging abuse are treated.

In requesting another day to decide, Katz called Grassley’s original deadline “arbitrary” and said its “sole purpose is to bully Dr. Ford and deprive her of the ability to make a considered decision that has life-altering implications for her and her family.”

Earlier Friday, Grassley rejected concessions Ford wanted if she is tell her story publicly before the committee.

Grassley turned down Ford’s request that only senators, not attorneys, be allowed to ask questions. The committee’s 11 Republicans – all men – have been seeking an outside female attorney to interrogate Ford, mindful of the election-season impression that could be left by men trying to pick apart a woman’s assertion of a sexual attack.

He also rejected her proposal that she testify after Kavanaugh, a position lawyers consider advantageous because it gives them a chance to rebut accusations.

Grassley’s stance reflected a desire by Trump and GOP leaders to usher the 53-year-old Kavanaugh onto the high court by the Oct. 1 start of its new session and before the November elections, when Democrats are mounting a robust drive to grab congressional control.

Friday was the latest in a string of tumultuous days for Kavanaugh, whose ascension to the Supreme Court seemed a sure bet until Ford emerged last weekend and provided details of the alleged assault.

Earlier, Trump ended a week of constraint and sarcastically assailed Ford, tweeting that if the episode was “as bad as she says,” she or “her loving parents” surely would have reported it to law enforcement.

Trump’s searing reproach defied the Senate Republican strategy, and the advice of White House aides, of not disparaging Ford while firmly defending his nominee and the tight timetable for confirming him.

The president’s tweet brought blistering rejoinders from Democrats and a mix of silence and sighs of regret from his own party. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who hasn’t declared support for Kavanaugh, called the remark “appalling.”

Grassley rebuffed other Ford requests, including calling additional witnesses. Ford wants an appearance by Mark Judge, a Kavanaugh friend who Ford asserts was at the high school party and in the room where the incident occurred.

Grassley consented to other Ford demands, including that she be provided security and that Kavanaugh not be in the hearing room when she testifies.

Ford’s request for security comes after her lawyers said she has relocated her family due to death threats.

Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire in Bridgewater, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/22/lawyers-for-kavanaugh-accuser-say-she-accepts-senate-committees-request-to-testify/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1566330_97189-Kavanaugh-1.jpgSupreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's accuser described to The Washington Post a sexual assault decades ago. Associated Press/J. Scott ApplewhiteSat, 22 Sep 2018 17:36:49 +0000
Trump delays release of Russia documents https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/trump-delays-release-of-russia-documents/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/trump-delays-release-of-russia-documents/#respond Sat, 22 Sep 2018 00:31:40 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/trump-delays-release-of-russia-documents/ WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday delayed his own order to declassify and release documents from the FBI’s Russia investigation, saying the Justice Department and U.S. allies have raised security concerns about their disclosure.

The announcement, in a pair of tweets, represented a highly unusual walk-back for a president who has pressed for the release of classified information that he believes will expose “really bad things” at the FBI and discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

The order threatened to fuel further tension between Trump and a law enforcement community he routinely maligns as biased against him and determined to undermine his presidency.

The move puts on hold at least temporarily Trump’s plan to declassify highly sensitive records from the Russia probe, including a portion of a secret warrant application to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser whom the FBI suspected of being a Russian agent.

The Justice Department said it had begun complying with the order, though officials had previously strenuously objected to the release of classified information they said could jeopardize the investigation and compromise secret sources.

On Friday, Trump said that instead of moving forward immediately, the department’s inspector general had been asked to review these documents on an “expedited basis.” He tweeted that he believes the office, which is already reviewing FBI actions in the early stages of the Russia probe, will move quickly.

The president also noted: “In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary. Speed is very important to me – and everyone!”

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/trump-delays-release-of-russia-documents/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1575350_Trump_56412-1.jpg-5bf13-1.jpgPresident Trump speaks at a spending bill signing ceremony at VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Friday in Las Vegas.Fri, 21 Sep 2018 23:54:55 +0000
Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein denies that he proposed secretly taping Trump https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/deputy-attorney-general-rosenstein-denies-that-he-proposed-secretly-taping-trump/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/deputy-attorney-general-rosenstein-denies-that-he-proposed-secretly-taping-trump/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 21:39:24 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=1043382 WASHINGTON — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested secretly recording President Donald Trump last year to expose chaos in the administration, according to two people familiar with the discussions. One of the people, who was present when the remarks were made, said Rosenstein was being sarcastic about wearing a “wire.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appears before a House Judiciary Committee hearing in late June. Associated Press/Andrew Harnik

The allegations were first reported by The New York Times, which also said that Rosenstein floated the idea of using the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump as unfit for office.

Rosenstein denied both allegations on Friday. He is a frequent target of Trump’s attacks and the story could add to the uncertainty about his future at the Justice Department, despite his denial.

“The New York Times’ story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” Rosenstein said in a statement. “I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution spells out that a president can be declared “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” upon a majority vote of the vice president and the Cabinet.

The Times cited several people, who were not named, who described episodes that came in the spring of 2017 after FBI Director James Comey was fired. The newspaper said its sources also included people who were briefed on memos written by FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

The newspaper reported that Rosenstein, frustrated with the hiring process for a new FBI director, offered to wear a “wire” and secretly record the president when he visited the White House. He also suggested that McCabe and other officials who were interviewing to become the next FBI director could also perhaps record Trump, the newspaper reported.

McCabe’s lawyer, Michael Bromwich, said in a statement that his client had drafted memos to “memorialize significant discussions he had with high level officials and preserved them so he would have an accurate, contemporaneous record of those discussions.”

McCabe’s memos, which were later turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, had remained at the FBI until McCabe was ousted in January and McCabe doesn’t know how any reporters could’ve obtained those memos, Bromwich said.

Rosenstein has been a target of Trump’s ire since appointing Robert Mueller as a Justice Department special counsel to investigate potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

He chose Mueller for the job one week after he laid the groundwork for the firing of Comey by writing a memo that criticized Comey’s handling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server. The White House initially held up that memo as justification for Comey’s firing, though Trump himself has said he was thinking about “this Russia thing” when he made the move.

As deputy attorney general, Rosenstein oversees Mueller’s work and has made two public announcements of indictments brought by the special counsel — one against Russians accused of hacking into Democratic email accounts, the other against Russians accused of running a social media troll farm to sway public opinion.

On Friday, Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., tweeted the Times’ story and said: “Shocked!!! Absolutely Shocked!!! Ohhh, who are we kidding at this point? No one is shocked that these guys would do anything in their power to undermine @realdonaldtrump.”

The story elicited an immediate response from members of Congress.

Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican who chairs the conservative Freedom Caucus, said in a tweet that “if this story is true, it underscores a gravely troubling culture at FBI/DOJ and the need for FULL transparency.”

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the Times story “must not be used as a pretext for the corrupt purpose of firing Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein in order install an official who will allow the president to interfere with the special counsel’s investigation.”

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/deputy-attorney-general-rosenstein-denies-that-he-proposed-secretly-taping-trump/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/07/1470390_Trump_Russia_Probe_Rosenste-1.jpgIn this June 28, 2018, file photo, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appears before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. A group of 11 House Republicans have introduced articles of impeachment against Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)Fri, 21 Sep 2018 17:39:24 +0000
Advocacy group makes new legal move to block LePage’s efforts to reject Medicaid expansion https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/advocacy-group-makes-new-legal-move-to-block-lepages-efforts-to-reject-medicaid-expansion/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/advocacy-group-makes-new-legal-move-to-block-lepages-efforts-to-reject-medicaid-expansion/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 20:33:27 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/advocacy-group-makes-new-legal-move-to-block-lepages-efforts-to-reject-medicaid-expansion/ An advocacy group for low-income Mainers that’s suing the LePage administration went to court this week to try to erase any reference to Gov. Paul LePage’s request to federal officials to reject Medicaid expansion.

In early September, LePage filed a form with Medicaid – called a State Plan Amendment – that’s typically a routine document states use when applying for Medicaid expansion.

But LePage took the unusual step of simultaneously filing the amendment and asking the federal government to reject it, which would halt Medicaid expansion.

The court filing with the Maine Business and Consumer Court on Thursday is the latest step in a monthslong legal fight over implementing Medicaid expansion, which would make about 70,000 low-income Mainers eligible for free health insurance.

LePage, a steadfast opponent of Medicaid expansion, was forced by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to file a State Plan Amendment with Medicaid that would jump-start expansion.

Maine voters approved Medicaid expansion by 59 to 41 percent in November 2017, but LePage has refused to implement it, citing budgetary concerns.

Maine Equal Justice Partners this week filed a motion in business court that, if successful, would bring in a third party, called a receiver, to amend the State Plan Amendment. The receiver would remove LePage’s Aug. 31 letter asking the court to reject the expansion, as well as portions of the Sept. 4 form itself that also ask the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to deny expansion.

“This was not submitted in good faith to ensure (Medicaid) eligibility as was required by the court,” said Robyn Merrill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners.

Julie Rabinowitz, a LePage spokeswoman, said “the governor will respond in court at the appropriate time, but believes this filing lacks merit.”

LePage, in his letter asking Medicaid to reject the State Plan Amendment, argued that the state had not set aside money for the expansion. LePage this summer vetoed $60 million in expansion funds approved by lawmakers, with the governor claiming they were one-time budgetary gimmicks.

Maine Equal Justice Partners has disputed LePage’s budget arguments, saying the state has enough money to start the expansion, and that it’s not the federal government’s role to step into state budget disputes.

“The inclusion of unrequested, unprecedented and highly disputed claims about the state’s financial circumstances has no place on a form that merely seeks to alert the federal government to what its financial obligations will be,” according to the motion. “Its inclusion can only be seen as an effort to achieve what the governor requested – denial of the addition of the expansion group, in violation of this Court’s order and the will of the people.”

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court in August ordered the LePage administration to file the State Plan Amendment.

Rabinowitz, in a statement to the Press Herald, wrote that the “motion ignores the fact that the governor’s action complied with the terms of the order and is entirely consistent with the concurring opinion written by the Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Court.” Rabinowitz was referring to Chief Justice Leigh Saufley, who wrote a concurring opinion that agreed LePage must file a State Plan Amendment but also said that the plan, for budgetary reasons, has “no reasonable likelihood of meeting the approval of the administrators of the federal Medicaid program.”

Filing the amendment while simultaneously arguing that the federal government reject the application is also in contempt of court, Maine Equal Justice Partners argued in its filing.

But rather than hold the LePage administration in contempt, attorneys for Maine Equal Justice wrote that a better option would be for the court to appoint a receiver to edit the State Plan Amendment.

Medicaid officials couldn’t be reached for comment by the Press Herald this week.

Maine Equal Justice Partners also sent a letter to Medicaid officials earlier this week urging them to ignore LePage’s request to deny the State Plan Amendment.

Medicaid is a federal program operated by the states and funded by a mixture of state and federal dollars. Medicaid expansion is a key component of the Affordable Care Act, but a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision said that states could choose to opt out of expansion. Thirty-four states, including Maine, have approved Medicaid expansion.

Under Medicaid expansion, the federal government pays 90 percent of the costs of expansion. Mainers earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $34,638 for a family of three and $16,753 for a single person, would be eligible. About 273,000 Maine residents are already covered by Medicaid.

The court filing also argues that the effective date of the expansion should be July 2 instead of the State Plan Amendment’s filing of Sept. 4.

A pending court case in Superior Court will decide, among many issues, whether Maine residents should be entitled to Medicaid retroactive to July 2, when Maine Equal Justice argues the law should have gone into effect.

Some Maine residents – it’s not clear how many but possibly hundreds – applied for Medicaid under expansion eligibility shortly after July 2. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services sent them denial letters.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

jlawlor@pressherald.com

Twitter: joelawlorph

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/advocacy-group-makes-new-legal-move-to-block-lepages-efforts-to-reject-medicaid-expansion/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1409095_958677_lepage2.jpgGov. Paul LePage is term-limited but will be a large presence in the Nov. 6 election. Governor candidate Shawn Moody will tout his relationship with the fellow Republican; Democrat Janet Mills will highlight how she's been a thorn in his side. Staff file photo by John EwingFri, 21 Sep 2018 22:25:19 +0000
Governor candidate Caron made nearly $1 million last year; Moody’s income is under wraps https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/three-out-of-four-candidates-in-maines-governors-race-release-tax-records/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/three-out-of-four-candidates-in-maines-governors-race-release-tax-records/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 17:56:58 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/three-out-of-four-candidates-in-maines-governors-race-release-tax-records/ Three of the four candidates in the race to be Maine’s next governor released copies of their state and federal tax returns at the request of the Portland Press Herald on Friday, and independent candidate Alan Caron reported the highest income, $912,952, in 2017 and paid $190,193 in state and federal taxes.

Republican Shawn Moody, whose campaign bills him as a self-made millionaire, refused to release his returns.

Tax returns for the other independent in the race, State Treasurer Terry Hayes, show that she and her husband earned $89,440 and paid combined state and federal taxes of $12,885 in 2017. Democratic candidate and Maine Attorney General Janet Mills requested an extension with the Internal Revenue Service and has not filed her 2017 tax returns yet. A copy of her extension request, which usually requires an estimate of earnings and taxes, did not include those estimates.

Her 2016 returns show that she earned $114,175 that year and paid $26,322 in combined state and federal income taxes.

At the Press Herald’s request, the three candidates provided returns for five tax years, 2013 through 2017.

Though Moody didn’t release his returns, his campaign shared a “Statement of Sources of Income for Executive Employees,” the state form that lists his business interests. The form, which Moody would have to file with the state ethics commission if he wins the election, includes no information about his income or taxes.

Caron’s returns show his income in 2017 included $106,827 in salaries and $816,903 in capital gains. The capital gains were from the sale of stock, campaign spokesman Tom Bell said. Caron and his wife, Kristina Egan, also reported donations of $235,480 to charity in 2017. Caron has largely self-funded his campaign, contributing $485,000 of the $534,655 his campaign has raised so far, according to the latest campaign finance reports available with the Maine Ethics Commission. Egan is employed as the executive director of the Greater Portland Council of Governments.

Caron said the stock sale was done largely to fund the campaign. “You’ll see in these returns a significant spike in our income in 2017, primarily from capital gains, as we converted some of our investments to cash in order to run what has been largely a self-funded campaign free of special-interest money,” he wrote in an email.

The form submitted by Moody shows four businesses that he owns, including a chain of 11 auto body repair shops that are partially owned by his employees, a real estate holding company and two other companies involved in what appears to be renewable energy and recycling. Moody also disclosed that he has been paid by the state for auto body repair work on vehicles used by Maine State Police and the Department of Transportation, as well as work for the Maine Municipal Association.

Hayes said she believed it was important to disclose her sources of income. Before becoming state treasurer, Hayes made less than $20,000.

“Like a lot of Mainers, I have often worked more than one job at a time to pay the bills,” she said. “It’s important to me to declare my income from all sources so the Maine people can place their trust in me to serve as our next governor with the knowledge that I represent all the people.”

TAX DATA REQUIREMENT RARE AMONG STATES

Open Checkbook, a state database of spending, shows that Moody’s company, Moody’s Collision Centers, has been paid $3,025 so far in 2018 for repairing state vehicles. Moody also is reimbursed for his mileage for his work as a trustee on the boards of the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System.

Moody’s campaign spokeswoman, Lauren LePage, daughter of Republican Gov. Paul LePage, wrote in an email that in withholding his tax returns from the public, Moody was following precedent set by Maine’s congressional delegation, “and going over and above what has been done in the past.”

Sen. Angus King of Maine released his return when he ran in 2012, as did his Democratic opponent, Cynthia Dill. But the entire delegation, including King, Republican Sen. Susan Collins, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and Rep Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, refused to release their tax returns in 2016, although Collins called on President Trump to do so that year. All but Collins are up for re-election this year.

Trump has refused to release his tax records, breaking four decades of presidential tradition.

In 2014, all three candidates in the Maine governor’s race, including LePage, Democrat Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler, released redacted copies of their returns to the media.

Only Vermont has a law requiring candidates for governor to release their tax returns. It’s being used for the first time this year after being passed in 2017, but there are no penalties for ignoring it – as did one candidate who appeared on the state’s primary ballot in August.

Lawmakers in more than two dozen states, including Maine, introduced legislation last year that would have required presidential candidates to release their tax returns as a condition of getting on the ballot. None of those became law, in part because of constitutional concerns, and two were vetoed.

Even without a requirement, in a nod to transparency, it has become customary in some states for gubernatorial candidates to release their tax returns, or at least partial returns, as it has been in U.S. presidential contests. Trump’s refusal led to questions about his wealth, debts and, amid the ongoing investigation into Russian election interference, whether he has financial ties to Russian interests.

VALUE OF HOMES AND OTHER PROPERTIES

Refusing to release the returns has become an issue in several other governor’s races, including in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa and New Mexico.

Beyond income earned from their work or businesses, all four candidates own homes in Maine, and Mills and Moody also own other properties.

Caron’s only property is his home in Freeport, which he owns with his wife. It is valued at $424,000, and the couple paid $6,338 in property taxes, according to town tax records.

Moody’s Gorham home, which he owns with his wife, Christina, is valued at $352,800 – he takes a homestead exemption valued at $20,000. His property tax bill for 2018 was $5,690.88. Moody also pays property taxes on eight other properties, including some with buildings valued at $648,800 in Gorham with property taxes totaling $11,091.

One of his companies, Moody’s Co-Worker Owned Inc., also has a property without a building valued at $902,000, and another of his companies, Moody’s Collision Centers Inc., also owns a parcel valued at $56,900. The taxes on the two parcels combined are $16,412.

Mills’ Farmington home is valued at $156,000 – she takes a homestead exemption valued at $21,000. Her property tax bill for 2018 was $3,052.92, town records show. Mills also appears to own three rental properties, two in Farmington and one in Augusta, based on her tax returns.

Hayes’ Buckfield home is valued at $111,000 – she takes a homestead exemption valued at $20,000. Her property tax bill for 2018 was $2,034.76, according to town records. Hayes owns no other property.

“I consider myself to be a part owner in all of Maine’s public lands and I have a tent,” Hayes said.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

sthistle@pressherald.com

Twitter: thisdog

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/three-out-of-four-candidates-in-maines-governors-race-release-tax-records/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/caron.hayes_.mills_.-moody.jpgFri, 21 Sep 2018 23:46:39 +0000
Watch video: Sen. Collins ‘appalled’ by Trump’s tweet criticizing Kavanaugh accuser https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/collins-appalled-by-trumps-tweet-criticizing-kavanaugh-accuser/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/collins-appalled-by-trumps-tweet-criticizing-kavanaugh-accuser/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 17:07:12 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/collins-appalled-by-trumps-tweet-criticizing-kavanaugh-accuser/ Maine Sen. Susan Collins said she was “appalled” by President Trump’s tweets Friday morning that criticized Christine Blasey Ford for not coming forward sooner with her allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Speaking at an event in Portland, Collins appeared to offer support for Ford, who has said Kavanaugh tried to sexually assault her 36 years ago, when they were both in high school.

The senator stopped short, though, of saying whether she believed Ford’s explosive allegations.

“I was appalled by the president’s tweet,” Collins said. “First of all, we know that allegations of sexual assault – I’m not saying that’s what happened in this case – but we know allegations of sexual assault are one of the most unreported crimes that exist. So I thought that the president’s tweet was completely inappropriate and wrong.”

Trump tweeted that if Ford thought what happened to her years ago was “as bad as she says,” she should have alerted law enforcement. He then reiterated his support for Kavanaugh, his pick to replace outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy, saying Kavanaugh has an “impeccable reputation.”

The allegations have thrown Kavanaugh’s confirmation into chaos at the last minute, as Republicans face increasing pressure to get him confirmed before the midterm elections in November.

Collins said she still wants to hear from Ford directly, but also said members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is handling the confirmation, should be allowed to question her about the allegations. The committee chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, has invited both Kavanaugh and Ford to testify before the committee on Monday. Ford, through her attorneys, has said she cannot appear Monday but could later in the week.

Sen. Susan Collins sits on a stage at The Cedars, a retirement community in Portland, during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new housing unit on Friday.

Grassley issued a deadline for negotiations on Friday night, saying the Judiciary Committee would vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination Monday if Ford’s attorneys didn’t reach an agreement by 10 p.m. on when she would testify before the committee.

Minutes before Grassley’s deadline, an attorney for Ford asked for another day to decide. Lawyer Debra Katz said the time limit’s “sole purpose is to bully Dr. Ford and deprive her of the ability to make a considered decision that has life-altering implications for her and her family.”

Collins said she would be comfortable allowing Ford to testify later in the week and said the committee should make reasonable accommodations to allow her to speak. Collins also said the committee should be able to use its discretion to structure the hearing as it sees fit, including using outside counsel, a step she called “not at all unusual.”

“I do think that both she and Judge Kavanaugh need to testify under oath, but I believe we should attempt to make this as comfortable a process for her as possible,” Collins said. “To me, Monday is the preferred date but I don’t see a problem with delaying to Wednesday or Thursday.”

Collins said, for her, hearing from Ford directly is critical.

“It’s very difficult to assess credibility if you don’t get to see the person or hear them and that’s what I want,” she explained.

Although Collins and some other possible swing votes have not indicated how they plan to vote when Kavanaugh’s confirmation is considered by the full Senate, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell seemed confident Friday that whether Ford testifies or not may not matter.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine dumps dirt from an excavator bucket on Friday during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new housing unit at The Cedars, a retirement community in Portland. Afterward, Collins answered questions from reporters about President Trump’s Twitter remarks about Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearings.

“Here’s what I want to tell you,” McConnell said Friday morning at a summit for social conservatives, according to the Washington Post. “In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the U.S. Supreme Court. So, my friends, keep the faith. Don’t get rattled by all this. We’re going to plow right through it and do our job.”

Collins was in Portland late Friday morning for an event at The Cedars, a senior living facility that is planning an expansion. After delivering remarks, the senator climbed into an excavator and scooped a pile of dirt to mark the symbolic start of that project.

Before the event, she was greeted by about 30 protesters who stood at the entrance with signs urging her to vote against Kavanaugh. In recent weeks, Collins has faced unrelenting pressure on her vote, including calls to her office, some of which have been threatening in nature.

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One of the protesters who stood outside Friday’s event, Kate Josephs of Damariscotta, said Collins needs to see and hear from her constituents.

“She’s one of only two Republican women (in the Senate) who can stop this,” Josephs said. “She has always said that she supports women. Well, this is her acid test.”

Asked if she had any reaction to the protesters, Collins said, “Not really.”

“I’ve had protesters at my house, I understand there is another protest scheduled at my house, at my offices. That seems to be the way that people want to express their views and they are welcome to do so,” she said. “I personally think that it’s far more constructive when someone sends me a well-thought-out email or a letter or call to my office. But people certainly have every right to protest, and they have certainly been exercising that right.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/21/collins-appalled-by-trumps-tweet-criticizing-kavanaugh-accuser/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/173256-20180921_Collins_008.jpgPORTLAND, ME - SEPTEMBER 21: U.S. Sen. Susan Collins sits on a stage at The Cedars -- a retirement community in Portland -- during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new housing unit. (Staff photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)Sat, 22 Sep 2018 15:42:41 +0000
Sen. King calls for park service to address deferred maintenance https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/sen-king-calls-for-park-service-to-address-deferred-maintenance/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/sen-king-calls-for-park-service-to-address-deferred-maintenance/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 00:08:52 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/sen-king-calls-for-park-service-to-address-deferred-maintenance/ BAR HARBOR — U.S. Sen. Angus King said he emphasized the importance of addressing a maintenance backlog during a tour of Acadia National Park with the acting National Park Service director.

King said Thursday that Americans are falling short of a commitment to leave national parks in better shape for the next generation. There is now a $12 billion backlog of maintenance nationwide. Acadia’s backlog is pegged at $60 million.

King and acting Director Dan Smith were joined by Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and others on a tour led by Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider.

King, an independent, and three other senators introduced a bipartisan bill to reduce the maintenance backlog. He said that addressing the backlog will “ensure that our children and grandchildren can experience Cadillac Mountain sunrises for years to come.”

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/sen-king-calls-for-park-service-to-address-deferred-maintenance/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/54178-04-20170731_BARHARBOR.jpgBAR HARBOR, ME - JULY 31: Hundreds of visitors flock to Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park to watch the sunrise Monday, July 31, 2017. At 1530 ft. Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain along the Eastern Coast of the United States. (Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)Thu, 20 Sep 2018 20:19:05 +0000
Lawmakers turn out the lights on political messages projected on State House https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/top-lawmakers-vote-to-ban-projected-messages-on-maine-state-house/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/top-lawmakers-vote-to-ban-projected-messages-on-maine-state-house/#respond Thu, 20 Sep 2018 21:34:13 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/top-lawmakers-vote-to-ban-projected-messages-on-maine-state-house/ AUGUSTA — Legislative leaders voted Thursday to prohibit political messages from being projected onto the Maine State House in what they said was an effort to maintain the Capitol as a “neutral institution of democracy.”

Projecting images or messages onto buildings is becoming increasingly common in Maine and nationally as activists seek to make splashy, highly visible statements without causing physical damage. The tactic has been used at least three times at the Maine State House – including twice this year to display pro-gun control messages – and has been employed repeatedly on the exterior of Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., by critics of President Trump.

In March, the group LumenARRT! projected images carrying the words “PROPERTY OF THE NRA” and “SOLD TO THE NRA” on the side of the State House in response to legislative inaction on gun control as national debate flared over gun laws after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. The group returned a month later with projections supporting “red flag” legislation that allows police or courts to temporarily confiscate guns from individuals deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

And in 2011, activists projected images on the State House of an 11-panel mural about the labor movement after Gov. Paul LePage had the mural removed from the Department of Labor building.

‘ANOTHER TOOL’ FOR STATE POLICE

Maine State Capitol Police have, in the past, shut down such displays on grounds that the groups lacked permits or that Maine law prohibits political signs on state property. But police recently asked the Legislative Council – a committee comprised of the top-ranking lawmakers – to explicitly prohibit projected displays.

“This doesn’t prohibit someone from carrying signs or even having their own tent … but they still have to get an activity permit,” said Grant Pennoyer, executive director of the Legislative Council, which oversees policy and facilities operations within the Capitol complex. “But they can’t tie anything, like signs, between trees on the State House or on the fence post. And this would give state police another tool to block people from projecting an image on the State House and surrounding buildings.”

In a 6-0 vote, council members approved the new policy prohibiting projected messages as well as proposals to change the lighting of the State House dome. Pennoyer said his office periodically receives requests to change the lighting, the most recent request tied to the 70th anniversary of the creation of the nation of Israel.

“The State House Dome lights are not currently equipped to accommodate colors or filters, but any proposal including those as simple as turning off some of the lights for a particular reason are not consistent with maintaining the neutrality of the State House and therefore must be denied,” the policy says.

A representative for the ACLU of Maine said he had not heard about the Legislative Council’s discussions and was not aware that the organization had any formal positions on the issue.

But Anita Clearfield, a member of the LumenARRT! group that projects images or messages of social change issues, called the revised policy “silly.” Her organization also was behind recent climate change-related messaging projected (with a permit) on the Portland Public Library building, as well as other messaging on racism and immigration.

“It’s free speech; you should be able to say what you want,” said Clearfield, who was not aware of the Legislative Council discussions. “It’s a public space, paid for with tax dollars. It’s our State House.”

LumenARRT! was initially told by Capitol Police to shut down its NRA projection in March because it lacked a permit required for demonstrations at the State House. But they were subsequently denied a permit for another display and told to take up the issue with the Legislative Council. Clearfield pointed out that the group stages its projections at night when few people are around and that the displays are not harming the building.

“It’s hard to understand why they are doing this, other than what we are doing must be effective,” she said.

CONCRETE LANGUAGE TO DENY PERMITS

But Chief Russell Gauvin with the Bureau of Capitol Police said the policy should help.

Gauvin pointed out that it is already a criminal offense, under Maine’s election laws, to post political signs on state government property because the state does not want to be viewed as supporting one political issue over another. Under the revised State House policy, projections won’t be a criminal violation but it will give Gauvin concrete language to refer to when denying permit requests.

Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, successfully argued to tweak the policy by adding the phrase “without the expressed consent of the Legislative Council” to allow for some flexibility. As an example, Thibodeau pointed to past widespread use of yellow ribbons tied around trees to show support for causes, most recently for deployed military personnel.

“It’s a recognition that there may be things in our state’s future where we want to have a little bit of latitude,” Thibodeau said.

The city of Portland also has a policy prohibiting political projections on buildings without a permit, although the policy is not always enforced – or even universally supported by city leaders.

Earlier this month, an organization projected an image saying that “Roe v. Wade is more popular than Brett Kavanaugh,” referring to the controversy surrounding the Supreme Court nominee’s stance on the landmark abortion case.

While the city’s spokeswoman pointed out the display lacked a permit and broke city rules, Mayor Ethan Strimling told the CBS13 television station that “this is their right to project a message on the side of the building that’s owned by the public.”

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the Trump International Hotel has been the site of numerous visual demonstrations projecting messages such as “Impeach Trump,” “Pay Trump bribes here” and “There is a rapist in the White House.”

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/top-lawmakers-vote-to-ban-projected-messages-on-maine-state-house/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1572298_625277-Projection-1.jpgIn March, LumenARRT! – part of the Artists Rapid Response Team – projected protest messages on the Capitol Building. The Legislative Council voted 6-0 Thursday to prohibit political displays like these.Fri, 21 Sep 2018 00:07:14 +0000
Maine court to hear arguments in fight over implementing Medicaid expansion https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/maine-court-to-hear-arguments-in-medicaid-expansion-fight/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/maine-court-to-hear-arguments-in-medicaid-expansion-fight/#respond Thu, 20 Sep 2018 20:03:56 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/maine-court-to-hear-arguments-in-medicaid-expansion-fight/ A Maine court is preparing to hear the latest arguments in the state’s failure to enact voter-approved Medicaid expansion.

Expansion has been held up for months because of Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s opposition over funding issues and the resulting legal battles. A judge charged with addressing looming constitutional issues affecting Medicaid expansion has scheduled hearings for Sept. 27-28 in Portland.

Last fall, nearly three of five Maine voters supported expanding Medicaid to 70,000 to 80,000 adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Maine’s top court recently upheld a lower court order requiring the LePage administration to file paperwork needed to start rolling out Medicaid expansion. The state submitted what’s known as a state plan amendment, but the governor urged federal regulators to reject it.

Maine’s top court left consideration of constitutional issues about Medicaid expansion to a Superior Court judge, who will begin to weigh such matters at the court hearings next week.

One issue is that the voter-approved ballot measure didn’t say how Maine would pay for its share of expansion.

Pro-Medicaid expansion groups, such as Maine Equal Justice Partners, argue that Maine, like other states, can simply rely on state general funds. Charlie Dingman, a lawyer representing the group, said he expects courts will address what should happen now that the July 2 deadline for implementing Medicaid expansion has passed and Mainers have begun applying for coverage.

“We will also be addressing the bad faith of the administration in failing to file a state plan amendment that was straightforward and designed to encourage coverage would begin,” Dingman said.

The governor’s office, meanwhile, has said the LePage administration has complied with the court order.

The governor denies estimates that expansion will save Maine tens of millions of dollars and has vowed to block Medicaid expansion until lawmakers provide funding under his terms, which include no tax increases. He vetoed a bill to fund expansion using state surplus and one-time tobacco settlement funds.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/maine-court-to-hear-arguments-in-medicaid-expansion-fight/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1566990_22333_lepage2.jpgA reader says having health care coverage is an advantage that Gov. Paul LePage, above, apparently thinks poor Mainers don't deserve.Thu, 20 Sep 2018 22:43:38 +0000
Kavanaugh accuser looks to negotiate conditions to testify later next week https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/collins-not-fair-if-kavanaugh-accuser-doesnt-testify/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/collins-not-fair-if-kavanaugh-accuser-doesnt-testify/#respond Thu, 20 Sep 2018 14:59:49 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/collins-not-fair-if-kavanaugh-accuser-doesnt-testify/ WASHINGTON — Christine Blasey Ford may personally testify against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after all, her attorney said Thursday, breathing new life into the prospect of a dramatic Senate showdown next week over Ford’s accusation that he assaulted her when both were in high school.

Ford will tell her story to the Judiciary Committee, whose senators will vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation — but only if agreement can be reached on “terms that are fair and which ensure her safety,” the attorney said.

The positive tone of the lawyer’s email revived the possibility that the panel would hold an electrifying campaign-season hearing at which both Ford and President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee could give their versions of what did or didn’t happen at a party in the 1980s.

Kavanaugh, now a judge on the powerful District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, has repeatedly denied her allegation.

The accusation has jarred the 53-year-old conservative jurist’s prospects for winning confirmation, which until Ford’s emergence last week had seemed all but certain. It has also bloomed into a broader clash over whether women alleging abuse are taken seriously by men and how both political parties address such claims with the advent of the #MeToo movement — a theme that could echo in this November’s elections for control of Congress.

In one obstacle that must be overcome, Katz’s email said a hearing Monday is “not possible” and that scheduling it that day “is arbitrary in any event.” Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has scheduled the hearing for that morning, and he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have indicated it would be Ford’s only chance to make her case. Republicans are anxious to move ahead to a vote by the committee, where they hold an 11-10 majority, and then by the full Senate, which they control, 51-49.

Taylor Foy, spokesman for Republicans on the panel, made no commitment but said in a written statement, “We are happy that Dr. Ford’s attorneys are now engaging with the Committee.”

Attorney Debra Katz said anew that Ford, 51, a psychology professor in California, has received death threats and for safety reasons has relocated her family.

“She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety,” Katz wrote in the email, which was obtained by The Associated Press after first being reported by The New York Times.

From left, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Alexis Goldstein and Sarah Burgess, alumnae of the Holton-Arms School, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speak at a news conference in support of Christine Blasey Ford, who is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a decades-old sexual attack, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday. Holton Arms is the Maryland all-girls school that Christine Blasey Ford attended in the early 1980s. Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite

Should Ford testify, especially in public, it would pit the words of two distinguished professionals against each other as television close-ups capture every emotion. Assessing them would be not just the committee’s 21 senators — of whom only four are women, all Democrats — but millions of viewing voters.

Underscoring the sensitivity of all-male GOP senators grilling a woman who’s alleged abuse, Republicans are considering reaching out to female attorneys who might question Ford, according to a person who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

If Ford opts not to participate, Republicans could well dispense with the hearing to avoid giving Democrats a forum for peppering Kavanaugh with embarrassing questions. They would argue that they’d offered Ford several options for describing her accusation, but that she’d snubbed them.

Ford has contended that at a house party in Washington’s Maryland suburbs, a drunken Kavanaugh tried undressing her and stifling her cries on a bed before she fled.

Grassley has said that in the interest of making Ford comfortable, he’d be willing to let Ford testify in public or private. He even offered to send committee aides to her California home to take testimony.

“Dr. Ford has asked me to let you know that she appreciates the various options you have suggested,” Katz wrote. The email did not say any option was preferred.

As the week has proceeded, Republicans have seemed to regain momentum toward approving Kavanaugh though his prospects have remained uncertain.

Even moderate Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said it would “unfair” to Kavanaugh if Ford decides to not appear, and others were urging leaders to proceed quickly to a vote. Still, the bare 51-49 Republican majority means they can lose just one vote and still approve him if all Democrats vote no. Vice President Mike Pence would break a tie.

Democrats have tried using the issue to demonstrate that Republicans treat women unfairly, their eyes on upcoming elections in which suburban, anti-Trump female voters could be pivotal in many races. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a possible 2020 presidential candidate, said Republicans were “bullying” Ford by giving her a Monday deadline to testify.

Thursday’s email was the latest turnabout by Ford and her lawyers.

She went public with her accusation over the weekend in a Washington Post interview, and said Monday through her lawyer that she was ready to testify. But Tuesday, she began insisting on an FBI investigation of her allegations and said other witnesses should also participate a hearing.

Those conditions had cast strong doubts on her willingness to appear, and it became unclear whether Republicans would even hold the hearing.

The email said Ford’s “strong preference” remains that the committee allow a thorough investigation of her claim before she appears. But that wording fell short of a non-negotiable demand.

Katz asked committee aides for a telephone conversation to discuss terms.

Kavanaugh was spotted at the White House Thursday, and allies said he is eager to address the accusation and will be prepared to address the committee Monday. President Donald Trump refrained from tweeting about his nominee.

Republicans have resisted all Democratic efforts to slow and perhaps block Kavanaugh’s confirmation. A substantial delay could push confirmation past the November elections, when Democrats have a shot at winning Senate control, plus allow more time for unforeseen problems to crop up.

AP writers Padmananda Rama, Catherine Lucey and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/collins-not-fair-if-kavanaugh-accuser-doesnt-testify/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1571550_Supreme_Court_Kavanaugh_702.jpgFrom left, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Alexis Goldstein and Sarah Burgess, alumnae of the Holton-Arms School, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speak at a news conference in support of Christine Blasey Ford, who is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a decades-old sexual attack, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday. Holton Arms is the Maryland all-girls school that Christine Blasey Ford attended in the early 1980s.Thu, 20 Sep 2018 18:46:56 +0000
Releasing tax returns an issue again – in governor’s races https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/releasing-tax-returns-an-issue-again-in-governors-races/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/releasing-tax-returns-an-issue-again-in-governors-races/#respond Thu, 20 Sep 2018 14:43:15 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/releasing-tax-returns-an-issue-again-in-governors-races/ HARRISBURG, Pa. – The candidate had just chided the media minutes earlier for not being tougher on his opponent when the moderator asked him what might be his least favorite campaign question: Why won’t you release your tax returns?

It wasn’t a scene from the 2016 presidential race. Rather, it was from this year’s campaign for governor in Pennsylvania, where the Republican challenger who has made millions from his trash-hauling business has refused to release his tax returns.

“How much I make or don’t make is nobody’s business, frankly,” the candidate, Scott Wagner, responded during a question-and-answer forum.

The incumbent, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, released his tax return in what he said was a nod to transparency. The discrepancy between the two candidates and the ongoing dispute highlights a fact that was overlooked in the controversy over then-candidate Donald Trump’s refusal to release his returns during the 2016 presidential race: The nation’s other executive branch leaders – state governors – also are not required to release their tax returns and often don’t.

It’s an issue that is playing out this year in several hotly contested races, including in Illinois, Iowa and New Mexico, to name a few.

Only one state, Vermont, has a law that says candidates for governor and other statewide offices must release at least part of their tax returns. It’s in use for the first time this year after being passed in 2017, but there are no penalties for ignoring it – as did one candidate who appeared on the state’s primary ballot in August.

Somewhat ironically, lawmakers in more than two dozen states introduced legislation last year that would have required presidential candidates to release their tax returns as a condition of getting on the ballot. None of those became law, in part because of constitutional concerns, and two were vetoed.

Even without a requirement, it has become customary in some states for the candidates for governor to release their tax returns, or at least partial returns, as it has been in U.S. presidential contests. Trump’s refusal to release his broke four decades of precedent and has led to questions about his wealth, debts and, amid the ongoing investigation into Russian election interference, whether he has Russian financial ties.

Failure to release tax returns has stirred similar suspicions in some governor’s races, with Trump’s name often invoked.

In New Mexico, the Democratic nominee, U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, has publicly shared five years of tax returns. The Republican, Congressman Steve Pearce, has not released any returns, instead referring inquiries about personal finances to his annual congressional financial disclosures.

Democrats say Pearce’s tax returns could provide more information about his 2003 sale of an oilfield services company and show whether he has any conflicts of interest in a state that depends on the oil and natural gas industry to support about one-third of its annual state budget.

Democrats and their allies have attacked him on social media for refusing to release his returns and tied that criticism to Trump: “What is Pearce hiding?” reads one labor union’s Twitter post.

Transparency advocates worry that Trump’s election victory will embolden other candidates for top office to keep their tax returns private.

With races for governor on the November general election ballot in 36 states this year, candidates in fewer than half of those states have released part or all of a tax return, according to a review by Associated Press statehouse reporters.

It has emerged in some races as a campaign issue.

In Illinois, where candidates traditionally release a return, Democrat J.B. Pritzker, a billionaire, did not release a full tax return. That inspired a rival in the primary to compare him to Trump. After surviving that campaign, Pritzker is facing off in the general election against a candidate with almost as much money – the incumbent governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, who also has not released a full tax return.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, released 10 years of tax returns and challenged Democratic nominee Fred Hubbell to do the same. Hubbell released only portions of his returns, prompting Reynolds to question what Hubbell had to hide.

Hubbell’s campaign shot back that Reynolds is being hypocritical, after having never questioned Trump’s failure to release his. Reynolds’ campaign responded that she believes Trump, too, should release his returns.

Tax returns are far more detailed than the financial disclosure forms often required of candidates for statewide office, which generally show sources of income and little more.

A tax return will show specific amounts of income, the sources of that income, taxes paid and strategies used to limit or avoid tax liability, what they deduct and how much they give to charity.

All those details can be fodder for campaign attack ads, explaining why many candidates are reluctant to release it.

California’s Democratic nominee, Gavin Newsom, released six years of tax returns after two straight cycles in which neither major party nominee released theirs. That gave Republican nominee John Cox a target to attack.

Cox – who released his two-page 1040 forms, but none of the attachments or schedules released by Newsom – suggested the Democrat is taking advantage of lower income taxes in Nevada and getting rich from an “intricate web of Getty-funded properties and businesses.”

A spokesman, Nathan Click, said Newsom had no regrets about releasing his tax returns, and remained “proud to have set the bar of transparency in this race.”

The release-or-not-to-release calculation has been on full display in Wagner’s uphill bid to unseat Wolf in Pennsylvania.

Wagner has said he will not divest his ownership of the $75 million waste hauling business should he win. That has raised alarms with transparency advocates about the potential for conflict because state government heavily regulates municipal waste.

He has given varied reasons for his refusal to open his tax returns for review – saying at one point it was because they were “very complicated.” At another, he said unions would use them to promote his wealth in an attempt to organize his company’s workers.

Wagner maintains that he has complied with state requirements to disclose sources of income, that he owes no back taxes and provides charitable contributions through his company. Democrats say his word is not enough.

In a statement, the state Democratic Party said Wagner’s “refusal to release his tax returns raises questions about what he could be hiding.”

Associated Press writers Sara Burnett in Chicago, Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and David Pitt in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/20/releasing-tax-returns-an-issue-again-in-governors-races/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/irs.pngirs 2017 tax return 11040 individualThu, 20 Sep 2018 11:21:31 +0000
Democrats use change in tax code as political weapon in key House races https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/democrats-use-change-in-tax-code-as-political-weapon-in-key-house-races/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/democrats-use-change-in-tax-code-as-political-weapon-in-key-house-races/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 23:41:25 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/democrats-use-change-in-tax-code-as-political-weapon-in-key-house-races/ CHERRY HILL, N.J. — Congressman Leonard Lance voted last December with the interests of his northern New Jersey district in mind when he opposed his own party’s sweeping tax overhaul.

The cap on deductions for state and local taxes that was part of the Republican plan was bound to mean that many people in the high-tax state would pay more.

“My constituents know I will fight for complete deductibility,” he said.

Despite his opposition, the tax law has become one of the flash points in Lance’s re-election campaign.

In their quest to regain the majority in the U.S. House, Democrats are focusing on the law’s potential to hurt voters in certain congressional districts in high-tax states such as New Jersey, New York and California. The three states combined have about a dozen competitive House seats, roughly half the number that Democrats need to retake the chamber, and are in places where voters are upset about the new deduction limits.

Most voters won’t know until next year whether they will pay more in taxes under the Republican law, but the Democrats aren’t waiting. They are promoting the narrative that the cap on deductions for state and local taxes will hurt some taxpayers in those states – or at least mean they will not see the same benefit from the law as people in other states.

“People want to see the SALT deduction restored,” said Tom Malinowski, Lance’s Democratic opponent in the campaign for New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District. “There is precisely 0.0 percent chance it will be restored if we send Congressman Lance back to Washington to vote for the same GOP leadership that passed the tax bill and will defend it to its dying political day.”

Underscoring that point, Republican leaders in the House recently proposed changes to the tax law, including making the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions permanent. The current law sets the cap only through 2025, after which it would once again be an unlimited deduction.

Malinowski said taxes are the top issue raised by voters on the campaign trail. An assistant secretary of state under former President Barack Obama, Malinowski already is running television commercials saying the unlimited deduction ought to be restored.

Josh Zylbershlag, a technology director for a law firm who lives in Lance’s congressional district, said it appears he will receive a net tax cut from the new law, but he is troubled by the likelihood that some of his neighbors will not.

He said he believes the cap on deductions was designed to hurt people in Democratic-leaning states such as New Jersey – some of whom might not know they will have to pay higher taxes until they file their returns next year.

“Republicans are counting on the fact that the impacts won’t be felt before the 2018 midterms,” said Zylbershlag, who has gotten involved in Malinowski’s campaign.

BIGGEST IMPACT IN CITIES, SUBURBS

Any boost that Democrats receive from pushing arguments over a single tax provision may be marginal. But even marginal gains with voters in a handful of congressional districts could be enough to tip the balance of power in Washington, where Democrats need a net increase of 23 seats to win a majority in the House.

Before the Republican tax overhaul, filers who itemize their returns could deduct without limits the state and local taxes they paid, including property taxes. The new law caps the deduction at $10,000 – a compromise after some Republicans initially wanted to eliminate it.

In most of the country, that threshold would affect only a small slice of households. But in many suburbs and cities, particularly in higher-tax states, the potential impact of the cap is more widespread.

Those who are higher-income but not super-wealthy – defined as making more than 80 percent of earners but less than the top 5 percent – are most likely to see higher federal tax obligations on this year’s earnings, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan but left-leaning research group based in Washington, D.C. Nationally, about 14 percent of this group can expect to pay more under the Republican plan.

That percentage is greater in higher-income areas of high-tax states.

PINPOINTING HIGHER TAXES

In California, New Jersey and New York, that income range starts at less than $150,000 and rises to at least $280,000. More than 20 percent of taxpayers in that range will have higher taxes, according to the tax policy institute.

A report from the conservative Heritage Foundation found that the average tax bill will go down in every one of the nation’s congressional districts. But roughly 1 in every 15 filers will see their tax bills rise, largely because of the cap on state and local tax deductions, according to analyses from the tax policy institute and the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, which is based in Washington, D.C.

An Associated Press analysis found nearly 1,500 ZIP codes nationally where at least three-quarters of tax filers with incomes between $100,000 and $200,000 use the state and local tax deduction and have an average deduction above $15,000, according to the 2016 data, the latest available.

Taxpayers with incomes in that range and high deductions are among the most likely to have their tax obligations rise under the new law, experts say. Nearly two-thirds of the ZIP codes where they were concentrated are in California, New Jersey and New York.

BENEFITS OF TAX REFORM

California Rep. Mimi Walters, a Republican, embraces the tax law while reminding voters in her Orange County district that she helped convince House Speaker Paul Ryan not to eliminate the favored deduction altogether.

“People are starting to see the benefits of tax reform in the economy,” said Walters, one of 11 House Republicans from California who voted for the tax bill. Three voted against it.

She believes those benefits will outweigh concerns over a single provision of the bill.

Her continued support of the tax overhaul sets up a stark choice in a district won by Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. Walters’ opponent, Democrat Katie Porter, is trying to make the tax changes a key part of her argument against the incumbent.

She said the law “punishes voters in this district,” compared with people with similar incomes who live in lower-tax states.

“People get the message that Mimi Walters doesn’t care about them,” said Porter, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine.

In New Jersey, the politics surrounding the Republican tax bill were sensitive enough that every Republican in the state’s U.S. House delegation except one voted against it. The “no” votes included the powerful Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen.

“It is the No. 1 issue I hear about, and I hear about it from Democrats and Republicans,” says Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat who represents a district that went narrowly for President Donald Trump in 2016. “This bill punishes my district.”

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/democrats-use-change-in-tax-code-as-political-weapon-in-key-house-races/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1570626_Election_2018_Tax_Overhau4.jpgIn this Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, photo, Katie Porter, candidate seeking election to the U.S. House to represent the 45th Congressional District of California arrives for a campaign event in Tustin, Calif. California Rep. Mimi Walters continued support of the tax overhaul sets up a stark choice in a district won by Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. Walters' opponent, Porter, is trying to make the tax changes a key part of her argument against the incumbent. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)Wed, 19 Sep 2018 20:27:08 +0000
Will the Belgrade town manager’s performance be affected if he’s elected as a state rep? Some residents think so. https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/will-the-belgrade-town-managers-performance-be-affected-if-hes-elected-as-a-state-rep-some-residents-think-so/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/will-the-belgrade-town-managers-performance-be-affected-if-hes-elected-as-a-state-rep-some-residents-think-so/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 17:30:33 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/will-the-belgrade-town-managers-performance-be-affected-if-hes-elected-as-a-state-rep-some-residents-think-so/ BELGRADE — A half-dozen residents are raising concerns with the town manager’s candidacy for Legislature, saying the elective office will take away too much time from his municipal responsibilities.

And one former selectman said that he hopes if Dennis Keschl wins the election, he resigns his town post.

Others at a select board meeting Tuesday night, including current selectmen, supported Keschl keeping both jobs, saying he checked with them before the Republican caucus nomination and assured residents his performance on town business will be carefully monitored if he wins the District 76 House seat.

The discussion Tuesday night — which was watched by 14 people in the audience — was in response to a letter from resident Bruce Hazard asking the board a series of questions about Keschl’s salary, candidacy, and intentions.

“I, for one, do not believe that our town manager should be running for political office while continuing to serve as town manager,” Hazard wrote.

Hazard himself had notified town officials by email he would not be at the meeting.

Select board Chairman Rick Damren had suggested postponing the discussion, saying the letter came in after he had signed off on the agenda, but the five-member board decided to deal with it Tuesday night.

Hazard wrote in the letter dated Sept. 14, 2018, that while he was at the Town Office paying his property taxes and returning a Keschl campaign sign “placed on my lawn without my consent,” it occurred to him that he — a registered Democrat — might indirectly be supporting the campaign of Keschl, who is running as a Republican, because the town pays Keschl’s salary.

While Hazard listed the manager’s benefits as at $100,000, Keschl quickly corrected it to say he makes $66,250, declines health benefits, and that he had accepted the 2.5 percent raise the board gave town staffers, and accepts a $1,800 annual retirement contribution from the town.

Keschl said the post of town manager is budgeted for $100,000, but that is not what it costs the town now.

“If I were to drop dead and you had to hire someone, you need money there to pay for those things; that’s why the account looks like it’s near $100,000,” Keschl said.

Keschl said that he put in $300 of his own money to start his campaign, and contributions have come in from friends and other supporters. He said he campaigned for one three-hour stint on Saturday. “I do not campaign on taxpayer time,” he said.

He added, “I believe I’m disappointing many of my constituents in House District 76 because I have been unable to visit them because I’ve been working on issues for the town.”

He also said he became a candidate only after the primary when Republican incumbent Gary Hilliard, also of Belgrade, dropped out for personal reasons. Keschl said he went to the select board to check with them before signing on — because he had committed to stay for three to five years — and that he sought guidance from the Maine Ethics Commission, which indicated there was no conflict in a municipal employee holding a state office.

Several other town managers have served in the Legislature, and currently James Gillway, town manager of Searsport, represents House District 98, Frankfort, Searsport, Swansville and Winterport.

“I would say without any doubt, 20 years ago you could not do it,” Gillway, a Republican, said from his Searsport office on Wednesday. “But with today’s electronics and computers, you can do it. I am able to work on town business remotely in Augusta from my office computer. I can do it on my computer and even on my phone. I’ve been doing it for eight years.”

He also said some people were skeptical that he could do both jobs well, and one selectman refused to sign his contract the first year, but did so in later years. After eight years, Gillway is termed out of his seat and opted against running in the much larger Senate district.

Gillway also mentioned the late Donald Strout, who was a sitting legislator when he became town manager of Corinth in 1979. Strout served in the House for 22 years while remaining town manager.

Belgrade selectmen nodded in agreement as Keschl made his statements Tuesday night.

“I have full confidence in Dennis,” said Michael Barrett, vice chairman. “We gave him our blessing,” said Selectman Melanie Jewell.

“We said if things didn’t work out, we’d be right on you,” Damren said.

While Ernie Rice, who resigned his selectman’s seat in March 2018, suggested Keschl quit the town job if he wins, another former selectman, Gary Mahler, said, “I don’t want Denny to resign at all,” telling him, “I have faith in the fact you’ll act in the best interests of the town. I think you’re doing just fine. I’d like to see Denny run and get elected. I think the town has benefits by having Denny in the Legislature.”

Mahler also said he was the person who placed the Keschl sign in a public right of way near Hazard’s property.

Rice said he intends to vote for Keschl. “I don’t question that he is definitely dedicated to the town of Belgrade,” Rice said.

But he said he had an additional concern: “Denny’s in Augusta and taking care of the town business on a part-time basis, but we had to have a full-time librarian to manage an 1,800-square foot-library with two assistants open 30 hours a week. We had to have that, but we can live with a part-time manager off and on.”

Rice and Kathryn Brown both sought a re-vote by residents on the March 2018 proposal that gave the town a full-time town librarian. The re-vote was rejected by the board.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Brown said that if Keschl is elected, “This essentially makes this job part-time.” She said residents expect Keschl to be at the office during business hours except during vacations, days off and sick days. “We don’t expect to have to find him at the State House, we expect his attention to be primarily in the town.”

Keschl said he is occasionally out of the office on town business and that if someone calls, he returns the call immediately.

“You’ll get the services from me that you’re getting now,” Keschl said.

Another Belgrade resident, Fred Kohler, said, “I noticed in the town manager’s, Denny’s answers to Mr. Hazard’s letter that he did mention that it’s two jobs, the Legislature and here. And we’re asked to take his word for it that he can do a complete job on both.” He added, “It just seems like a conflict of interest to me.”

Keschl served in the Legislature 2011-2014, in the District 83 seat at the time, which included Belgrade, Fayette, Manchester, Mount Vernon and Vienna. The District 76 seat includes Belgrade, Fayette, Mount Vernon, Rome, Vienna and Wayne.

“My entire life is about public service for the past 40-some years,” Keschl said. “That’s why I’m committed to the job as town manager and committed to the people of District 76 if I should be so lucky to be elected.”

Keschl is running against Democrat Carole L. Carothers on the Nov. 6, 2018, ballot.

The board indicated it would respond to Hazard by letter, suggesting he listen to the recording of the 50-minute discussion at the meeting.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

badams@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @betadams

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/will-the-belgrade-town-managers-performance-be-affected-if-hes-elected-as-a-state-rep-some-residents-think-so/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1022442_130307_20180717_keschl_1972.jpgBelgrade Town Manager Dennis Keschl is running for House District 76, and some residents are concerned whether he will have enough time to perform his duties as a municipal employee if he's elected to the Legislature.Wed, 19 Sep 2018 21:43:03 +0000
Trump says it’s ‘hard to imagine’ Kavanaugh is guilty of sex assault allegation https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/trump-republicans-reject-idea-of-fbi-investigation-in-kavanaugh-allegation/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/trump-republicans-reject-idea-of-fbi-investigation-in-kavanaugh-allegation/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 17:18:32 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/trump-republicans-reject-idea-of-fbi-investigation-in-kavanaugh-allegation/ WASHINGTON – President Trump on Wednesday bluntly questioned the allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a fellow high school student over 30 years ago, and Republicans warned the accuser that the window was closing to tell her story before a confirmation vote.

Trump’s skepticism, the most explicit challenge that top Republicans have so far mounted to Christine Blasey Ford’s credibility, came as Republican Senate leaders tried to firm up support for Kavanaugh. A potentially climactic Judiciary Committee showdown is scheduled for next Monday with both Ford and Kavanaugh invited, but her attendance is uncertain, casting doubt on whether the hearing will be held at all.

Ford has said she wants the FBI to investigate her allegation before she will testify. Democrats support that, but Trump and Senate Republicans have been emphatic that it won’t happen.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a likely critical vote in the confirmation, said she too doesn’t believe an FBI investigation should precede testimony before the committee.

“It seems to me what we should be doing is bringing these two individuals before the committee,” Collins told radio hosts for Bangor-based WVOM on Wednesday. “If we need additional help from the FBI, then the committee can ask for it.”

Collins also said that it wouldn’t be fair to Kavanaugh if his accuser did not testify.

“It is my understanding that the committee has offered to hold either a public or a private session, whichever would make her more comfortable,” she said in a statement later in the day.

Leaving the White House to survey flood damage in North Carolina from Hurricane Florence, Trump conceded that “we’ll have to make a decision” if Ford’s account proves convincing. Despite that glimmer of hesitancy, which few other Republicans have shown publicly, the president stood firmly behind Kavanaugh, 53, who would fill the second high court vacancy of Trump’s term.

“I can only say this: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened,” Trump said.

The Republicans are resisting all Democratic efforts to slow and perhaps block what once seemed a smooth path to confirmation that would promote the conservative appeals court judge by the Oct. 1 opening of the Supreme Court’s new term. Kavanaugh’s glide to approval was interrupted last weekend when word of Ford’s allegation became public, but Republican senators are showing no signs of slowing their drive to confirm him as quickly as possible.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote to Ford’s attorneys that the hearing was still scheduled for Monday morning, and he pointedly said she must submit her written statement by 10 a.m. Friday “if she intends to testify” that day.

Lisa Banks, a lawyer for Ford, released a statement late Wednesday that cast no light on whether her client will appear.

She wrote that Ford wants “a full non-partisan investigation” and said Ford is willing to cooperate. But she said Grassley’s plan to call just Kavanaugh and Ford “is not a fair or good faith investigation” and said “multiple witnesses” – whom she didn’t name – should appear.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said of Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser: “It seems to me what we should be doing is bringing these two individuals before the (Senate Judiciary Committee). If we need additional help from the FBI, then the committee can ask for it.”

“The rush to a hearing is unnecessary, and contrary to the Committee discovering the truth,” Banks wrote.

Ford has contended that at a house party in the 1980s, a drunken Kavanaugh tried undressing her and stifled her cries on a bed before she fled. Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied that claim.

Trump’s remark was noteworthy because most Republicans have handled the question of Ford’s credibility more gingerly. They say they want to give Ford, now a professor at Palo Alto University, every chance to tell her story.

“I’d really want to see her. I really would want to see what she has to say,” Trump said. “If she shows up that would be wonderful. If she doesn’t show up that would be unfortunate.”

Seven weeks from elections in which congressional control is at stake, Democrats have been unhesitant about casting Republicans as trying to strong-arm a victim of abuse.

One key Democrat, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, announced Wednesday she will vote against Kavanaugh, depriving Trump’s nominee of a possible swing vote.

McCaskill called the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh troubling, but said she based her decision on the judge’s views on issues like presidential power and “dark money” in campaigns. She’s the first of five undecided Senate Democrats in competitive re-election races to come out against Kavanaugh.

The two parties’ tactics illustrate how they are trying to navigate a political climate in which the #MeToo movement of outing sexual abusers has galvanized many female voters. A substantial delay could push confirmation past the November elections, when Democrats have a shot at winning Senate control, plus allow more time for unforeseen problems to pop up.

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“Dr. Blasey Ford is calling for an impartial FBI investigation of her serious and credible allegations. Meanwhile Republicans are trying to bully her into a rigged hearing before a neutral investigation and without the only identified eyewitness,” No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin of Illinois tweeted.

Ford and her Democratic allies also want the committee to interview Mark Judge, a Kavanaugh friend who Ford has said was in the bedroom during the attack. Judge has said he doesn’t remember the incident, never saw Kavanaugh act that way and has no desire to testify publicly.

There were signs the Republican Party’s strategy of planning a nationally televised hearing while also offering Ford the chance to testify in private was keeping possible Republican defections in check. The party controls the Senate 51-49 and the Judiciary panel by 11-10, so it cannot afford Republican “no” votes.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Democrats’ demands for an FBI investigation were a ploy to delay a confirmation vote. “It is imperative the Judiciary Committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken as soon as possible,” the committee member said in a statement.

As for a possible FBI intervention, Grassley said in his letter to Ford’s lawyers, “We have no power to commandeer an Executive Branch agency into conducting our due diligence.”

In a separate letter to Democrats, Grassley wrote that committee aides were “even willing to fly to California, or anywhere else, to meet her.” He also wrote that Republican aides tried to arrange interviews with two other “alleged witnesses.” The letter mentioned no names and committee staff declined to name them.

Only the White House can order the FBI to get involved, since Kavanaugh is not accused of a federal crime. The FBI could interview Ford, Kavanaugh and others about the allegation if Trump asked the bureau to reopen its background investigation, but the president has said the FBI has finished its work.

Kavanaugh did not return to the White House on Wednesday after spending the two previous days there. He spoke by phone with officials working on strategy, according to an aide familiar with the proceedings but not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

The White House war room largely was centered on shaping the public perception of the nominee, pushing back on reporters’ inquiries while circulating positive talking points to allies about Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh spent hours Tuesday in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, part of the White House complex. He prepared for Monday’s potential hearing with officials including White House Counsel Don McGahn, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and communications director Bill Shine, as well as Justice Department aides.

Shine was ousted from his previous job at Fox News in part due to his handling of sexual harassment claims at the company.

Associated Press reporters Darlene Superville, Padmananda Rama, Jonathan Lemire, Kevin Freking and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed. Press Herald staff writer Eric Russell also contributed to this story.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/trump-republicans-reject-idea-of-fbi-investigation-in-kavanaugh-allegation/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1566330_97189-Kavanaugh.jpgSupreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's accuser described to The Washington Post a sexual assault decades ago. Associated Press/J. Scott ApplewhiteWed, 19 Sep 2018 23:17:27 +0000
New Hampshire pair charged with double voting in 2016 election https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/n-h-pair-charged-with-double-voting-in-2016-election/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/n-h-pair-charged-with-double-voting-in-2016-election/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 16:56:29 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/n-h-pair-charged-with-double-voting-in-2016-election/ CONCORD, N.H. — Authorities have charged two people with voting in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts in 2016 as part of an ongoing investigation into possible voter fraud.

The New Hampshire attorney general on Wednesday announced indictments against 70-year-old Grace Fleming and 71-year-old John Fleming, of Hampton. They’re accused of casting absentee ballots in Hampton for the 2016 general election while also voting in Belchertown, Massachusetts. They could face up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

The secretary of state’s office said in May that it had sent about 50 names to the attorney general for further investigation after they were flagged by a multistate voter registration database as possible fraud.

A Hampton phone number for the Flemings is disconnected. There was no answer at a number listed for them in Massachusetts.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/n-h-pair-charged-with-double-voting-in-2016-election/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1395893_934301-20180612_election_01.jpgFalmouth residents stand booth-to-booth Tuesday during a busy Election Day at the local high school. Despite dire predictions, ranked-choice voting didn't cause widespread confusion among Maine voters.Wed, 19 Sep 2018 13:30:04 +0000
North Korean leader agrees to dismantle nuclear complex if U.S. takes steps, too https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/north-korean-leader-agrees-to-dismantle-nuclear-complex-if-u-s-takes-measures/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/north-korean-leader-agrees-to-dismantle-nuclear-complex-if-u-s-takes-measures/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 04:22:56 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/north-korean-leader-agrees-to-dismantle-nuclear-complex-if-u-s-takes-measures/ PYONGYANG, North Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to permanently dismantle his main nuclear complex at Nyongbyon if the United States takes corresponding measures, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday after the two leaders held summit talks in Pyongyang to try to sustain nuclear diplomacy with Washington, which has been pushing hard for stronger disarmament moves from the North.

The Korean leaders also said the North would dismantle a missile engine test site and launch pad in the presence of outside inspectors, and would seek to host the 2032 Summer Olympics together. Moon also said Kim would try to visit Seoul sometime this year.

Washington wants North Korea to outline the entirety of its nuclear program, and its response to Wednesday’s joint statement from the Koreas remains to be seen. While the declaration appears to fall short of what Washington wants, President Trump has maintained that he and Kim have a solid relationship and both leaders have expressed interest in meeting again after their June summit in Singapore. North Korea has been demanding a declaration formally ending the Korean War, which was stopped in 1953 by a ceasefire, but neither leader mentioned it as they read the joint statement.

“We have agreed to make the Korean Peninsula a land of peace that is free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threat,” Kim said as he stood by Moon’s side at the guesthouse where Moon is staying. “The road to our future will not always be smooth and we may face challenges and trials we can’t anticipate. But we aren’t afraid of headwinds because our strength will grow as we overcome each trial based on the strength of our nation.”

Kim and Moon earlier smiled and chatting as they walked down a hallway and into a meeting room to finalize the joint statement, which also said that the leaders would push for a Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons and to “eliminate all the danger of war.” North Korea was expected to hold a huge mass games spectacle later in the day, with Moon attending an event expected to draw about 150,000 spectators, Seoul said. It wasn’t clear if Kim would attend.

North Korea first staged its mass games in 2002, when Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, was leader. They continued most every year until 2014, then were revived during North Korea’s celebrations of the 70th anniversary of its state founding earlier this month.

Kim gave the South Korean president an exceedingly warm welcome on Tuesday, the first day of the summit, meeting him and his wife at Pyongyang’s airport – itself a very unusual gesture – then riding into town with Moon in an open limousine through streets lined with crowds of North Koreans, who cheered and waved the flag of their country and a blue-and-white flag that symbolizes Korean unity.

The made-for-television welcome has become routine for their summits, after two meetings earlier this year.

The summit talks began at the ruling Workers’ Party headquarters where Kim and Moon were joined by two of their top deputies – spy chief Suh Hoon and presidential security director Chung Eui-yong for Moon, and for Kim, his sister, Kim Yo Jong, and senior Workers’ Party official Kim Yong Chol, according to Moon’s office.

At the start of their meeting Tuesday, Kim thanked Moon for brokering the June summit with Trump.

“It’s not too much to say that it’s Moon’s efforts that arranged a historic North Korea-U.S. summit. Because of that, the regional political situation has been stabilized and more progress on North Korea-U.S. ties is expected,” Kim said, according to South Korean media pool reports and Moon’s office.

Moon responded by expressing his own thanks to Kim for making a “bold decision” in a New Year’s speech to open a new era of detente and send a delegation to the South Korean Winter Olympics in February.

Kim reported from Seoul. AP writers Hyung-jin Kim and Foster Klug contributed from Seoul. Talmadge is the AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/19/north-korean-leader-agrees-to-dismantle-nuclear-complex-if-u-s-takes-measures/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1569566_Koreas_Summit_07511.jpg-12.jpgIn this image made from video provided by Korea Broadcasting System, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands after signing documents in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday.Wed, 19 Sep 2018 00:32:31 +0000
Waterville council rejects move to tax Colby, Thomas colleges https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/waterville-council-hears-request-to-petition-colby-thomas-colleges-for-funds/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/waterville-council-hears-request-to-petition-colby-thomas-colleges-for-funds/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 00:34:18 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/waterville-council-hears-request-to-petition-colby-thomas-colleges-for-funds/ WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday rejected a request to submit a petition started by a candidate for the Maine House of Representatives that seeks money from Colby College and Thomas College to lower the city’s tax rate over the next five years.

Mark Andre, a Republican candidate for the House District 110 seat, said his petition has 1,071 signatures, mostly from Waterville residents, as well as business owners and employees who work in the city. He wanted the council to join him in supporting the petition and presenting it to the colleges.

The petition asks Colby and Thomas to contribute the amount of money needed to lower Waterville’s tax rate from the current $25.27 per $1,000 worth of assessed property valuation to $18.95, for a period of five years. That amount would be about $15 million, according to Andre. As nonprofit institutions, the colleges are not required by law to pay taxes.

Andre said the request would go to Thomas and Colby and not other tax-exempt properties such as hospitals or churches because the colleges already have made significant investments in the city and “you have to start with the largest player first.”

Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, was the only councilor to vote to send the petition to the colleges.

He said he had talked to Andre and constituents in his ward and he does not see the petition issue as a divisive resolution.

Councilor Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6, abstained from voting because she is a Colby employee. Council Chairman Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, and councilors Nathaniel White, D-Ward 2, John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, and Jackie Dupont, D-Ward 7, voted against submitting the petition.

O’Donnell said he is not opposed to anyone going to an entity to ask for help, but he doesn’t believe it is the council’s role to make such requests.

“For us as a government to be involved, I think this is probably wrong, so I’ll vote against it,” he said.

Dick Thomas, a psychologist, said he was uncomfortable with the petition because it makes some assumptions about what Colby can do with its finances and is disrespectful. He said he would not be uncomfortable if the city talked to Colby officials and explained it needed help.

Sandra Sullivan said she was undecided about the petition because she was afraid that if Colby steps up and helps the city out, it would give the council incentive to spend more money however it wanted.

“If anyone steps up to give this council money, then I say we need to put binders on what you’re doing with it,” Sullivan said.

Colby President David Greene and Thomas College President Laurie Lachance gave lengthy explanations about how endowment funds are used, how the colleges help the city financially when asked and how they are doing their share.

Greene said he appreciated the conversation and the intent behind the petition request and said the college believes it has an obligation to contribute to the city in a number of ways. He explained that Colby’s endowment is legally restricted money and provides $40 million a year for financial aid to students — the primary purpose of the endowment.

In the four years he has been president, about $25 million of that money has gone to students from Maine, many of whom are from Waterville.

Also over the last four years, according to Greene, $800,000 has been given to the city in direct payments, for items such as roads, Police Department support, and other areas where the city has asked for support; $500,000 in support to nonprofits, social service and economic development efforts; and $750,000 in free classes to high school students in Waterville. It is a big deal to those students and allows them to receive credit for college classes, he said, and enables them to pay less when they go to college, as they do not have to take the classes there.

Over the last four years, Colby students have given 145,000 volunteer hours to the community, which represents an estimated $3.1 million, according to Greene.

Next year, Colby is projecting to pay more than $140,000 in taxes, and its $65 million downtown redevelopment projects will result in tax revenue to the city, he said.

Colby will pay $65,000 in taxes on the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons downtown, and it negotiated to pay the city twice what it normally would in taxes. Colby’s redeveloped building at 173 Main St. pays $37,000 in taxes, whereas last year, the building generated only $4,600, according to Greene.

“We put $5.5 million into that building,” he said. “It’s now worth $1.4 million.”

Green said Mayhew called Colby a business, but any regular business would not act in that way — invest such money into a building that would be worth much less. Greene said Colby did it because it cares deeply about the city and community.

In constructing the Alfond Main Street Commons, Colby used local labor as much as possible to fill the 120 jobs on site.

“We do it because it’s important to support local business and all the jobs that those create,” Greene said.

He disputed claims that people are leaving the city, saying the population is on the rise and is higher than it has been since 1997. Mayhew and resident Catherine Weeks had said people are putting their homes up for sale because of the high tax rate.

“People are moving back into Waterville,” Greene countered. “It’s important to know the facts on this — not moving out.”

He also said home values are increasing sharply.

“We’re beginning to see signs of change that are incredibly helpful in all of this,” he said.

Greene said Colby wants to continue work with the city.

“Our goal is to be a good and enduring partner with the city of Waterville. We have worked hard to demonstrate that that is exactly what we are doing.”

Lachance said that, like Colby, Thomas strives to be a good citizen — to participate in the health and well-being of the community. Thomas, she said, supports a number of organizations including Waterville Creates!, Waterville Rocks and Waterville Rotary Club and, like Colby, offers classes to people free of charge.

Area students use the athletic fields and Thomas allows the city to use its facilities for voting. Thomas has a $12 million endowment that generates $400,000 in revenue it can put to scholarships, according to Lachance. If Thomas were to give money as Andre’s petition asks, it would be borne on the backs of students the college serves who are the first generation in their families to go to college.

Lachance suggested as a possible solution to Andre’s proposal a more comprehensive, sustainable and fairer one, with the community coming together to plan and implement Waterville’s future and take it to the state level, asking that the homestead exemption be looked at and that revenue sharing and education be fully funded. She said she humbly asked that a broader approach to the issue be considered.

Resident James Laliberty, a 2002 graduate, said he did not think the petition is a good idea.

“President Greene did a wonderful job letting us know exactly what Colby does, but it’s really not something that the council should be involved in at all,” he said.

He urged the council to vote against the petition, saying it does not represent the majority of citizens in Waterville.

In other business, Tuesday, Mayor Nick Isgro read aloud a proclamation designating Oct. 6, 2018 “Waterville Noontime Rotary Club Day” as an “expression of appreciation and respect for the club’s good work and our desire to partner for the next hundred years.” The club has been an integral part of the city’s history for more than a century and has resulted in many projects that benefited the city, according to the proclamation. The club in 2015 donated $150,000 to the RiverWalk at Head of Falls which represented the first gift to the waterfront effort.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

acalder@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/waterville-council-hears-request-to-petition-colby-thomas-colleges-for-funds/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/937041-Council6.jpgColby College President David Greene addresses the Waterville City Council on Tuesday night in response to a citizen petition presented to the council. Greene highlighted the various ways Colby is integrated into the city after explaining that the college was first chartered in 1813, just a few years after Waterville was settled. Wed, 19 Sep 2018 09:52:35 +0000
New tariff list creates risk of ‘downward cycle’ for U.S. auto industry https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/new-tariff-list-creates-risk-of-downward-cycle-for-u-s-auto-industry/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/new-tariff-list-creates-risk-of-downward-cycle-for-u-s-auto-industry/#respond Tue, 18 Sep 2018 22:12:50 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/new-tariff-list-creates-risk-of-downward-cycle-for-u-s-auto-industry/ New tariffs imposed by President Trump on auto parts from China will hit carmaker profits, cut sales and threaten to “start a downward cycle” in the critical industry, analysts said unanimously Tuesday.

In addition, if you’re in the market for a new car, you probably should get to a dealership soon, because prices are going up.

Trump’s latest round of tariffs on Chinese imports will add costs to more than 100 car parts — a 10 percent levy on everything from tires and brake pads to engines and batteries — that go into cars made and sold in the U.S.

“It’s going to be felt by Americans and it’s going to be a big deal,” said Peter Nagle, senior analyst at IHS Markit. “Tariffs are taxes on consumption. Eventually costs will be passed down to the consumer. This will drive vehicle costs higher. It also includes a lot of body shop equipment.”

Analysts said it is unclear how much car prices will go up in order to absorb the costs of a trade war, but everyone agrees that prices must go up — and that parts from China are critical to the auto industry.

Car sales will drop as a result, analysts said.

“This is definitely the “Mother, make it stop” point for the auto industry,” said Jon Gabrielsen, a market economist who advises automakers and auto suppliers.

The latest tariffs on Chinese products could increase car prices in Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder told CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, China. The Republican warned that the costs “will be painful.”

“It’s hard to read a silver lining into this,” said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of the Industry, Labor & Economics Group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. “Tariffs are taxes on American consumers. We’re going to sell fewer. And not only do we buy car parts from the rest of the world, we sell parts to the rest of the world, especially Canada. It’s all going to cost more. These are not things producers can choose to not pass along. This hits profits. This means less reinvestment. It starts a downward cycle that isn’t good.”

She added, “China can wait us out. They have thousands of years of patience. For the car industry, this means a lot of efficiency they’ve gained from building up the global supply chain is lost. It’s not easy to resource these things. The thing is, you can make it more difficult to get parts from China, and automakers and suppliers will not necessarily bring that work back to the United States. There are lots of other places in the world that make those parts. Hitting only China doesn’t solve the problem or bring work back to the United States.”

Tariff rises in 2019

It looks like the U.S. will see a 10 percent tariff applied this month that goes up to 25 percent on Chinese goods on the first of the year, Gabrielsen said. That’s just parts, not the full cost of a vehicle.

Automakers didn’t comment on how they planned to absorb the costs associated with the policy change.

Dearborn-based Ford was assessing the situation.

“We are reviewing the list,” said Ford spokeswoman Christin Tinsworth. “What we would emphasize is that it is essential that governments work together to lower, not raise, barriers to trade. We encourage both governments to work together through negotiation to resolve issues between these two important economies.”

Fiat Chrysler declined to comment on the impact of the new tariffs. General Motors declined to respond to request for comment.

Gabrielsen said some of the costs must be passed on in sticker prices.

“Prices are going to go up, but they won’t go up by 25 percent,” he said. “It is most unfortunate that this is coming at a time when the auto cycle is in very late stage. Vehicle sales already are in slow decline. This will probably be quite a gut punch when they are forced to raise prices.”

He continued, “I suspect this will really start to bite at the beginning of next year. The product they’re putting together this month has already been on the ocean six weeks and is coming into port. It’s going to beat the tariffs. Then they will come across the country on a container on a train.”

Automakers can produce cars for about a month before the costs associated with the 10 percent tariff take effect.

“By Februrary 2019, people will feel it,” Gabrielsen said.

Gabrielsen said it took him nearly three hours to analyze the list of car and light truck items imported from China facing new tariffs effective Sept. 24.

“It covers literally everything that goes into the construction of an automobile, from the smallest components and material inputs like the cords in tires and shafts and gears and bearings all the way up to completed engines and in some cases chassis with engines mounted,” he said. “Thing is, it takes about three years to source each product. It takes many years and possibly a decade to make that full move.”

Jeoff Burris, founder and principal of Advanced Purchasing Dynamics, which has been doing extensive work in automotive supply chain for the past 14 years, offered a grim assessment.

“There is good news and bad news,” he said. “The good is that the tariffs are hitting September 24 instead of September 1 and are 10 percent for a while instead of 25 percent. The bad news is that they are items that require significant development and tooling to resource taking up to two years. Even at 10 percent, the hit to manufacturers will be significant; at 25 percent, for some, the impact will be catastrophic.”

A spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association referred inquiries to a study done by the Center for Automotive Research that the trade group commissioned. Its results were delivered during testimony before the U.S. Department of Commerce in July, when auto industry officials urged the Trump administration not to impose tariffs on cars and parts.

“NADA recognizes the importance to the United States of leveling the trade playing field; eliminating unfair trade practices; and keeping America’s automotive industry strong,” said the organization’s president and CEO, Peter Welch. “But a 25 percent tariff applied to all imports would hurt auto manufacturers, dealers, consumers and the economy as a whole. And the hardest hit would be our customers.”

How much will prices rise?

He said industry analysis outlined a scenario where a 25 percent tariff “would see the price of the typical vehicle sold in the United States rise by $4,400. Prices of U.S.-assembled vehicles rise due to an increase in the cost of imported vehicle parts, adding $2,270 to the price. For the typical imported vehicle, these tariffs raise consumer prices by $6,875 per vehicle.”

The study, “Consumer Impact of Potential U.S. Section 232 Tariffs and Quotas on Imported Automobiles & Automotive Parts,” also found that a 25 percent tariff would result in:

n 2 million fewer new vehicles sold per year.

n Total U.S. employment losses of nearly 714,700, and GDP losses of $59.2 billion.

n A loss of 117,500 of 1.1 million U.S. new-car dealership jobs, with the average franchised dealership losing seven jobs.

n An increase in used car prices due to heightened demand and constricted supply.

n Increases in the cost of vehicle maintenance and repair due to higher automotive parts prices, “so even holding on to an existing vehicle will become more expensive.”

Welch urged leaders in Washington to exercise caution.

“The average price a new car already hovers around $35,000,” he explained. “According to Edmunds, in the past year interest rates on new car loans have risen 86 basis points and now average 5.82 percent – with more increases on the horizon. The average monthly car payment for a new vehicle now stands at $533 per month with an average loan term of 69 months. Our customers are already strapped to make those payments. A $4,400 tariff on top of that would increase new car payments to $611 per month (a $78 per month increase) — and put the purchase of a new car out of the reach of many Americans.”

Welch emphasized that new tariffs would reduce consumer choice; increase the cost of used vehicles; and raise the cost of getting vehicles serviced and repaired.

“As a nation,” he said. “we can and should work together to address genuine trade concerns, without hurting American consumers and small businesses.”

Gloria Bergquist, vice president of communications and public affairs at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said early Tuesday, “Tariffs are a direct hit to the consumer’s pocketbook. This decision would essentially cover every Chinese export to the United States, so it’s hard to see how consumers would not be caught in the crossfire.”

She added, “We encourage the U.S. and China to return to the negotiating table to resolve these trade differences. We believe this is a more effective way for the administration to address unfair trade practices rather than continuing to escalate trade tensions by increasing tariffs.”

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/new-tariff-list-creates-risk-of-downward-cycle-for-u-s-auto-industry/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1568542_ford_new_pikup_acco.jpgIn a photo from Nov. 6, 2014, Ron Hudgin measures the roof line of the F-150 truck at the Rouge Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich.Tue, 18 Sep 2018 18:12:50 +0000
Medicaid supporters urge federal agency to ignore LePage letter, approve expansion https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/advocacy-group-democrats-urging-medicaid-to-approve-maine-expansion-plan/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/advocacy-group-democrats-urging-medicaid-to-approve-maine-expansion-plan/#respond Tue, 18 Sep 2018 21:01:45 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/advocacy-group-democrats-urging-medicaid-to-approve-maine-expansion-plan/ An advocacy group for low-income Mainers urged the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Tuesday to disregard a letter from Gov. Paul LePage asking the agency to reject the state’s plan for expanding Medicaid.

“Expanding the Medicaid program is by federal law a step that Maine is entitled to take, and the choice to take that step is now the established law of the state of Maine,” wrote Charles Dingman, an attorney representing Maine Equal Justice Partners, the advocacy group that sued the LePage administration for failing to implement expansion.

LePage – a staunch opponent of expansion – submitted a plan, called a State Plan Amendment, in September to the federal agency after he was ordered by a court to do so, but at the same time he asked the federal government to reject the plan.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District

Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, D-1st District, and Democratic Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon also submitted similar letters this week asking the federal agency to approve an expansion that would make about 70,000 Mainers newly eligible for free health insurance.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services, after being forced to do so by the courts, filed a State Plan Amendment with Medicaid on Sept. 4 that was accompanied by a letter from LePage urging the federal agency to reject the application. Medicaid is a federal program operated by the states under federal oversight, and is funded with a blend of state and federal money.

Under Medicaid expansion, a key component of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pays 90 percent of the costs of expansion. Thirty-four states, including Maine, have expanded Medicaid. Mainers earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $34,638 for a family of three and $16,753 for a single person, would be eligible. About 273,000 Maine residents are already covered by Medicaid.

Mainers voted to approve Medicaid expansion by a 59 percent to 41 percent margin in November 2017, but the LePage administration has so far been unwilling to implement it.

LePage has argued that the Legislature did not adequately fund the expansion, although lawmakers approved $60 million for expansion this summer that LePage vetoed. LePage, who is termed out and will be out of office by January, claimed the $60 million included one-time budget gimmicks and was not “sustainable.”

“Mainers have already enacted this law. Every step along this process we have a governor who is using the power to obstruct,” said Robyn Merrill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners. “The court is going to have to hold the executive branch accountable for not following the law.”

Merrill said that even if the federal government approves the plan, the LePage administration may still refuse to implement the expansion. Getting Medicaid implemented may require a court order, or if enough time has passed, the issue will fall to the new governor, she said.

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Democrat Janet Mills, Maine’s attorney general, Republican businessman Shawn Moody and independents Terry Hayes, the state treasurer, and businessman Alan Caron are running in the November election to succeed LePage. Mills, Hayes and Caron have committed to implementing the expansion, while Moody has not.

In August, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ordered LePage to submit the plan, and referred most other matters to a lower court, the Superior Court.

LePage, in his letter asking the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reject the application, wrote that “if the SPA is approved, the state will become obligated under federal law to fund the full range of Medicaid services to tens of thousands of additional individuals. Until the necessary funding is in place, however, the federal government can take no assurance that Maine will be able to pay for its share of costs under the program.”

Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, submitted a letter this week asking the federal government to approve Medicaid expansion in Maine.

But a letter from Gideon and state Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, said the money is available for the expansion, even though LePage vetoed the funding bill, because of surpluses in the state budget.

“Maine does have ample funds to meet its legal obligations to expand MaineCare (the state’s name for Medicaid) to over 70,000 Mainers who need health care and who are entitled to receive it under the law,” said the letter signed by Gideon and Westbrook.

Merrill said a federal agency stepping into a state budget fight would be “unprecedented.”

Pingree’s letter this week also urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to approve the amendment.

“It is clear that the choice of Maine’s citizens to ensure that more low-income people have access to health coverage has been lawfully made, notwithstanding the political motivations of Maine’s governor to the contrary. Accordingly, the governor’s statement accompanying the SPA should be disregarded in its entirety,” Pingree wrote.

Some Mainers have applied for Medicaid under the expansion and have been denied, and Maine Equal Justice Partners argues that by law, they were eligible for Medicaid starting on July 2.

It’s unknown how many have applied even though the LePage administration refuses to implement the expansion. Merrill said about 800 have used an online screening tool set up by Maine Equal Justice Partners to help determine eligibility, but it’s not known how many of the 800 applied for Medicaid.

When asked Tuesday about the number of people who have tried to sign up, Maine DHHS spokeswoman Emily Spencer said she could not comment because of the pending lawsuit.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

jlawlor@pressherald.com

Twitter: joelawlorph

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/advocacy-group-democrats-urging-medicaid-to-approve-maine-expansion-plan/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1456858_896259_protest-1.jpgMedicaid expansion advocates rally in Augusta before Gov. Paul LePage's address to the state in February. A reader urges Mainers not to vote for foes of expansion.Wed, 19 Sep 2018 09:17:37 +0000
In first policy rollout, governor candidate Mills releases economic ‘action plan’ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/mills-releases-economic-action-plan-in-first-policy-roll-out/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/mills-releases-economic-action-plan-in-first-policy-roll-out/#respond Tue, 18 Sep 2018 19:56:01 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/mills-releases-economic-action-plan-in-first-policy-roll-out/ AUGUSTA — Gubernatorial candidate Janet Mills unveiled an “action plan” Tuesday that would create a “one-stop shop” for businesses, provide no-interest loans to help hire new employees and lure former or new Mainers to the state with tax incentives.

In the first of several anticipated policy rollouts, the Democratic nominee said her plan aims to streamline services for small businesses while encouraging investment in new employees as well as rural communities. Mills, a Farmington resident who was elected Maine’s first female attorney general in 2008, pointed to a recent report from the Maine Department of Labor forecasting stagnant job growth over the next eight years as evidence that Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s approach has not worked for the state.

“This election, to me, is about one simple and fundamental question: After eight long years, do we want to continue the status quo with a Shawn Moody? Or do we want to embrace change and take Maine in a new and better direction?” Mills said while standing at the entrance of a noisy factory floor at Kennebec Technologies, a high-precision machine shop that makes parts for the military and other buyers. “I think it is time for a new direction.”

Mills is one of four candidates – along with businessman Moody, economic development consultant Alan Caron and State Treasurer Terry Hayes – seeking to win the Blaine House this November as LePage winds down his second term. While the limited number of polls suggest the race is a tossup between Mills and Moody, Caron and Hayes are pledging to bring more independent leadership to Augusta after years of increasingly intense partisanship.

Despite historically low unemployment levels, Maine’s economy is still a major issue in the 2018 campaigns. That’s because Maine’s aging population, losses in traditional manufacturing industries, stagnant wages and the lure of better-paying jobs in other states continue to combine to create a workforce shortage for the foreseeable future.

Among other things, Mills said her plan would:

n Consolidate more than 15 economic development, workforce training and business finance agencies into the Maine Growth Authority while creating a “one-stop-shop” Small Business Accelerator to help businesses navigate the state bureaucracy.

n Launch a Job Growth Loans Program to provide no-interest, 18-month loans to small businesses to help cover the costs of bringing on additional employees.

n Create new Broadband Expansion Districts, modeled after current utility districts, to encourage collaboration among towns and direct funding toward expansion of high-speed internet in rural Maine.

n Allow former Maine residents moving back to the state or new residents to claim a $500 tax credit to cover moving costs while eliminating any tax or regulatory costs on out-of-state employers that allow workers to work remotely in Maine.

“For years, our children have left the state in droves and we’ve done nothing to welcome them back,” Mills said. “This program puts the welcome mat back out.”

She also proposed renaming the University of Maine at Augusta as Maine State College and making the campus a “portal” for remote learning.

With her emphasis on “streamlining” and reducing unnecessary regulations, Mills echoed pledges made by LePage during his 2010 and 2014 campaigns as well as those of her Republican opponent – Moody, of Gorham.

The owner of an 11-shop auto body repair chain, Moody is campaigning on his successful business track record and has promised to continue LePage’s focus – if not his controversial governing style – on improving the climate for businesses, reducing taxes and reining in welfare programs.

CRITICISM, OPPONENT’S PROPOSALS

Both the Moody campaign and the Maine Republican Party dismissed Mills in short statements that did not respond to any specific policy proposals.

“Nothing Mills can put on paper can help her escape her record of job-killing taxes and red tape,” said Moody campaign strategist Brent Littlefield. “Only Shawn Moody has a lifelong career of creating jobs and growing Maine’s economy.”

“The one time that Janet Mills got involved in economic issues was in support of the Baldacci agenda, which left our state ravaged with a massive unemployment rate, a $1.3 billion budget deficit, huge hospital debt, and government regulations crushing small businesses,” said Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party. “Janet Mills’ track record shows that Mainers can expect lots and lots of tax increases and budget deficits if she is elected governor.”

Moody has yet to release any detailed economic development or jobs-related proposals. But on his campaign’s website, Moody pledges to “perform a comprehensive review of all government red tape with the goal of increasing speed of permitting, reducing fees and eliminating duplication,” and to create a Governor’s Initiative on Regulatory Reform – two issues that LePage also campaigned on.

Moody said the state should also conduct exit interviews with companies leaving Maine or moving to the state about issues inhibiting job and economic growth while creating a “customer service hotline” for businesses exploring locating in Maine.

ideas of OTHER CANDIDATES

The two independents in the gubernatorial race – Caron, of Freeport, and Hayes, of Buckfield – have also released some details of their economic plans, if elected.

Caron, who as a consultant has produced multiple reports on improving Maine’s economic climate, pledged to make use of Maine’s reputation for a clean environment and high quality of life as a way “to brand Maine as a great place to start a business and raise a family.” He also called for redirecting tax breaks and incentives programs to smaller businesses rather than larger corporations, and pledged to be the “Convener-in-Chief” to bring together the private sector, higher education, nonprofits and workforce development programs.

Hayes, who has served as Maine state treasurer since 2014, has said she would embrace the “Making Maine Work” report prepared by the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Development Foundation and EducateMaine. Among other things, that report recommended using college tuition incentives and debt-forgiveness programs to encourage graduates to locate in Maine, commit $100 million annually for five years to broadband expansion, help working adults and students receive professional credentials, attract more skilled immigrants and scale up the effort to promote Maine as a career destination.

Hayes also has proposed creating an Office of Workforce Development to work with industry and educational institutions to ensure Maine is preparing residents for available jobs and to invest more in research and development.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/mills-releases-economic-action-plan-in-first-policy-roll-out/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1564962_356020-20180908_janetmil12-2.jpgDemocratic gubernatorial candidate Janet Mills, the state's attorney general, greets supporters at the South Portland home of State Rep. Lois Reckitt on Sept. 8. Described by her brother Peter as "an incredible fighter," she defeated six opponents to win her party's nomination in June.Tue, 18 Sep 2018 21:09:05 +0000
Sen. Collins says attorneys for Kavanaugh and his accuser should be allowed to ask questions https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/sen-collins-says-attorneys-for-kavanaugh-and-his-accuser-should-be-allowed-to-ask-questions/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/sen-collins-says-attorneys-for-kavanaugh-and-his-accuser-should-be-allowed-to-ask-questions/#respond Tue, 18 Sep 2018 19:00:54 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/sen-collins-says-attorneys-for-kavanaugh-and-his-accuser-should-be-allowed-to-ask-questions/ Sen. Susan Collins is asking Senate Judiciary Committee leaders to allow an attorney for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to question his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, and to let Ford’s attorney question Kavanaugh during a hearing next week.

Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa has agreed to reopen Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings in light of Ford’s allegations that he sexually assaulted her decades ago when both were in high school. Ford, now a psychology professor in California, had made the allegations anonymously to the committee’s ranking Democrat, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, in late July but recently came forward publicly in an interview with the Washington Post.

Kavanaugh has denied the allegations, but Grassley said Monday he would allow both Ford and Kavanaugh to testify next week. It wasn’t clear Tuesday whether Ford would agree to testify.

Collins, Maine’s senior senator and a potentially critical vote in the confirmation, has welcomed the additional testimony and offered some thoughts on procedure in her letter Tuesday.

“I respectfully recommend that you invite the attorneys retained by Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh to pose questions during the hearing,” Collins wrote. “Dr. Ford’s attorney would be permitted to question Judge Kavanaugh, and Judge Kavanaugh’s attorney would question Dr. Ford. Each would be permitted equal time to do so before Senators began their round of questions. Such an approach would provide more continuity, elicit the most information, and allow for an in-depth examination of the allegations.”

Collins had not received a response to her letter as of late afternoon Tuesday.

Grassley’s plan to limit testimony to Kavanaugh and Ford came under fire from Democrats, who demanded that other witnesses be called – in particular Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh who Ford said witnessed the attack.

In a statement Tuesday, Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark said Kavanaugh and Ford are the most important people to hear from.

“The committee can make further judgments on whether additional witnesses are needed or not,” Clark said. “They’re the two key people that we must hear from completely and under oath.”

Republicans only have a 51-49 advantage in the Senate, which means they can’t afford to lose more than one member of their caucus if Democrats all vote against Kavanaugh.

Collins has not yet said how she plans to vote but has faced pressure from constituents in Maine and activists on both sides. Maine’s other senator, Angus King, said before the allegations surfaced that he plans to vote against confirming Kavanaugh.

She met with Kavanaugh several weeks ago and had a follow-up phone conversation with him last Friday, after the allegations came out but before Ford’s name surfaced. Clark said Kavanaugh “categorically and unequivocally” denied them.

But the pressure on Collins is not likely to fade.

On Tuesday, the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault issued a statement in support of Ford but did not mention either Collins or King.

“Over the last year, we have seen many survivors publicly disclose sexual assaults they endured years after the assault was perpetrated. In each case, the public conversation continues to be concerned with whether or not we can trust survivors who come forward so many years later,” the coalition’s statement read. “Dr. Blasey Ford’s later report of assault is common among victims of sexual violence. Victims don’t have much to gain by reporting sexual assault. Most often, they have a lot to lose, which is why sexual assault is the most unreported violent crime in the United States.”

The coalition said it hopes Ford is treated with respect at Monday’s hearing..

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/sen-collins-says-attorneys-for-kavanaugh-and-his-accuser-should-be-allowed-to-ask-questions/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1558174_914831-CollinsKavanaugh-e1536805935682.jpgSen. Susan Collins speaks with Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh at her office before a private meeting. As a rare potential swing vote in the Senate, she is the focus of an intense lobbying effort.Tue, 18 Sep 2018 20:33:57 +0000
Republican National Committee offers support to Moody https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/republican-national-committee-offers-support-to-moody/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/republican-national-committee-offers-support-to-moody/#respond Tue, 18 Sep 2018 18:53:43 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/republican-national-committee-offers-support-to-moody/ AUGUSTA — Touting Shawn Moody’s background as a “self-made man,” the Republican National Committee on Tuesday issued a statement of support for the Republican candidate in the race to be Maine’s next governor.

Moody, a Gorham businessman and auto-body entrepreneur who made millions in the auto-recycling business and now heads a chain of 11 auto-body repair shops in southern and central Maine, is locked in a close race with Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, the Democratic candidate.

Also in the race are independent candidates Alan Caron, a Freeport economic development consultant and the founder of GrowSmart Maine and Envision Maine, and State Treasurer Terry Hayes of Buckfield.

Mills, of Farmington, released her plan for bolstering the state’s economy on Tuesday, triggering a round of responses from Moody supporters, including the RNC.

Ellie Hockenbury, regional communications director for the RNC based in Washington, D.C., pointed to a recent change in a forecast on the race from Governing magazine, which shifted its forecast from “leans Democratic” to “Tossup” for the race. Hockenbury, in a prepared statement, also pointed to a story in the Portland Press Herald, showing a Democratic PAC had already spent over $1 million on the race in Maine working to bolster Mills and attack Moody.

“It’s understandable that the Democrats would be concerned here,” Hockenbury said. “Shawn Moody is the epitome of the American Dream, building his business from scratch, and has the expertise as an independent leader in his community to guide Maine to success. While Moody has spent his life creating jobs for fellow Mainers, Mills has spent much of her life running for political office.”

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett criticized Moody on Tuesday, however, saying Moody would continue policies of outgoing Gov. Paul LePage that haven’t been in the best interests of all of Maine.

“Shawn Moody continues to push the same, tired Republican policies that have left rural Mainers behind over the last eight years and that the Maine Department of Labor found will lead to almost no job growth,” Bartlett said in a prepared statement. “Making it harder for Mainers to access health care and underfunding education is no way to help Mainers get ahead, but unfortunately that’s all Moody and Republicans in the legislature have to offer.”

Moody, who previously ran for governor as an independent candidate against LePage in 2010, has been a Republican for less than a year, announcing he had joined the party in October 2017.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports on the race released in July, the Moody and Mills campaigns have raised roughly the same amount – $1 million – with the bulk of Moody’s contributions coming from his own pocket.

The two publicly released independent polls on the race show Mills and Moody in a virtual dead heat, including among older voters, in a state with the oldest median age in the nation.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/republican-national-committee-offers-support-to-moody/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1551830_142824-20180803_Moody_3-2.jpgOn the campaign trail, Republican gubernatorial candidate Shawn Moody of Gorham interacts last month with Rodney Ingraham, owner of Ingraham Equipment in Knox. Not long after joining the party, Moody crushed three experienced rivals in the GOP primary last June.Tue, 18 Sep 2018 17:33:18 +0000
China raises tariffs on $60 billion of US goods in technology fight https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/china-raises-tariffs-on-60b-of-us-goods-in-technology-fight/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/china-raises-tariffs-on-60b-of-us-goods-in-technology-fight/#respond Tue, 18 Sep 2018 13:55:07 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/china-raises-tariffs-on-60b-of-us-goods-in-technology-fight/ BEIJING — China on Tuesday announced a tariff hike on $60 billion of U.S. products in response to President Donald Trump’s latest duty increase in a dispute over Beijing’s technology policy.

The announcement followed a warning by an American business group that a “downward spiral” in their conflict appeared certain following Trump’s penalties on $200 billion of Chinese goods.

The Finance Ministry said it was going ahead with plans announced in August for the increases of 10 percent and 5 percent on 5,207 types of U.S. goods. A list released last month included coffee, honey and industrial chemicals.

The increase is aimed at curbing “trade friction” and the “unilateralism and protectionism of the United States,” the ministry said on its website. It appealed for “pragmatic dialogue” to “jointly safeguard the principle of free trade and the multilateral trading system.”

The Trump administration announced the tariffs on some 5,000 Chinese-made goods will start at 10 percent, beginning Monday. They are to rise to 25 percent on Jan. 1.

A Commerce Ministry statement earlier said Trump’s increase “brings new uncertainty to the consultations” but there was no word on whether Beijing would back out of talks proposed last week by Washington.

The United States complains Chinese industry development plans including “Made in China 2025,” which calls for creating global champions in robotics and other fields, are based on stolen technology, violate Beijing’s market-opening commitments and might erode American industrial leadership.

American companies and trading partners including the European Union and Japan have longstanding complaints about Chinese market barriers and industrial policy. But they object to Trump’s tactics and warn the dispute could chill global economic growth and undermine international trade regulation.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China warned Washington is underestimating Beijing’s determination to fight back.

“The downward spiral that we have previously warned about now seems certain to materialize,” the chamber chairman, William Zarit, said in a statement.

Trump imposed 25 percent duties on $50 billion of Chinese products in July. Beijing retaliated with similar penalties on the same amount of American goods.

The U.S. duties targeted Chinese goods Washington says have benefited from improper industrial policies. Beijing’s penalties hit soybeans and other farm goods from states that voted for Trump in 2016.

Trump threatened Monday to add a further $267 billion in Chinese imports to the target list if China retaliates for the latest U.S. duties. That would raise the total affected by U.S. penalties to $517 billion – covering nearly everything China sells the United States.

“Contrary to views in Washington, China can – and will – dig its heels in and we are not optimistic about the prospect for a resolution in the short term,” said Zarit of the American Chamber of Commerce. “No one will emerge victorious from this counter-productive cycle.”

The chamber appealed to both governments for “results-oriented negotiations.”

As Beijing runs out of U.S. goods for retaliation, American companies say regulators are starting to disrupt their operations.

Last week, the American Chambers of Commerce in China and in Shanghai reported 52 percent of more than 430 companies that responded to a survey said they have faced slower customs clearance and increased inspections and bureaucratic procedures.

The U.S. government withdrew some items from its preliminary list of $200 billion in Chinese imports to be taxed, including child-safety products such as bicycle helmets. And in a victory for Apple Inc., the administration removed smart watches and some other consumer electronics products.

“China has had many opportunities to fully address our concerns,” Trump said in a statement. “I urge China’s leaders to take swift action to end their country’s unfair trade practices.”

Trump has also complained about America’s gaping trade deficit – $336 billion last year – with China, its biggest trading partner.

In May, in fact, it looked briefly as if Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He had brokered a truce built around a Chinese offer to buy enough American farm products and liquefied natural gas to put a dent in the trade deficit. But Trump quickly backed away from the truce.

In the first two rounds of tariffs, the Trump administration took care to try to spare American consumers from the direct impact of the import taxes. The tariffs focused on industrial products, not on things Americans buy at the mall or via Amazon.

By expanding the list to $200 billion of Chinese products, Trump may spread the pain to ordinary households. The administration is targeting a bewildering variety of goods – from sockeye salmon to baseball gloves to bamboo mats – forcing U.S. companies to scramble for suppliers outside China, absorb the import taxes or pass along the cost to their customers.

Sohn said the Trump administration is pursuing a legitimate goal of getting China to stop violating international trade rules but that it should have enlisted support from other trading partners, such as the European Union, Canada and Mexico, and presented Beijing with a united front.

Trump has strained relations with potential allies including the European Union, Canada and Mexico by raising tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. He demanded Canada and Mexico renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement to make it more favorable to the United States.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/18/china-raises-tariffs-on-60b-of-us-goods-in-technology-fight/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1567954_China_US_Tariffs_65461.jp2_-2.jpgA container ship sails past the city skyline of Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong province. The Trump administration announced Mondaythat it will impose tariffs on $200 billion more in Chinese goods starting next week, escalating a trade war between the world's two biggest economies. China responded Tuesday by raising tariffs on $60 billion more American-made products.Tue, 18 Sep 2018 10:13:46 +0000
New York Republicans can find no replacement for indicted congressman, so he stays on ballot https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/new-york-republicans-can-find-no-replacement-for-indicted-congressman-so-he-stays-on-ballot/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/new-york-republicans-can-find-no-replacement-for-indicted-congressman-so-he-stays-on-ballot/#respond Tue, 18 Sep 2018 02:22:07 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/new-york-republicans-can-find-no-replacement-for-indicted-congressman-so-he-stays-on-ballot/ NEW YORK — Embattled New York Rep. Chris Collins will run for re-election in November – even though he is under federal indictment for insider trading and lying to the FBI, upstate Republican officials announced Monday.

Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse President Trump in 2016, announced last month he would pull the plug on his re-election bid after the Justice Department indicted him on 11 counts of fraud and false statements stemming from an insider trading scheme involving an Australian pharmaceutical company.

But, during a news conference Monday afternoon, Erie County Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy said Collins will remain on the ballot.

“Our hope was to substitute a candidate that could run as a true conservative Republican working to pass President Trump’s agenda without distraction,” Langworthy told reporters. “Unfortunately we’re not going to have that opportunity at this point.”

Republicans have tried for weeks to find a replacement for Collins. But since Collins won the primary to represent New York’s 27th district, such efforts have proven all but impossible.

Under state law, a primary winner can only reject a nomination if he or she dies, moves out of state or accepts a nomination for another state office. Collins has not been nominated for any other public offices.

The development was lauded by Democrats, who say they now have a fighting chance in a traditionally red district.

“In the greatest democracy in the world, voters weren’t going to take this kind of sham switching around names on a ballot at the whims of local party bosses,” Nate McMurray, Collins’ Democratic challenger, said in a statement.

Collins, 68, has denied any wrongdoing.

Federal prosecutors allege that Collins, while serving as chairman of Innate Immunotherapeutics, tipped off his son in June 2017 about undisclosed company information, allowing him to avoid more than $700,000 in losses by selling off his stakes in the pharma firm before the news was made public.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/new-york-republicans-can-find-no-replacement-for-indicted-congressman-so-he-stays-on-ballot/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1567598_gop-collins-c9984848-b5ea-11e8-a2c5-3187f427e253.jpgChris CollinsMon, 17 Sep 2018 23:44:56 +0000
Collins among handful of Republican senators calling for hearing on accusations against Kavanaugh https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/collins-among-the-republican-senators-who-called-for-hearing-on-accusations-against-kavanaugh/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/collins-among-the-republican-senators-who-called-for-hearing-on-accusations-against-kavanaugh/#respond Tue, 18 Sep 2018 01:36:04 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/collins-among-the-republican-senators-who-called-for-hearing-on-accusations-against-kavanaugh/ Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was among the small group of Republican senators on Monday who called for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on a sexual assault accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Just hours later, the White House announced that a hearing will be held next Monday.

“Professor (Christine Blasey) Ford and Judge Kavanaugh should both testify under oath before the Judiciary Committee,” Collins said in a tweet Monday afternoon before the White House announcement.

Ford’s accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party in the early 1980s threatens his chances of being confirmed to the nation’s highest court. Collins already had been among the senators seen as possible swing votes on his confirmation. She has faced intense pressure from both sides while maintaining she has not yet decided how to vote.

Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate, so it would only take two Republican “no” votes to sink Kavanaugh’s nomination, if all Democrats and independents vote against him.

Collins did not respond to requests for comment Monday. However, in a hallway interview in Congress carried live Monday afternoon by CNN, Collins told reporters that “to be fair to both sides” there needs to be a hearing.

“Obviously, if Judge Kavanaugh lied about what happened, that would be disqualifying,” Collins said as she was surrounded by reporters and microphones.

Collins said Kavanaugh “emphatically” denied the accusation when she asked him about it during a phone call Friday. The call came after a general outline of the allegations had surfaced, but before Ford was named and quoted in a Washington Post story over the weekend, and before she agreed to testify.

ACCUSATION AND STRONG DENIAL

Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, had originally wanted to remain anonymous but will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, as will Kavanaugh. Ford, in a Washington Post story on Sunday, came forward and provided details of the alleged assault by Kavanaugh at a high school party in the early 1980s.

President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington this month during his confirmation hearing to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Ford has supported her account with a therapist’s notes from 2012 and her husband’s statement to the Post that she had told him about the assault when they were in couples therapy. She also has passed a lie-detector test.

Kavanaugh denies the allegations, calling them “completely false.”

“I have never done anything like what the accuser describes – to her or anyone,” Kavanaugh said in a prepared statement.

Democrats have been solidly opposed to the nomination and quickly called for a full hearing and a delay in the nomination process. So has Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

But Collins was one of a few Republican senators to publicly call for or suggest a delay. The others included Jeff Flake of Arizona, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

HEAVY PRESSURE ON MAINE SENATOR

Even before the sexual assault allegation surfaced, Kavanaugh was a controversial nominee who could tip the balance of the court to the right. He would replace Anthony Kennedy, who has been a centrist swing vote on a court with four more liberal justices and four more conservative members.

Collins was under pressure by progressives who fear, among other things, that Kavanaugh would weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that made abortion legal in all states.

Marie Follayttar Smith, of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, a liberal activist group that has lobbied Collins to vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation, said that in light of the sexual assault allegation against the nominee, Collins needs to do more than just join the call for a hearing.

“She responded in her traditional and deliberative way,” Follayttar Smith said. “She should be showing more support for Christine Ford.” Follayttar Smith said the accusation reaffirms what the group sees as a consistent pattern by Kavanaugh, who they say has ruled against women’s interests.

“We expect Senator Collins to protect Maine women,” Follayttar Smith said.

LOOK AT ‘WHO THE JUDGE IS TODAY’

Collins has previously been outspoken about sexual assault accusations against politicians. In November 2017, she called for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama to withdraw from the election after several accusations of sexual misconduct involving teenagers emerged, mostly dating to the late 1970s.

“If there is any truth at all to these horrific allegations, Roy Moore should immediately step aside as a Senate candidate,” Collins said in a November 2017 tweet. Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones in a December special election. Meanwhile, President Trump told reporters Monday that he stands behind Kavanaugh, but that if “it takes a little delay, it’ll take a little delay.”

“I’m sure it will work out very well,” Trump said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told reporters in Washington that even if the sexual assault accusations are true, it shouldn’t disqualify Kavanaugh from being on the Supreme Court. “If that was true, I think it would be hard for senators to not consider who the judge is today. That’s the issue. Is this judge a really good man? And he is. And by any measure he is,” Hatch said.

While the new allegation could add to the pressure on Collins to vote against the nomination, it also increases the possibility that the nomination does not get to the full Senate and she doesn’t have to vote at all.

WITHDRAWAL MAY BENEFIT COLLINS

Brian Duff, a political science professor at the University of New England, said that for Collins, the best political outcome would be for the nomination to be withdrawn.

“She would much prefer to not have to take a vote on this,” Duff said.

Duff said if Collins votes “no,” she would anger conservatives and more likely face a Republican primary challenger if she runs for re-election in 2020. If she votes “yes,” she would hurt her chances in the general election, because independents and centrist Democrats, who make up a large percentage of her constituency, would be displeased.

Also, if the vote were scuttled, that would end a crowdfunding campaign that has raised nearly $1.4 million that could go to a Democratic challenger to Collins in 2020. The money is specifically tied to Collins’ vote on Kavanaugh. If she votes “yes,” more than 40,000 potential donors’ credit cards would be charged. But if there were no vote, the money could not be used to fund a 2020 Democratic nominee. Collins spent about $6 million on her 2014 re-election campaign.

Collins has said she was offended by the fundraising campaign and has compared it to bribery.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

jlawlor@pressherald.com

Twitter: joelawlorph

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/collins-among-the-republican-senators-who-called-for-hearing-on-accusations-against-kavanaugh/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1567482_877445-Collins.jpgOn the sexual assault allegation against court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Maine Sen. Susan Collins said that if he "lied about what happened, that would be disqualifying."Tue, 18 Sep 2018 10:10:09 +0000
Democratic PAC tops $1 million in spending in Maine governor’s race https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/democratic-pac-tops-1-million-in-spending-in-governors-race/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/democratic-pac-tops-1-million-in-spending-in-governors-race/#respond Mon, 17 Sep 2018 16:42:23 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/democratic-pac-tops-1-million-in-spending-in-governors-race/ A Democratic Party-backed political action committee targeting Maine’s governor’s race has topped $1 million in spending, most to oppose Republican candidate Shawn Moody, as part of a coordinated nationwide effort to sway races that could flip congressional redistricting power back to the Democrats.

A Better Maine reported spending $343,805 on the governor’s race in recent days, with $264,000 earmarked for anti-Moody advertising, $44,500 for polling and $35,325 for ads supporting Democratic candidate Janet Mills.

A Better Maine had already reported spending $675,000 in the race, bringing its total spending to over $1 million.

The buy pushes Democratic-backed outside spending in the race to $1.8 million, outpacing Republican efforts by a ratio of 5-to-1.

The source of the vast majority of A Better Maine’s donations has not been reported, with only $65,000 from the Democratic Governors Association filed so far, according to state campaign finance reports. The next deadline for reports naming donors is Oct. 5.

Earlier this year, the Democratic Governors Association announced it planned to spend $20 million in gubernatorial races in eight states – including Maine – that could determine which party has control over drawing electoral boundaries in 2021. Congressional redistricting is only done once each decade and Maine is among 26 states where the governor has the power to approve or reject congressional maps that will be redrawn after the 2020 Census.

DGA officials say wins in Maine and other targeted states could nearly wipe out the Republican congressional advantage if Democratic governors were able to forge favorable maps. Republicans are targeting many of the same states while also hoping to flip Democratic governorships in Minnesota and elsewhere, and protect their turf in Arkansas, South Carolina and Texas.

The timing of the ad buys is not unusual, but the level of outside spending in the race is of note, particularly in light of the redistricting issue, said one political analyst.

“All of this money flowing in from out of state indicates this is an important race,” said James Melcher, a political science professor at the University of Maine at Farmington. “It’s an open-seat race, polling almost even and it’s not an expensive media buy.”

Melcher said Democrats may also be more focused after the 2014 race : “Democrats thought four years ago that LePage was a lot more vulnerable than he was.”

In that race between Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, the governor weathered a full-throated challenge by the Maine Democratic Party, which cleared the field of primary challengers for Michaud while aligned interest groups spent millions boosting his candidacy in the most expensive gubernatorial race in state history.

Outside groups poured over $11.5 million into the campaign. The spending by progressive groups was countered by the Republican Governors Association, which made defending LePage’s seat a priority. LePage joined several Republican incumbent governors in victory, a number of whom national observers had considered endangered.

LePage won over 47 percent of the vote to Michaud’s 44 percent.

The Moody and Mills campaigns, polling at a virtual dead heat, have raised roughly the same amount – $1 million – but most of the PAC money in the race so far is from Democrats. Mills is Maine’s attorney general and Moody runs a successful chain of auto body repair shops.

Previously, the PAC that had spent the most on the gubernatorial race was Priorities USA Action, which spent $490,346, mostly on social media ad buys. The money came from the national super PAC of the same name, which is a longtime Democratic powerhouse PAC that received $6 million in contributions from Donald Sussman, financier, philanthropist and a former owner of the Portland Press Herald, and $5 million from billionaire business magnate George Soros this year alone, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Democrats have far outspent the Republicans in this year’s race. Democrat-backed PACS have spent $1.8 million to the Republicans’ $372,529 – all from the Maine Republican Party in support of Moody.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com

Twitter: noelinmaine

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/democratic-pac-tops-1-million-in-spending-in-governors-race/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1566526_13855_candidatesfixed1-1.jpgJanet Mills and Shawn Moody attend a forum with other gubernatorial candidates in Lewiston on Sept. 10.Mon, 17 Sep 2018 20:59:42 +0000
Brett Kavanaugh and woman who accused him of sex assault to testify before Senate panel Monday https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/kavanaughs-accuser-willing-to-talk-to-congress-lawyer-says/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/kavanaughs-accuser-willing-to-talk-to-congress-lawyer-says/#respond Mon, 17 Sep 2018 13:04:34 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/kavanaughs-accuser-willing-to-talk-to-congress-lawyer-says/ WASHINGTON — Republicans abruptly laid plans Monday for a Senate committee hearing at which Brett Kavanaugh and the woman alleging he sexually assaulted her decades ago will testify publicly, as GOP leaders grudgingly opted for a dramatic showdown they hoped would prevent the accusation from sinking his Supreme Court nomination.

With GOP support eroding for plunging ahead without openly examining the allegations, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said his panel would hold a hearing next Monday with both Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.

“To provide ample transparency, we will hold a public hearing Monday to give these recent allegations a full airing,” Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement.

Just hours earlier, top Republicans had shown no interest in a theatrical spectacle that would thrust Kavanaugh and Ford before television cameras with each offering public— and no doubt conflicting — versions of what did or didn’t happen at a high school party in the early 1980s.

Instead, Grassley had said he’d seek telephone interviews with Kavanaugh and Ford, winning plaudits from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for planning to handle the episode “by the book.” Democrats rejected that plan, saying the seriousness of the charges merited a full FBI investigation.

Republicans had also displayed no willingness to delay a Judiciary panel vote that Grassley had planned for this Thursday to advance the nomination, setting the stage for full Senate confirmation of Kavanaugh by month’s end, in time for the new Supreme Court session. Thursday’s vote will not occur.

President Donald Trump telegraphed earlier Monday that that schedule might slip. He told reporters at the White House: “If it takes a little delay, it will take a little delay.”

If the Judiciary committee’s timetable slips, it would become increasingly difficult for Republicans to schedule a vote before the Nov. 6 elections.

With fragile GOP majorities of just 12-11 on the Judiciary committee and 51-49 in the full Senate, Republican leaders had little room for defectors without risking a humiliating defeat of Trump’s nominee to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Among the GOP defectors was Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Judiciary Committee member who has clashed bitterly with Trump and is retiring from the Senate. Flake said he told No. 2 Senate Republican leader John Cornyn of Texas on Sunday that “if we didn’t give her a chance to be heard, then I would vote no.”

There was enormous pressure on GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, two moderates who have yet to announce their positions on Kavanaugh and aren’t on the Judiciary Committee.

Collins said both Kavanaugh and Ford should testify under oath to the committee. Neither she nor Murkowski face re-election this fall.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., another retiring Trump critic who is not on the committee, also said he favored delaying Thursday’s panel meeting.

With the #MeToo movement galvanizing liberal and female voters and already costing prominent men their jobs in government, journalism and entertainment, a hearing would offer a fuller vetting of Ford’s charges but also present a politically jarring prelude to November elections for control of Congress.

Some Democrats raised questions about whether Grassley’s plan was sufficient.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, told reporters that “there needs to be some investigation first, and I’m not that sure this allows for that.” Another Democrat on the panel, Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, said staging the hearing without the FBI investigation would make it a “sham.”

Underscoring the raw political divisions prompted by the Kavanaugh fight, Feinstein said she’d only learned of the hearing on Twitter.

Earlier, Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer of New York said it would be “a deep insult to the women of America” if Grassley did not postpone Thursday’s meeting. And in an unusually personal swipe, Schumer said McConnell was showing “unmitigated gall” to oppose delaying Kavanaugh’s nomination after refusing for most of 2016 to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the court after Antonin Scalia died.

Kavanaugh and Ford had each indicated earlier Monday a willingness to testify to the Judiciary committee. Debra S. Katz, Ford’s attorney, said on NBC’s “Today” show that Ford was ready to testify publicly to the Judiciary panel, but she did not respond Monday evening to efforts to learn whether she would appear.

Kavanaugh, 53, whose confirmation had seemed to be on a smooth trajectory, went to the White House on Monday. Trump said he did not meet with his nominee and declined to say whether Kavanaugh had offered to withdraw, dismissing the question as “ridiculous.”

Ford, now a psychology professor at California’s Palo Alto University, told The Washington Post that an intoxicated Kavanaugh corralled her into a bedroom at a Maryland party when she was around 15 and Kavanaugh was about 17, held her down on a bed, tried to undress her and held his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. She said she got away when a companion of Kavanaugh’s jumped on him.

Kavanaugh said in a statement distributed by the White House on Monday that he wanted to “refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity.”

Kavanaugh is currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, widely viewed as the nation’s second-most-powerful court.

Until Monday, Trump had remained silent about the allegations against Kavanaugh. The president himself has faced accusations of affairs and unwanted advances — not to mention his taped comments about groping women that emerged shortly before he was elected in 2016.

Katz said Ford, who revealed her identity Sunday in an interview with the Post after weeks of refusing to do so, believes “she would have been raped” by Kavanaugh had he not been drunk.

Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey, Mary Clare Jalonick, Darlene Superville and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/kavanaughs-accuser-willing-to-talk-to-congress-lawyer-says/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/AP18248583508230-3.jpgSupreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018, for the second day of his confirmation hearing to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)Mon, 17 Sep 2018 20:22:00 +0000
Rare Kennedy photos go inside America’s most famous family https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/rare-kennedy-photos-go-inside-americas-most-famous-family/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/rare-kennedy-photos-go-inside-americas-most-famous-family/#respond Mon, 17 Sep 2018 10:49:10 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/rare-kennedy-photos-go-inside-americas-most-famous-family/ BOSTON — It’s an expansive and quintessentially Kennedy photo album.

Here’s a young, shirtless JFK, baring six-pack abs and smirking poolside while striking an un-presidential pose. There’s Rose Fitzgerald not-yet-Kennedy in her Sunday best, long before she’d become the family matriarch and trade girlhood grins for imperious stares. Here’s Kathleen Kennedy, awkwardly twisting upside down in a skirt to kiss Ireland’s Blarney Stone. There’s little Teddy Kennedy on the playground, sporting skinned knees.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum has completed an 18-month project to catalog and digitize more than 1,700 vintage family snapshots, and they’re now all viewable online – a photographic fix that’s sure to feed the nation’s continuing obsession with Camelot.

“It’s just fun to see where the camera took them,” said Nicola Mantzaris, a digital archivist who helped compile and catalog the fragile negatives, all carefully stored in subfreezing temperatures to slow their chemical decomposition.

“If you think about your own family photos and in what disarray they are in and just the volume – there’s definitely a universal aspect to this,” she said.

Many of the photos are ordinary snaps of typical American family life in the first half of the 20th century: vacations, holidays, kids mugging for the camera, meals captured ever so slightly out of focus.

But the candid images throw open a new window into a world that few have been able to peer into without physically visiting the presidential library in Boston, and even then by appointment with an archivist.

The collection is the culmination of what presidential historians dubbed the “Nitrate Negative Project,” a nostalgic look back at the Kennedys through the lenses of the affordable cameras and black-and-white film that ushered in the era of amateur photography and family albums. The new technology also laid the foundation for today’s social sharing platforms such as Instagram, complete with a few amusing instances of Kennedys appearing to photobomb one another.

The digitization effort was launched last year to coincide with celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of JFK’s birth.

“They’re the closest counterpart to a royal family that Americans have,” said Patrick Maney, a Boston College professor who specializes in presidential history.

“There’s a perception that it was a golden age in America, and in some ways it was,” he said.

These photographs fascinate all the more because they were taken before most of their youthful subjects went on to greatness. JFK, captured toothy and goofy in the collection, became the nation’s 35th president, and his assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, still guts older generations of Americans.

No less evocative: How one can see in their young faces their adult selves – hints of the impactful public servants and household names they would become.

The flapper fashion of the era, too, captures the imagination: bobbed hair, cloche hats and cigarettes.

JFK, especially, “is still alive in a way,” said Maney, the Boston College expert, who was in high school when Kennedy was gunned down. Although some have suggested JFK’s star power may be dimming just a bit, Maney doesn’t buy it.

“He’s frozen in time,” he said.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/rare-kennedy-photos-go-inside-americas-most-famous-family/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1566290_Kennedy_Snapshots_85639.j2.jpgIn this October 1936 photo, John F. Kennedy, right, Robert F. Kennedy, second from right, and Patricia Kennedy, front left, pose with friends in Palm Beach, Fla. The Boston-based museum completed an 18-month project in 2018 to catalog and digitize more than 1,700 black-and-white Kennedy family snapshots that are viewable online, giving a nation still obsessed with "Camelot" a candid new glimpse into their everyday lives.Mon, 17 Sep 2018 06:56:56 +0000
New leak shows Julian Assange sought Russian visa in 2010 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/new-leak-shows-julian-assange-sought-russian-visa-in-2010/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/new-leak-shows-julian-assange-sought-russian-visa-in-2010/#respond Mon, 17 Sep 2018 09:36:22 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/new-leak-shows-julian-assange-sought-russian-visa-in-2010/ LONDON — Julian Assange had just pulled off one of the biggest scoops in journalistic history, splaying the innards of American diplomacy across the web. But technology firms were cutting ties to his website, WikiLeaks, cable news pundits were calling for his head and a Swedish sex crime case was threatening to put him behind bars.

Caught in a vise, the silver-haired Australian wrote to the Russian Consulate in London.

“I, Julian Assange, hereby grant full authority to my friend, Israel Shamir, to both drop off and collect my passport, in order to get a visa,” said the letter, which was recently obtained by The Associated Press.

The Nov. 30, 2010 missive is part of a much larger trove of WikiLeaks emails, chat logs, financial records, secretly recorded footage and other documents leaked to The Associated Press.

The files provide both an intimate look at the radical transparency organization and an early hint of Assange’s budding relationship with Moscow.

The ex-hacker’s links to the Kremlin would become increasingly salient before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, when the FBI says Russia’s military intelligence agency directly supplied WikiLeaks with stolen emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and other Democratic figures.

Representatives for Assange, who has been barred from internet access at his refuge inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, didn’t return repeated messages seeking details about the visa bid. Kristinn Hrafnsson, a sometime-spokesman for the group, declined to comment, calling the AP’s story “rather uninteresting.” The Russian Embassy in London said it didn’t discuss the personal details of visa applicants.

WikiLeaks has repeatedly been hit by unauthorized disclosures , but the tens of thousands of files obtained by the AP may be the biggest leak yet.

The AP has confirmed the authenticity of many of the documents by running them by five former WikiLeaks associates or by verifying non-public details such as bank accounts, telephone numbers or airline tickets.

One of the former associates, an ex-employee, identified two of the names that frequently appeared in the documents’ metadata, “Jessica Longley” and “Jim Evans Mowing,” as pseudonyms assigned to two WikiLeaks laptops.

All five former associates spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, in some cases because they didn’t want their past association with WikiLeaks to become public, and in others because they feared legal retaliation or harassment from the group’s supporters.

Among other things, the documents lay out Assange’s campaign to avoid being arrested and extradited to Sweden over allegations that he sexually molested one woman and raped another during a trip to the Scandinavian country in August 2010.

Assange has always denied wrongdoing in the case, which he cast as a prelude to extradition to the U.S. The Swedish prosecution jeopardized what at the time was WikiLeaks’ biggest-ever disclosure: the publication of around 250,000 U.S. State Department cables. Swedish authorities issued a warrant for his arrest on Nov. 18, just 10 days before the cables exploded across the web, with bombshell revelations about drone strikes in Yemen, American spying at the U.N. and corruption across the Arab world.

Italy’s then-foreign minister, Franco Frattini, described the release as the “Sept. 11 of world diplomacy.” Enraged American politicians demanded that Assange be treated like a terrorist.

Metadata suggests that it was on Nov. 29, the day after the release of the first batch of U.S. State Department files, that the letter to the Russian Consulate was drafted on the Jessica Longley computer.

The AP couldn’t confirm whether or when the message was actually delivered, but the choice of Israel Shamir as a go-between was significant. Assange’s involvement with Shamir, a fringe intellectual who once said it was the duty of every Christian and Muslim to deny the Holocaust, would draw indignation when it became public.

Shamir told the AP he was plagued by memory problems and couldn’t remember delivering Assange’s letter or say whether he eventually got the visa on Assange’s behalf.

“I can’t possibly exclude that it happened,” Shamir said in a telephone interview. “I have a very vague memory of those things.”

Shamir’s memory appeared sharper during a January, 20, 2011 interview with Russian News Service radio – a Moscow-based station now known as Life Zvuk, or Life Sound. Shamir said he’d personally brokered a Russian visa for Assange, but that it had come too late to rescue him from the sex crimes investigation.

Russia “would be one of those places where he and his organization would be comfortable operating,” Shamir explained. Asked if Assange had friends in the Kremlin, Shamir smiled and said: “Let’s hope that’s the case.”

Shamir often makes eyebrow-raising claims (in the same interview he said that the U.S. offered Assange $100 million not to publish the cables), but it was true that any visa for Assange would have been moot.

On Nov. 30, 2010 – the date on the letter – Interpol issued a Red Notice seeking Assange’s arrest, making any relocation to Russia virtually impossible. With legal bills mounting, Assange turned himself in on Dec. 7 and his staff’s focus turned to getting him out of jail. One WikiLeaks spreadsheet listed names of potential supporters arrayed by wealth and influence; a second one titled “Get Out of Jail Free” tracked proposed bail donations and pledges for surety.

As they gathered money, Assange’s allies also plotted what to do once the WikiLeaks founder was released.

One document showed Guatemalan human rights lawyer Renata Avila floating the idea of jumping bail.

“I will advise him to seek asylum abroad: we already contacted the Ministry of Justice in Brazil, there is a possibility to run out of the country in a Brazilian ship,” Avila told fellow WikiLeaks supporters in a memo. The document said Assange should “plan to escape and pay the bail money back to his supporters.”

Avila didn’t return repeated messages seeking comment. It’s not clear whether her idea went anywhere; former Brazilian Justice Minister Eduardo Cardozo, who was serving on then-President-elect Dilma Rousseff’s transition team at the time, told the AP that he’d never heard of an Assange asylum request.

Assange would eventually skip bail after exhausting his British legal campaign to block the Swedish extradition effort, darting into the Ecuadorean Embassy on June 19, 2012. The move frustrated the sex crimes prosecution, which was dropped last year, but it sparked a standoff that continues to this day, with Assange refusing to leave the embassy unless he is shielded from extradition to the U.S.

Assange’s escape left many of his guarantors in the lurch. When a group of them went to court in late 2012 to reduce their bill, the escape plan went unmentioned.

A lawyer for four of Assange’s supporters, Henry Blaxland, told the judge that Assange’s Ecuadorean asylum stunt caught everyone off guard.

“Nobody could reasonably have foreseen that’s what he would do,” Blaxland said.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/17/new-leak-shows-julian-assange-sought-russian-visa-in-2010/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1566274_WikiLeaks_45936.jpg-fe7d1.jpgWikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrives at Belmarsh Magistrate's court in London for an extradition hearing in 2011. According to a cache of internal WikiLeaks files obtained by the AP, Assange sought a Russian visa and staffers at his radical transparency group discussed having him skip bail and escape Britain as authorities closed in on him in late 2010.Mon, 17 Sep 2018 06:05:14 +0000
Grim warnings for White House, Republicans ahead of election https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/grim-warnings-for-white-house-republicans-ahead-of-election/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/grim-warnings-for-white-house-republicans-ahead-of-election/#respond Sun, 16 Sep 2018 22:28:17 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/grim-warnings-for-white-house-republicans-ahead-of-election/ WASHINGTON — The prognosis for President Trump and his party was grim.

In a post-Labor Day briefing at the White House, a top Republican pollster told senior staff that the determining factor in the election wouldn’t be the improving economy or the steady increase in job creation. It would be how voters feel about Trump.

And the majority of the electorate, including a sizeable percentage of Republican-leaning voters, doesn’t feel good about the president, according to a presentation from pollster Neil Newhouse that spanned dozens of pages.

Newhouse’s briefing came amid a darkening mood among Republican officials as the November election nears. Party leaders were already worried that a surge in enthusiasm among Democrats and disdain for Trump by moderate Republicans would put the House out of reach.

But some Republicans now fear their Senate majority is also in peril – a scenario that was unthinkable a few months ago given the favorable Senate map for the party.

“For Republican candidates to win in swing states, they need all of the voters who support President Trump, plus a chunk of those who do not,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “That is threading a very narrow strategic needle.”

Operatives in both parties say Republicans still have the edge in the fight for control of the Senate.

But Republican officials are increasingly worried that nominees in conservative-leaning states like Missouri and Indiana are underperforming, while races in Tennessee and Texas that should be slam-dunks for Republicans are close.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raised an alarm last week, warning that each of the competitive Senate races would be “like a knife fight in an alley.”

Some of the public fretting among Republicans appears to be strategic, as party officials try to motivate both voters and donors.

Many moderate Republican voters “don’t believe there is anything at stake in this election,” according to the documents Newhouse presented to White House officials. He attributed that belief in part to a disregard for public polling, given that most surveys showed Democrat Hillary Clinton defeating Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Newhouse and the White House would not comment on the early September meeting. The Associated Press obtained a copy of Newhouse’s presentation, and two Republicans with knowledge of the briefing discussed the details on the condition of anonymity.

The paradox for Republicans is that most Americans are largely satisfied with the economy, according to numerous surveys.

But the party has struggled to keep the economy centered at the center of the election debate.

Trump keeps thrusting other issues to the forefront, including his frustration with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and his intense anger with unflattering portrayals of his presidency in a book by journalist Bob Woodward and an anonymous editorial from a senior administration official that was published in the New York Times.

Trump also stunned some backers last week when he disputed the death toll in Puerto Rico from last year’s Hurricane Maria, just as another storm was barreling toward the East Coast.

Newhouse told White House officials that Trump could appeal to moderates and independents by emphasizing that a Democratic majority would be outside the mainstream on issues like abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and government-funded health care. Other Republican strategists have offered candidates similar advice.

Karl Rove, who served as chief political strategist to President George W. Bush, said that if Republicans cast their Democratic rivals as soft on immigration or in favor of high-dollar government spending on health care, “that’s a toxic mix to the soft Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.”

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/grim-warnings-for-white-house-republicans-ahead-of-election/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1565610_Rauner_and_Trump_44895.jpg-.jpgPresident Trump speaks in the White House last week. Republican Party leaders worry they may lose both the House and Senate in the upcoming midterm elections.Sun, 16 Sep 2018 18:36:18 +0000
Woman accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct comes forward https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/california-professor-writer-of-confidential-brett-kavanaugh-letter-speaks-out-about-her-allegation-of-sexual-assault/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/california-professor-writer-of-confidential-brett-kavanaugh-letter-speaks-out-about-her-allegation-of-sexual-assault/#respond Sun, 16 Sep 2018 17:49:01 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/california-professor-writer-of-confidential-brett-kavanaugh-letter-speaks-out-about-her-allegation-of-sexual-assault/ WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was thrust into turmoil Sunday after the woman accusing him of high school-era sexual misconduct told her story publicly for the first time. Democrats immediately called for a delay in a key committee vote set for this later week and a Republican on the closely divided panel said he’s “not comfortable” voting on the nomination without first hearing from the accuser.

The woman, Christine Blasey Ford, told The Washington Post in her first interview that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed at a Maryland party they attended in the early 1980s, clumsily tried to remove her clothing and put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream.

“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” Ford said. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

Ford, 51 and a clinical psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, says she was able to get away after a friend of Kavanaugh’s who was in the room jumped on top of them and everyone tumbled.

Kavanaugh, 53 and a federal appeals judge in Washington, on Sunday repeated an earlier denial of Ford’s allegation.

“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time,” Kavanaugh said through the White House.

The allegation first came to light late last week in the form of a letter that has been in the possession of Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, for some time.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a pro-abortion rights Republican, has remained undecided on whether she would vote to confirm Kavanaugh, while Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, announced last week that he opposes the nominee. Her office did not respond to requests for comment Friday and again on Sunday.

Collins told a CNN producer Sunday at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport that she was “very surprised” at the accusation against Kavenaugh, and she referred to an hourlong conversation she had with him on Friday, according to a tweet by Manu Raju, a CNN congressional correspondent.

“It’s an issue that I brought up with him last Friday and he denied,” Collins told CNN. On Friday, Ford had yet to be named in a story or be interviewed, but the contents of a letter outlining the incident became public.

When asked if the vote should be delayed, Collins said she would be “talking with my colleagues” and declined to comment further.

Even before the accusation surfaced, Kavanaugh was a controversial nominee, as progressives argued that he would be a likely vote on a divided Supreme Court to restrict abortion rights or overturn Roe v. Wade. But Kavanaugh told the Judiciary Committee that he considers Roe v. Wade to be “settled law” and “precedent upon precedent.”

Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a pro-abortion rights Republican from Alaska, have been targeted by progressives as possible “no” votes on Kavanaugh, although Collins has also made many positive remarks about the nominee.

The committee recently concluded four days of public hearings on the nomination and the panel’s Republican chairman, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, scheduled a Thursday vote on whether to recommend that the full Senate confirm Kavanaugh for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.

Democrats, led by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, immediately called for it to be postponed, though Republicans gave no indication Sunday that they would accede to the calls by Democrats, most of whom already publicly oppose Kavanaugh.

A spokesman for the Senate Judiciary Committee said late Sunday that Grassley is trying to arrange separate, follow-up calls with Kavanaugh and Ford, but just for aides to Grassley and Feinstein, before Thursday’s scheduled vote.

But Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a committee member, told The Washington Post and Politico in interviews Sunday that he’s “not comfortable” voting for Kavanaugh until he learns more about the allegation. Flake is one of 11 Republicans on the committee, whose 10 Democrats all oppose Kavanaugh. A potential “no” vote from Flake would complicate Kavanaugh’s prospects.

Another Republican member, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said he’s willing to hear from Ford provided that it’s “done immediately” to keep the confirmation process on track. Critics have accused the GOP of fast-tracking the process to get Kavanaugh on the court by Oct. 1, the first day of the fall term.

Senate Republicans, along with the White House, see no need to postpone voting over what they consider uncorroborated and unverifiable accusations, according to a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly.

In considering their options Sunday, Republicans largely settled on the view that Ford’s story alone was not enough to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Grassley could invite Ford to testify, likely in closed session before Thursday. Kavanaugh would also probably be asked to appear before senators. The panel would also likely seek testimony from Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate who Ford says jumped on top of her and Kavanaugh. Judge has denied that the incident happened.

Republicans have not settled on the strategy, the person familiar with the situation said, but were weighing options, including doing nothing.

Republicans say the allegations have already cast a shadow over Kavanaugh but that it does not appear to be enough to change the votes in the narrowly divided 51-49 Senate. Key will be the views of Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who did not immediately comment publicly Sunday.

A spokesman for Grassley said Kavanaugh already went through several days of hearings and has been investigated by the FBI.

The White House has accused Feinstein, who revealed the letter’s existence late last week, of mounting an “11th hour attempt to delay his confirmation.” The White House has also sought to cast doubt about Ford’s allegation by noting that the FBI has repeatedly investigated Kavanaugh since the 1990s for highly sensitive positions he has held, including in the office of independent counsel Ken Starr, at the White House and his current post on the federal appeals court in Washington.

Both Democratic and Republican senators questioned Feinstein’s handling of the allegation. Feinstein on Sunday called on the FBI to investigate Ford’s story “before the Senate moves forward on this nominee.”

Kavanaugh’s nomination has sharply divided an already closely divided Senate, with most Democrats opposing him and most Republicans supporting him.

But the allegations of sexual misconduct, particularly coming amid the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, coupled with Ford’s emergence could complicate matters, especially as key Republican senators, including Collins and Murkowski, are under enormous pressure from outside groups who want them to oppose Kavanaugh on grounds that as a justice he could vote to undercut the Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion in the U.S.

Ford told the Post that Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” she says — corralled her into a bedroom during a house party in Maryland in the early 1980s when she was around 15 and Kavanaugh was around 17. She says Kavanaugh groped her over her clothes, grinded his body against hers and tried to take off her one-piece swimsuit and the outfit she wore over it.

Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand when she tried to scream, she says, and escaped when Judge jumped on them.

In the interview, Ford says she never revealed what had happened to her until 2012, when she and her husband sought couples therapy.

Portions of her therapist’s notes, which Ford provided to the Post, do not mention Kavanaugh by name but say Ford reported being attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school” who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.”

Kavanaugh attended a private school for boys in Maryland while Ford attended a nearby school.

Ford’s husband, Russell Ford, also told the newspaper that his wife described during therapy being trapped in a room with two drunken boys and that one of them had pinned her to a bed, molested her and tried to prevent from screaming. He said he recalled his wife using Kavanaugh’s last name and expressing concern that Kavanaugh — then a federal judge — might someday be nominated to the Supreme Court.

The therapist’s notes say four boys were involved, but Ford says that was an error by the therapist. Ford says four boys were at the party, but only two boys were in the room at the time.

Ford had contacted the Post through a tip line in early July after it had become clear that Kavanaugh was on Trump’s shortlist to fill a vacancy but before the Republican president nominated him, the newspaper said.

A registered Democrat, Ford contacted her representative in Congress, Democrat Anna Eshoo, around the same time. In late July, Ford sent a letter through Eshoo’s office to Feinstein. Feinstein said she notified federal investigators about the letter, and the FBI confirmed it has included the information in Kavanaugh’s background file, which all senators can read.

Sixty-five women who knew Kavanagh in high school defended him in a separate letter, circulated by Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans, as someone who “always treated women with decency and respect.” The effort around the pro-Kavanaugh letter began to take shape after his confirmation hearings earlier this month when rumors began to circulate, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to comment publicly. The signatures on the letter came together in about 24 hours, the person said.

Ford told the Post she changed her mind about coming forward after watching portions of her story come out without her permission. She said if anyone was going to tell her story, she wanted to be the one to tell it.

Associated Press writer Zeke Miller and Portland Press Herald staff writer Joe Lawlor contributed to this report.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/california-professor-writer-of-confidential-brett-kavanaugh-letter-speaks-out-about-her-allegation-of-sexual-assault/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/kavanaugh-1.jpgPresident Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh gestures while speaking on the third day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington, to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)Sun, 16 Sep 2018 21:42:14 +0000
Janet Mills’ mission: Break yet another glass ceiling https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/janet-mills-mission-break-yet-another-glass-ceiling/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/janet-mills-mission-break-yet-another-glass-ceiling/#respond Sun, 16 Sep 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=1017550 FARMINGTON — In the summer of 1948, Margaret Chase Smith had reason to celebrate. The four-term congresswoman had just defeated a former governor and the sitting governor to win the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate, which in those days meant she was all but certain to become the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.

She finished her campaign activities one day in Farmington, then joined two of her closest friends on the porch of their home, holding their 6-month-old baby on her lap while sharing her triumph over the establishment wing of the state’s ruling party and the shattering of a very high glass ceiling.

She couldn’t have predicted that the baby in her lap would shatter some of her own, growing up to be Maine’s first female criminal prosecutor, the first female district attorney in New England, the first female attorney general of Maine, and a co-founder of the Maine Women’s Lobby. Along the way she would head the Maine Prosecutors Association, serve three terms in the Legislature, and remain a lifelong friend of Sen. Smith.

Now, after winning a seven-way primary, Janet Mills is the Democratic nominee for governor, an office her Republican brother twice sought, and which, 70 years after Smith’s Senate victory, a woman has yet to occupy. She has campaigned to expand Medicaid, food assistance to children and fiber-optic internet lines; to increase investments in research and development and meet the state’s funding obligations to school districts; to expand opioid treatment options and make the anti-overdose drug Narcan widely available; and to repair the tattered relationship between Augusta and Maine’s tribal communities. The only public poll of the four-way race, released Aug. 8, has her neck and neck with Republican nominee Shawn Moody.

“There is one thing that needs to be said: She is a hell of a lot tougher than anybody estimates,” says Peter Mills, her eldest brother. “Janet is an incredible fighter, better than my dad, and he was one tough cookie.”

A POLITICAL LEGACY

Janet Trafton Mills was born into an influential Farmington political family on Dec. 30, 1947, the third child of Sumner Peter Mills Jr. and the former Katherine Louise Coffin.

Margaret Chase Smith, top left, a longtime friend of the Mills family, poses with them on their Farmington porch in 1952. Pictured with her are Janet Mills, right, her brother Peter, center, mother Katherine, top right, and cousin Mary Stuart Mills at left.

Her mother grew up on a potato farm in the Aroostook County town of Ashland, where both of Janet’s grandparents had served as town clerk. While they had struggled during the Great Depression, they were able to send their eldest son to Bowdoin and George Washington University Law School, and he ultimately became the head of the Law Library at the Library of Congress. Janet’s mother went to Colby, and taught English at Wilton Academy and later Mt. Blue High School.

Her father was the namesake son of a lawyer and two-term state senator from Stonington who relocated to his wife’s hometown of Farmington in 1911, after the Penobscot Bay granite industry had collapsed. At the time of Janet’s birth, S. Peter Mills Jr. was the Republican floor leader in the Maine House, where he was one of only a handful of sitting lawmakers who bucked his party’s establishment to support Congresswoman Smith’s Senate campaign.

“The other major candidates represented the establishment: Pierce Atwood, the railroads, Verrill Dana, the power companies,” says family historian Paul Mills, Janet’s younger brother, who practiced law with their father until the latter’s death in 2001 and says Smith was an aunt-like figure in his family. “There were darn few people of his stature supporting her, so there was this strong bond that held them together.”

That bond – which originated in the friendship between their father and Smith’s late husband, Clyde Smith, who preceded her as U.S. representative – propelled the elder Mills’ career and, by extension, helped advance his own children’s political prospects. It was Smith who persuaded President Dwight D. Eisenhower to appoint Janet’s father U.S. attorney for Maine in 1953 and backed his reappointment in 1968, when another Republican, Richard Nixon, was seated in the Oval Office. The Mills family, in turn, campaigned for her, with Janet distributing her fliers while still in elementary school.

“Smith was always a role model for me growing up,” Mills told a reporter in 2009. “She was a woman of both grit and integrity who held high public office with grace and vision. She held her ground and didn’t take any grief from anyone, even from presidents and foreign leaders.”

‘QUIET, UNASSUMING KID’

The family lived in Gorham during their father’s first, nine-year stint as U.S. attorney to shorten his commute to Portland. Janet finished elementary and middle school there, while her older brother, Peter, attended Gorham High School and – it being a small state – hung out with his friends at the junkyard owned by the future stepfather of current Republican gubernatorial nominee Shawn Moody.

Peter remembers Janet as a quiet, deferential kid growing up, possibly because she was younger and smaller than her classmates – she started kindergarten at 4 because her mother had already taught her to read and write – but also because their parents were so voluble.

“My mother was an English teacher, and my father was a trial lawyer, and I remember a childhood in which the kids didn’t get a word in edgewise,” he recalls. “Janet was a quiet, unassuming young girl, and I don’t remember her being active in politics or anything else in school.”

For a year of her life, she couldn’t so much as move. At 14, she was sent to Delaware’s Albert DuPont Hospital for Children for two surgeries to correct her scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine that, left untreated, can be disabling. The procedures left her in a body cast for the better part of the year, confined to a bed in the living room where tutors came to give her school lessons. Her father later described her as a “stoic and courageous patient.”

For a Farmington High School contest, she memorized Smith’s most famous speech, the Declaration of Conscience, in which the senator denounced Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s demagoguery, saying she did not want her party to “ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny – Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.” Smith was a regular visitor to their house and hosted the Mills family at her home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, when they visited Washington. Janet recalls the senator telling her “if you’re going to survive in politics, you mustn’t be gullible.”

But while politics and political role models swirled around her, Mills wanted nothing to do with it. “I absolutely did not aspire to be in politics or to be a lawyer – maybe the opposite at times,” she recalls. On graduating from high school in 1965, she had no idea what she wanted to do.

Following her parents’ wishes, Mills enrolled at their alma mater, Colby College. She hated it.

“Both my parents had gone to Colby, ’34 and ’39, and it was only 38 miles from my house, and they kept showing up,” she told an interviewer for the Bates College Muskie Oral History Collection in 1999. “You know, if I’d go to a fraternity party after the football game and try to have fun … my father and mother would walk in the door.”

Women also faced a battery of restrictive rules about where, when, what and with whom they could spend their time that were not imposed on their male counterparts. “It was a double standard, and it felt confining,” she says. “So I dropped out after a year and a half.”

NAVIGATING THE ’60s

It was 1967, the Vietnam War and a cultural revolution were raging. Mills moved to San Francisco during the “Summer of Love,” then to Boston, where she worked as a nursing assistant at a psychiatric hospital and, in 1969, enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Boston, a 4-year-old institution operating out of leased downtown office buildings. She joined the school’s first junior year abroad program, spending the 1970-71 academic year in Paris. She backpacked through Western Europe as it was undergoing its own youth-driven cultural revolution, and became fluent in French, which turned into her major.

“There was a lot of stuff going on in the ’60s that encouraged my somewhat rebellious nature, and the assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and John F. Kennedy and the Vietnam War were very much a factor in my development,” she recalls. “There were a lot of things that needed fixing, and it was a time that was the opposite of apathy, a time of deep involvement, socially, emotionally and politically. And I became a Democrat.”

Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Janet Mills hugs a longtime friend, Roberta “Bobbie” Muse, while attending a Democratic picnic at the South Portland home of State Rep. Lois Reckitt this month. Her brother Peter says Mills “is a hell of a lot tougher than anybody estimates.”

She also was edging closer to a legal career. On returning from Paris, she took up with an old boyfriend who lived in Cambridge and followed him to Washington, where she worked for two years at a law firm specializing in intellectual property, first as a receptionist, then secretary, and finally as a paralegal when the partners realized she could professionally translate French patent documents. “I saw all these guys – they were all guys – lawyers making money, and I was doing all the work,” she told the Bates interviewer in 1999. “I thought, gee, that doesn’t seem right. I could do that, and I could have the title too.”

Meanwhile, her relationship had taken a dark turn. “He was a lovable, intelligent, good-looking alcoholic, and when he was drinking he played with guns,” she says. “I was going to save him because, yeah, that always works!” One night he fell into a drunken rage and held a loaded gun to her head. She left him that night, returning to the apartment only once to dismantle his weapons and dispose of his stock of ammunition. “I didn’t want him hurting anyone else,” she says. “I never saw him again.”

For years, her father had urged her to come back to Maine and enroll at the University of Maine School of Law, where Peter was about to graduate. In the fall of 1973 she finally agreed.

“I think she’d had trouble in her mid-20s and was uncertain about who she was, and our dad helped her make the decision to go to law school, financially helped her, and brought her back to Maine,” Peter says. “She’s a fierce contender, as a debater or when she engages in a discussion, and that ability really came to the fore after that.”

Mills had found her calling.

BUDDING LAWYER, ACTIVIST

She excelled in law school, serving as editor of the Maine Law Review, developing the school’s first seminar on gender discrimination, and interning at the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office, where she helped try criminal cases. As the Watergate scandal boiled in the summer of 1974 she interned for legendary civil rights attorney Charles Morgan at the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, and then for pioneering women’s rights attorney Marcia Greenberger at the Center for Law and Social Policy the following summer.

In the summer of 1975 Janet Mills, a student at the University of Maine School of Law, was a summer intern for the Cumberland County District Attorney

“It was a very vibrant and socially progressive atmosphere, and many of the professors encouraged people to air different points of view,” says law school classmate Barbara Alexander, an environmental activist who’d helped organize the first Earth Day in 1970. “The doors were open for us as women, but what was on the other side was still a little bit of an unknown situation.”

In 1974 Mills was standing in line at Portland High School to vote in a Democratic Party caucus. Standing behind her in line were state senator (and future governor) Joe Brennan and attorney George Mitchell (who would become U.S. Senate majority leader). “They were laughing about my enrolling as a Democrat, saying, ‘If your father only knew,’ ” she later recalled. In reality, they had been more perturbed when she dropped out of Colby and bee-lined for the Golden Gate Bridge. “After that, nothing could shock them.”

She graduated in 1976, passed the state bar exam, and was hired by Brennan, who had become attorney general the year before. She was the first woman ever assigned to the criminal division of the AG’s Office, and ultimately tried a dozen murder cases, earning the respect of her boss. “Janet was smart, hard-working, a strong leader,” Brennan recalls. “I tried to appoint the ablest people I could find.”

Press Herald columnist Bill Caldwell interviewed her for a November 1978 profile with the unfortunate headline “The prosecutor wore pale powder blue,” just after she’d attended the sentencing of a man who’d shot his wife to death. “I like prosecuting murder trials the best,” she told him. “I like criminal law more than civil law. I prefer dealing with people rather than with stocks, ledgers, corporate paper.”

She continued to champion women’s issues, and was a member of Maine’s delegation at the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston, a federally sponsored meeting charged with developing a national action plan for President Jimmy Carter. “She could not have escaped from this conference and its Maine follow-ups without having feminism as a core of her belief system, and I define ‘feminism’ as the radical notion that women are people too,” says fellow attendee Lois Galgay Reckitt, who later was one of the founders the Human Rights Campaign, the national LGBTQ advocacy group.

After the conference, Reckitt, Mills, and the late women’s rights activist Linda Smith Dyer met in Mills’ Portland apartment to sketch out the plan for what became the Maine Women’s Lobby. “We realized that key decisions were being made in the (Legislature’s) appropriations committee about funding things that were crucial to Maine women’s rights and health, and if you didn’t have a full-time lobbyist in the room, then your views weren’t taken into account as much as those who did,” recalls Alexander, one of the group’s charter board members. “Janet was one of the driving forces in making that happen.”

PERSECUTED PROSECUTOR?

Janet Mills, 32, poses in her office in the late summer of 1980, months after being appointed the first female district attorney in Maine by then-Gov. Joe Brennan. She would win election to the position – the top prosecutor for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties – that November and would later be re-elected three times.

In 1980, Mills got a big break. Her former boss, Joe Brennan, was now governor, and appointed her to finish out the term of Thomas Delahanty, the district attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties, who had been appointed U.S. Attorney by President Carter. She was the first female district attorney in New England’s history, and would be elected to four terms over the next 14 years.

“I’m sure some people are and some groups are aware that I have previously expressed interest in various ‘women’s issues’ such as rape and domestic violence, and they may contact me as opposed to someone else because of that background – not because I’m a woman prosecutor,” she told the Maine Sunday Telegram that September. “You don’t have to be a woman to be concerned about women’s issues. And at the same time, those areas are certainly not my exclusive concern.”

Mills took up tennis and wound up dating her instructor, Stanley Kuklinski, a widower with five daughters aged 4 to 16. They were married in August 1985. “I learned a lot about love and relationships and child rearing, of course,” Mills recalls.

“I mean, I was a career woman and their mother had been pretty much a stay-at-home homemaker, and I was quite a bit different from her, so that was an adjustment for all of us. But we are all good friends.” The couple moved to Wilton, where Stan became a real estate developer. (Stan died in September 2014 from the aftereffects of a stroke at age 73.)

In the summer of 1990, Mills was one of three district attorneys who spoke out against the actions of the new Bureau of Intergovernmental Drug Enforcement, or BIDE, later renamed the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. The federal-state agency, they said, was targeting small-time street dealers to boost their tally of arrests, allowing major suppliers to stay in business. The dispute was politically charged, as Republican Gov. John McKernan – up for re-election against Brennan – was using the arrest figures in his campaign commercials.

Then, in December 1990, her world was shaken. Citing “law enforcement leaks,” television station WCSH reported BIDE was investigating Mills for alleged drug use and abuse of office, resulting in the convening of a grand jury.

Mills, furious, demanded an explanation from U.S. Attorney Richard Cohen, a Republican, who refused to confirm or deny anything. The confidential investigation made newspaper front pages for more than a year, with sources saying investigators had asked them questions about Mills’ sex life, while Cohen proclaimed he would not be “intimidated by self-proclaimed influential people.” The Telegram editorial board demanded an independent probe of BIDE, while lawmakers held hearings grilling the agency’s overseers on its behavior.

“It’s scary,” Mills told the Press Herald in November 1991. “Maine apparently has a secret police force at work that can ruin the reputation of any who oppose it.”

A month later, Cohen announced the probe was complete and no charges would be filed. Legislators denied John Atwood, who oversaw BIDE as commissioner of public safety, his first judicial appointment because he’d overseen the case (he later joined the bench), while a special probe supervised by Cohen’s Democratic successor was unable to determine if federal agents at BIDE had acted improperly, because they declined to cooperate.

“It felt like people were acting outside the rule of law, outside the justice system as I knew it,” says Mills, who subsequently learned the initial allegations had come from drug dealers she’d prosecuted. “I generally place my faith in the justice system, and that faith was gradually being shaken.”

PUBLIC TO PRIVATE AND BACK

By 1994, Mills was ready for a change, tried politics, and in a few months earned herself what she sardonically called “a reverse hat trick.” In the early spring she sought to succeed 2nd District Rep. Olympia Snowe but lost the Democratic primary to John Baldacci. Through the summer and fall she co-chaired Brennan’s gubernatorial campaign, which lost to independent Angus King. In December she sought to be selected attorney general by the Legislature but came in second.

Janet Mills on December 21, 1991, reacts shortly after learning a controversial investigation of her by the state’s Republican attorney general had been concluded with no charges filed. “If this kind of thing can happen to me,” she said at a news conference, “it can happen to anyone in Maine.” She said she later learned that the allegations against her had originated from drug dealers whom she had prosecuted.

In the new year, she joined her brother Peter’s Skowhegan-based law firm, commuting from her and Stan’s home in Wilton and, later Strong. She remained for 14 years.

In 2002 Mills decided to run for a state House seat her father had once occupied. “I missed the public policy aspect of what goes on in Augusta and I felt I could do it,” she recalls. “The seat was open, so I ran.” She won and was thrice re-elected, serving on the judiciary and appropriations committees at a time when Democrats still dominated the State House.

In December 2008, her legislative colleagues elected her attorney general, a position she’s occupied ever since, save for 2011-12, when Republicans controlled the House. During that break, she worked for Preti Flaherty’s litigation group and served as vice chairwoman of the Maine Democratic Party. In 2009 she received the Maine Bar Association’s Caroline Glassman Award for removing the barriers to advance women in the profession.

Her time as attorney general was marked by public disagreements with Republican Gov. Paul LePage. She’s declined to represent his (unsuccessful) federal appeal of a ruling that prevented him from cutting the Medicaid benefits of 6,000 young adults; to defend his administration when it was sued over an effort to block reimbursements for General Assistance payments made by municipalities to asylum seekers; and to fight a suit connected with his possibly unlawful closure of a Washington County correctional facility. He sued her for joining a legal effort to provide protection to young immigrants facing deportation; last month she threatened to sue him for withholding $4.9 million in legislatively approved funds from her office.

LePage has accused her of “abuse of power” for not representing him, and called for her to resign from her post while she runs for office. “You are clearly not doing the job as attorney general for the people of Maine … and it appears you are using your office as a campaign headquarters,” he wrote Mills on Aug. 6.

They’ve also clashed over how to respond to the opioid crisis. When LePage vetoed a bill to provide law enforcement officers with the overdose antidote Narcan, Mills underwrote its distribution via funds from court settlements that are controlled by her office.

CLASHES AND RESPONSES

After she was re-elected attorney general by the Legislature at the end of 2014, LePage denied her the usual public ceremony, swearing her into office behind closed doors.

Gubernatorial candidate Janet Mills addresses supporters at a picnic this month. Embracing Democratic ideals, her political stands contrast sharply with those of the current governor.

Mills also earned the ire of some tribal members and their allies while defending the state from a federal suit by the Penobscot Nation challenging the state’s assertion that the tribe has no special rights in the main stem of the river that bears its name. Mills also fought a tribal challenge to Maine’s regulatory jurisdiction in an ongoing suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has ruled the state needed stricter water quality standards in the river to ensure fish there were safe for subsistence consumption by tribal members. While speaking at an anti-Trump rally in June 2017, she was interrupted by a dozen Penobscot protesters bearing signs and a banner denouncing her stances.

“We’ve been very clear in our communications with her that it’s problematic the way the (historic 1980 Indian land claims) Settlement Act has been interpreted and used against the tribes, and I think she has an understanding of that,” says the Penobscot Nation’s tribal ambassador to Maine and other governments, Maulian Dana. She nonetheless credits Mills for showing up at a gubernatorial candidate forum on the Penobscots’ Indian Island reservation in April; neither independent candidate showed up, she said, and eventual Republican nominee Moody never responded to the invitation. “I do think she’s trying, whether it’s from personal altruism or because she’s under a certain amount of pressure. But she has been more responsive, certainly, than the Republican candidate.”

Mills says the conflicts with LePage and the Penobscot Nation may have had a high profile but aren’t the best representations of her work as attorney general.

“Those things made the headlines, but I personally spent more of my time on consumer issues, multi-state litigation to protect consumers and the elderly, and natural resource matters,” she says.

“Since Trump’s election, the focus of litigation has changed dramatically, as we work with other states to protect due process and rule of law in education, immigration, health and welfare, and the environment. We feel in many instances the Trump administration has not complied with the rule of law and has done things to harm the safety and health of Maine people.”

Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

cwoodard@pressherald.com

CORRECTION; This story was updated on September 20, 2018 to correct the status of Maine Attorney General Janet Mills’ suit against the Environmental Protection Agency.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/janet-mills-mission-break-yet-another-glass-ceiling/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1564962_356020-20180908_janetmil12-1.jpgDemocratic gubernatorial candidate Janet Mills, the state's attorney general, greets supporters at the South Portland home of State Rep. Lois Reckitt on Sept. 8. Described by her brother Peter as "an incredible fighter," she defeated six opponents to win her party's nomination in June.Sat, 22 Sep 2018 19:29:31 +0000
The battle for dominance in the Maine Legislature could come down to a handful of races https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/the-battle-for-dominance-in-the-maine-legislature-could-come-down-to-a-handful-of-races/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/the-battle-for-dominance-in-the-maine-legislature-could-come-down-to-a-handful-of-races/#respond Sun, 16 Sep 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=1017602 AUGUSTA — Voter reaction to two politicians not even on the ballot in 2018 – Gov. Paul LePage and President Trump – could play heavily in determining which party controls the Maine Legislature for the next two years.

Power at the State House is currently split near evenly, with the Republicans holding a one-seat majority in the Senate and Democrats with an only slightly larger three-seat advantage in the House.

That balance of power may shift in 2019, especially since Democrats have both a raw numerical advantage and, possibly, voter enthusiasm on their side. Although unenrolled voters remain the state’s largest voting bloc, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 57,683 voters. And during the most recent statewide election, party primaries in June, Democrats turned out about 30,000 more voters than Republicans did.

The current narrow divide in the Legislature has allowed LePage to leverage his veto power, which he has wielded more than 600 times to stop any bill he doesn’t like when it passes the Legislature without at least two-thirds support in both chambers – the minimum needed to override a veto.

LePage and many of his staunchest allies in the House Republican caucus are unable to seek re-election because of Maine term limits. In the Senate, where Republicans hold 18 of the chamber’s 35 seats, Republicans will lose seven incumbents to term limits and one to a campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Democrats, on the other hand, lose only one incumbent to term limits in the Senate and start the fall campaign with an automatic two-seat advantage, with candidates in Windham and Portland who face no opposition.

On the House side, 14 Republicans will lose their seats to term limits compared to seven Democrats. Also in the House, eight Democrats face no opposition in November, compared to three unopposed Republicans.

A REFERENDUM ON GOV. LEPAGE

In many ways, the race for the governor’s office is playing out as a referendum on LePage, with his would-be Republican successor, Gorham businessman Shawn Moody, vowing to keep LePage’s agenda on cutting taxes, welfare and regulatory reforms on course. Meanwhile, all three of Moody’s opponents – independents Terry Hayes and Alan Caron and Democrat Janet Mills – are vowing to be as unlike LePage as possible.

Trump will likely have a trickle-down impact on state elections in Maine, where he carried the state’s northern and more rural 2nd District but trailed Democrat Hillary Clinton in the southern 1st District in 2016.

Lance Dutson, a Republican political operative and frequent LePage critic who has worked on statewide campaigns for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and former Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers, said there’s little doubt that in many ways 2018 will be a “referendum with what’s going on with the president.”

“The national indicators are that the national atmosphere is better for Democrats,” Dutson said. But he also warns that both parties may be turning voters off with what he describes as a “caustic political death match” that could tamp down enthusiasm.

One thing that won’t be tamped down is spending, with large national political action committees already pouring money into Maine from both sides, supporting and attacking candidates of all stripes.

Independent expenditures by party committees and political action committees reached $365,979 for all legislative races by Sept. 7, according to 60-day pre-election reports filed with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. More than half of that money has been aimed at just 10 tight state Senate races.

Republicans last won the majorities in the House and the Senate in 2010 but lost both to Democrats in 2012 before recapturing the Senate majority in 2014 and then holding it by the narrow one-seat margin now in play in 2016. Democrats have remained in control of the House for the last four years – but with less than a 10-seat margin, getting anything past LePage without Republican support has been impossible.

Former Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant and former Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster both said they expect 2018 to be a tight battle for control of the Legislature. And both men have been on the winning side before while also watching their parties subsequently lose control.

“The Senate has almost always been very tight,” said Grant, a Portland attorney. “And I don’t think I’m willing to say there is a wave election coming.”

THE COAT-TAIL EFFECT – GOOD AND BAD

Roughly 10 of the 35 Senate seats are in play, with the remainder solidly in the hands of one party or the other. Grant pointed out that the balance of power breaks down geographically, with Democrats largely dominating the state’s largest cities and the southern coastal region and Republicans controlling the more rural northern and inland regions.

With three congressional races and the election of a governor at the top of the ballot, candidates for State House seats could also benefit from – or get burned by – a coat-tail effect.

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Webster, a retired oil-burner repairman and former legislator from Farmington who ushered in Republican majorities as the state party chairman in 2010, said the party with the more unified message from the top of the ticket down will come out ahead. Webster said national politics could be a factor as well, and support or opposition to Trump will loom as large locally as it does in the U.S. congressional races.

Both Webster and Grant are helping with campaigns for candidates this year in their respective parties. Webster is involved in a handful of legislative races and Grant as the attorney for the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mills.

“The big question will be whether the anger we are seeing (toward Trump) is real or fabricated,” Webster said. “I think it’s fabricated, largely. In rural parts of the state I am still seeing handmade wooden signs that say ‘Trump,’ and they are not old.”

Grant said voter turnout will also be a critical indicator of whether one party or the other can capture the majority at the State House. In the June primaries Democrats outpaced Republicans by about 30,000 more voters. Democrats also have an edge over Republicans in total registered voters, although unenrolled voters remain the largest group in Maine.

“When you look around the country for the last year and a half, Democratic performance across the board has been on an upswing,” Grant said. “Even if they can’t vote for or against Trump, Democrats are fired up having just lost a presidential race in 2016.”

Grant also expects the national political mood could play a role in Maine elections, but he cautions that in some instances, local issues will be more important to State House candidates.

 

Here’s a look at the legislative seats likely to be in play in 2018:

Maine Senate

District 7: The contest in coastal Hancock County will feature Democrat Louis Luchini against Republican Richard Malaby – both are termed out of the House and seeking the seat of Republican Sen. Brian Langley, who is also termed out. Both Luchini, of Ellsworth, and Malaby, of Hancock, won their respective House races in 2016 by wide margins.

District 11:  – The seat in Waldo County is open in 2018 with the departure of Mike Thibodeau, who is the termed-out Republican Senate president. Thibodeau was reelected to the seat in 2016 by 809 votes, but termed-out House Majority Leader Erin Herbig, a Democrat from Belfast, is running for the seat against Republican Jayne Giles, also of Belfast. Giles has also served two terms in the House of Representatives.

District 13: In Lincoln County, incumbent Republican Sen. Dana Dow of Waldoboro is being challenged by Democrat Laura Fortman of Nobleboro. Dow is the owner of Dow Furniture, while Fortman is a former executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby.

District 14: The seat in Kennebec County could also be in play as Republicans look to unseat incumbent Sen. Shenna Bellows, a Democrat from Manchester. Spending on the race by outside groups has been heavy as Republican challenger Matt Stone of West Gardiner looks to keep Bellows from a second term.

District 20: The contest in Androscoggin County features Republican Ellie Espling of New Gloucester against Democrat Ned Claxton of Auburn. Espling is well-known as the assistant House minority leader, but Claxton is a well-known retired physician hailing from the largest city in the district. The seat flipped from Democrat to Republican in 2014 when Eric Brakey defeated incumbent Sen. John Cleveland, a Democrat. Brakey, who has served two terms, is stepping down in a bid to run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Angus King.

District 30: This seat could be in play as well as incumbent Republican Amy Volk faces Democratic challenger Linda Sanborn. While Volk, of Scarborough, handily won re-election to the seat in 2016 after she moved to the Senate from the House in 2014, Sanborn represents a serious challenger. Sanborn,  a retired family physician from Gorham, has strong name recognition and has previously won election to the Legislature, serving four terms in the Maine House of Representatives from 2008 to 2016.

Maine House

District 9: Rep. Stedman Seavey, R-Kennebunkport, won by just 91 votes in 2016 beating Democrat Dian Denk of Kennebunk. Stedman Seavey is stepping down in 2018 and his brother, Roger Seavey, also R- Kennebunkport, will compete against Denk who is running for the seat again in 2018.

District 19: Incumbent Rep. Matthew Harrington, R-Sanford, won the seat in 2016 by 120 votes. He faces Democratic challenger Jeremy Mele, also of Sanford.

District 25: Incumbent Rep. Patrick Corey, R-Windham, won the seat unopposed in 2016. This year he faces Democratic challenger Jennie Butler, also of Windham.

District 58: Incumbent Rep. James Handy, D-Lewiston, won the seat by 106 votes in 2016. He faces Republican challenger Denise Hurilla.

District 66: Incumbent Rep. Jessica Fay, a Democrat, took the seat from Republicans in 2016, beating then Rep. Mike McClellan, R-Raymond, by 101 votes. This year Fay faces Republican challenger Gregory Foster, also of Raymond.

District 69: Incumbent Rep. Phyllis Ginzler, R-Bridgton, won in 2016 by 136 votes over Harrison independent Walter Riseman. Ginzler is not seeking re-election and Riseman is running again, this time against Republican Tony Lorrain, also of Harrison.

District 74: Incumbent Rep. Tina Riley, D-Jay, won in 2016 by 57 votes. Riley faces Republican challenger Robert Staples, also of Jay.

District 75:  Former Sen. John Nutting, a Leeds Democrat, is running against Republican Joshua Morris of Turner. This is an open seat vacated by Rep. Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, who is running for the state Senate.

District 86: This open seat is being vacated by Rep. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta. Pouliot won re-election unopposed in 2016. But this Augusta district, which includes large numbers of unionized state workers, can be fickle. Republican Justin Fecteau and Democrat Jennifer Day, both of Augusta, will compete for the seat.

District 113 : Incumbent Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, is not seeking re-election, leaving the seat open. Harvell won the seat in 2016 by 89 votes in an open race against Democrat Scott Landry Jr. Landry, also of Farmington, is running again for the seat this time against Republican Paul Brown, also of Farmington.

District 121: This is an open seat as incumbent Rep. Bob Duchesne, D-Old Town, is not seeking reelection after two terms. Republican Gary Drinkwater of Milford, who lost to Duchesne by just 25 votes in 2016, will try for the seat again squaring off in a three-way race against Democrat Terri Casavant of Milford and independent Bonnie Young of Argyle Township.

District 128: Incumbent Rep. Garrel Craig, R-Brewer, seeks to fend off Democratic challenger Arthur Verow, also of Brewer. Verow held the seat for three consecutive terms until he lost the seat to Craig in 2016 by 55 votes.

Correction: This story was updated at 2:40 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, to correct the number of House seats in play and update the list of key races.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/the-battle-for-dominance-in-the-maine-legislature-could-come-down-to-a-handful-of-races/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1564994_306993-AP18242689509797-1.jpgAssociated Press/Robert F. Bukaty The Maine State House is seen last month in Augusta. Term limits and voter reaction to two non-candidates in the upcoming elections – President Trump and Gov. LePage – could play an outsized role in 2018's State House races.Mon, 17 Sep 2018 17:32:37 +0000
History of addiction informs Hoar’s run for Congress https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/history-of-addiction-informs-hoars-run-for-congress/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/history-of-addiction-informs-hoars-run-for-congress/#respond Sun, 16 Sep 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=1017618 Editor’s note: This is the third of four profiles running weekly in the Sunday edition on the candidates for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat.

At age 24, Will Hoar was dying.

Will Hoar, a Southwest Harbor educator, is running for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat as an independent. Contributed photo

“I had the blood pressure of an unhealthy 90-year-old with a failing liver,” the Southwest Harbor educator said. “I wasn’t quite alive or dead. I had lost the will to live.”

He was in such sad shape he had to give up plans to haul lobster traps because he “was too drunk to even make it onto the boat.”

At rock bottom in Maine, the New York native found a path to recovery — a long, hard haul that ultimately led him to graduate from Columbia University and find his way to Maine again, a place he had loved visiting his whole life.

Now 35 and married, a happy, healthy Hoar again is facing long odds as one of four candidates vying for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat that’s been held since 2014 by Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who is seeking re-election. Also in the running in the Nov. 6 election are Democrat Jared Golden and independent Tiffany Bond.

Hoar, running as an independent, moved to Maine two years ago but has been visiting his whole life. He even met his California-born wife, Olivia Wolf, years ago at age 9 in Northeast Harbor.

He told a Mount Desert Island political forum this spring that his problems with substance abuse led him to run for Poliquin’s seat.

Hoar said he wanted others coping with alcohol and drug addictions to know “there is a future” for them if they can break the cycle.

“I felt called to do something,” he said in a recent interview.

Hoar said his most pressing concern is to take action against an opioid epidemic that is draining “the lifeblood” of too many Maine communities, ravaging families as it claims more than a life a day in the Pine Tree State.

What’s needed, Hoar said, is a multi-pronged approach that ensures people dealing with substance abuse have ways to get treatment, including new facilities to help them get the rehabilitation they need.

Part of the solution is a health-care issue because too many Mainers are suffering without any means to pay for the assistance they need, Hoar said.

He began thinking of running for the U.S. House when Poliquin voted last year to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a move that would have added tens of thousands more Mainers to the rolls of the uninsured, according to the Congressional Budget Office,

In addition to his personal experience with addiction, Hoar said, he’s been through many other things that have helped him understand what people go through, from applying for food stamps to getting laid off.

Hoar ultimately graduated from Columbia University in 2014 with a degree in American history.

Before he got there, though, during what he called his “extended gap years,” he “accrued a lifetime of experience.”

Though his family had good jobs as investment bankers in New York, Hoar said, he “obviously strayed. I never wanted to be a banker. It just didn’t appeal to me.”

But for a long while, he didn’t quite know what to do instead.

Will Hoar, an independent candidate for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat, fishing as a boy. Contributed photo

As part of his rehabilitation, Hoar said, he had to make it on his own, paying his own way through Columbia while working at a variety of jobs, including stints at retailers such as Cartier, Sotheby’s and Ralph Lauren.

At one point, he said, he was clearing tables at a Panera Bread outlet in Florida, qualified for food stamps and worried about how he would eat. He feared what would happen if he needed to head to a hospital for anything.

All around him were other people “barely scraping by,” Hoar said.

It was a long way from Wall Street.

Later, as he studied for his degree in American history, Hoar volunteered at nonprofits focused on construction and property redevelopment and looked into the possibility of becoming an actor.

“My only regret from these formative years is turning down the opportunity to be a shepherd in New Zealand,” he said.

Hoar began working as a teacher on Mount Desert Island two years ago after he and his wife agreed to fulfill their dream of moving to Maine, a place he called his “forever home.”

Hoar works at Tremont Consolidated School in special education.

On his campaign website, he mentions that he is “an outdoor enthusiast” who “enjoys hiking, photography and skiing.”

An ardent environmentalist, Hoar serves on the boards of The Acadia Family Center and the Summer Festival of the Arts and supports the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

Looking back at what he’s had to overcome since he embraced sobriety on Sept. 16, 2007, Hoar said, “I have a life beyond my wildest dreams.”

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/16/history-of-addiction-informs-hoars-run-for-congress/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1017618_870360-Will_Hoar-16_copy.jpgWill Hoar, a Southwest Harbor educator, is running for Maine's 2nd Congressional District seat as an independent.Sat, 15 Sep 2018 20:54:16 +0000
After Manafort guilty plea, talk turns to what he knows https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/15/manafort-pleads-guilty-but-what-does-he-know/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/15/manafort-pleads-guilty-but-what-does-he-know/#respond Sat, 15 Sep 2018 13:15:11 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/15/manafort-pleads-guilty-but-what-does-he-know/ WASHINGTON — As Trump associates folded one by one over the last year under the pressure of federal investigators, there was always Paul Manafort.

Until suddenly there wasn’t.

Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, who for months stood resolute in his innocence and determined to fight charge upon charge even as fellow onetime loyalists caved, reached an extraordinary plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office on Friday that requires him to assist the Russia investigation and converts him into a potentially vital government cooperator.

The deal, struck in Washington just days before Manafort was to have faced a second trial, is tied to Ukrainian political consulting work and unrelated to the Trump campaign.

The question remains what information Manafort, 69, is able to provide about the president, as well as whether the Trump election effort coordinated with Russia.

Manafort’s leadership of the campaign at a time when prosecutors say Russian intelligence was working to sway the election, and his involvement in episodes under scrutiny, may make him an especially insightful witness.

Manafort was among the participants in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting in New York with Russians and Trump’s oldest son and son-in-law that was arranged for the campaign to receive derogatory information about Democratic president nominee Hillary Clinton.

He was also a close business associate of a man who U.S. intelligence believes has ties to Russian intelligence. While he was working on the campaign, emails show Manafort discussed providing private briefings for a wealthy Russian businessman close to Vladimir Putin.

“The expectations around Manafort’s cooperation are likely at a level beyond anyone else to date who has agreed to cooperate,” said Jacob Frenkel, a Washington lawyer not involved in the case. “Whether those expectations will be met is the great unknown.”

Manafort had long resisted the idea of cooperating even as prosecutors stacked additional charges against him in Washington and Virginia. Trump had saluted that stance, publicly praising him and suggesting Manafort had been treated worse than gangster Al Capone. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had suggested a pardon might be a possibility after the investigation was concluded.

Then came Friday’s development.

Manafort agreed to provide any information asked of him, testify whenever asked and even work undercover if necessary. The cooperation ensures the investigation will extend far beyond the November elections despite entreaties from the president’s lawyers that Mueller bring it to a close.

The agreement makes Manafort the latest associate of Trump, a president known to place a premium on loyalty among subordinates, to admit guilt and work with investigators in hopes of leniency.

Mueller had already secured cooperation from a former Trump national security adviser who lied to the FBI about discussing sanctions with a Russian ambassador; a Trump campaign aide who broached the idea of a meeting with Putin; and another aide who was indicted alongside Manafort but ultimately turned on him. Trump’s former personal lawyer has separately pleaded guilty in New York.

Manafort was convicted last month of eight financial crimes in a separate trial in Virginia and faces an estimated seven to 10 years in prison in that case. The two conspiracy counts he admitted to on Friday carry up to five years, though Manafort’s sentence will ultimately depend on his cooperation.

“He wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life. He’s accepted responsibility. This is for conduct that dates back many years and everybody should remember that,” Manafort attorney Kevin Downing said outside court.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders insisted the Manafort case was unrelated to Trump. Giuliani said he spoke to Trump on Friday about Manafort’s plea.

“The president was OK with it,” he said. “In a way, it’s another indication there is no evidence of collusion. All of these charges predate the time Paul spent with the president. And there’s nothing in what he pleaded about collusion.”

It’s unclear how the deal might affect any Manafort pursuit of a pardon from Trump, though Giuliani told Politico before the deal that a plea without a cooperation agreement wouldn’t foreclose the possibility of a pardon.

Under the terms of the deal, Manafort was allowed to plead guilty to just two counts, though the crimes he admitted largely overlap with the conduct alleged in an indictment last year. He abandoned his right to appeal his sentences in Washington and Virginia and agreed to forfeit homes in New York, including a condo in Trump Tower.

But the guilty plea spares Manafort the cost of a weekslong trial that could have added years to the prison time he’s already facing following the Virginia guilty verdicts. A jury there found him guilty of filing false tax returns, failing to report foreign bank accounts and bank fraud. Jurors deadlocked on 10 other counts.

Prosecutors on Friday presented new information about allegations they were prepared to reveal at trial, which was to have focused on Manafort’s political consulting and lobbying work on behalf of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the pro-Russian Party of Regions.

That case alleged that Manafort directed a large-scale U.S. lobbying operation for Ukrainian interests but never registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent despite being required to do so under the law, and that he concealed millions of dollars in income for the consulting work from the IRS.

He also failed to disclose his involvement in lobbying efforts made through a group of former European politicians, known as the Hapsburg Group, who pushed policies beneficial to Ukraine, prosecutors said Friday.

In 2013, one of the politicians and his country’s prime minister met with then-President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office. Manafort was later sent an email that the politicians had “delivered the message of not letting ‘Russians Steal Ukraine from the West.”‘

Another allegation revealed Friday concerns Manafort’s efforts to peddle stories to discredit Yanukovych’s opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko, and undermine U.S. government support for her.

Prosecutors said he spread stories and secretly coordinated with an Israeli government official to publicize the idea that a U.S. Cabinet official was an anti-Semite for supporting Tymoshenko, “who in turn had formed a political alliance with a Ukraine party that espoused anti-Semitic views,” court documents said.

“I have someone pushing it on the NY Post. Bada bing bada boom,” Manafort wrote to a colleague, prosecutors say.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/15/manafort-pleads-guilty-but-what-does-he-know/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1564066_Trump_Russia_Probe_Manaf15-1.jpgThis courtroom sketch depicts former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, center, and his defense lawyer Richard Westling, left, before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, seated upper right, at federal court in Washington. Manafort has pleaded guilty to two federal charges as part of a cooperation deal with prosecutors. The deal requires him to cooperate "fully and truthfully" with special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.Sat, 15 Sep 2018 15:27:34 +0000
Undaunted, Trump sticks with claim of inflated death toll in Puerto Rico https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/15/undaunted-trump-sticks-with-claim-of-inflated-death-toll-in-puerto-rico/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/15/undaunted-trump-sticks-with-claim-of-inflated-death-toll-in-puerto-rico/#respond Sat, 15 Sep 2018 04:54:42 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/15/undaunted-trump-sticks-with-claim-of-inflated-death-toll-in-puerto-rico/ WASHINGTON — As Tropical Storm Florence inundated the Carolinas on Friday, President Trump circled back to his claim that the official death toll from a devastating storm a year earlier in Puerto Rico was inflated and said the number of dead seemed to rise from double digits to 3,000 “like magic.”

Public health experts have estimated that nearly 3,000 perished because of the effects of Hurricane Maria. But Trump, whose efforts to help the island territory recover have been persistently criticized, has repeatedly questioned that number over the last couple of days.

“FIFTY TIMES LAST ORIGINAL NUMBER – NO WAY!” he tweeted late Friday.

Trump falsely accused Democrats on Thursday of inflating the Puerto Rican toll to make him “look as bad as possible.” He said just six to 18 people had been reported dead when he visited two weeks after the October 2017 storm and suggested that many had been added later “if a person died for any reason, like old age.”

When Trump visited Puerto Rico, the death toll at the time was indeed 16 people. The number was later raised to 64, but the government then commissioned an independent study to determine how many died because of post-storm conditions. That study – conducted by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University – estimated 2,975 deaths.

The deaths fell in two categories: direct and indirect. Direct deaths include such fatalities as drownings in a storm surge or being crushed in a wind-toppled building. Indirect deaths are harder to count because they can include such things as heart attacks, electrocutions from downed power lines and failure to receive dialysis because the power is out – and those kinds of fatalities can happen after a storm has ended but while an area is struggling to restore electricity, clean water and other health and safety services.

Dr. Carlos Santos-Burgoa – the lead researcher on the study and a well-known expert in global health, particularly Latin America – told The Associated Press that the initial figure of 64 deaths reflected only people whose death certificates cited the storm. He said the latest figure was more accurate and stressed that every death in the six months following the storm was not attributed to the hurricane.

“We are scientists. We are public health people. We are committed to the health of the population. We try to reach the truth, and we try to understand what is damaging the people in order to prevent disease,” he said.

But Trump suggested Friday that it was questionable that the Puerto Rican government commissioned the study from an outside group.

“They hired GWU Research to tell them how many people had died in Puerto Rico (how would they not know this?),” Trump wrote. “This method was never done with previous hurricanes because other jurisdictions know how many people were killed. FIFTY TIMES LAST ORIGINAL NUMBER – NO WAY!”

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello told CBS New York on Thursday that the government had sought the study and “tried to make this process a completely independent process.”

Trump’s anger over the death toll drew swift rebukes from elected officials and residents of the island, where blackouts remain common, 60,000 homes still have makeshift roofs and 13 percent of municipalities lack stable phone or internet service. Even some Republicans suggested the president had gone too far Thursday.

“Casualties don’t make a person look bad,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said. “So I have no reason to dispute those numbers.”

Throughout his presidency, Trump has struggled to publicly express empathy at times of national crises, sparking outrage during his post-Maria visit when he feuded with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz and tossed out paper towels to victims like he was shooting baskets. In recent days, Trump publicly lauded his own administration’s response to Maria and privately groused over storm-related news coverage that he saw as overly focused on Puerto Rico, according to two Republican advisers close to the White House who weren’t authorized to speak publicly and talked to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity.

The White House defended the president on Thursday.

“As the President said, every death from Hurricane Maria is a horror. Before, during, and after the two massive hurricanes, the President directed the entire Administration to provide unprecedented support to Puerto Rico,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said. “President Trump was responding to the liberal media and the San Juan Mayor who sadly, have tried to exploit the devastation by pushing out a constant stream of misinformation and false accusations.”

Gidley cited studies that attributed fewer than 3,000 deaths on the island to Maria.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to the Republican majority Thursday calling for the panel to request documents from the White House relating to the Puerto Rico response.

Trump maintained as recently as Tuesday that his response to the storm was an “incredible unsung success.”

Trump’s latest grumbling on the Maria death toll comes as Tropical Storm Florence inundates the Carolinas, killing at least four people.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/15/undaunted-trump-sticks-with-claim-of-inflated-death-toll-in-puerto-rico/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1564026_Trump_53707.jpg-dc52a.jpgPresident Trump, seen speaking Wednesday at the White House, said on Twitter on Friday that the number of deaths in Puerto Rico from Hurrican Maria seemed to rise "like magic."Sat, 15 Sep 2018 00:59:49 +0000
Poll: Religion not considered critical for most voters https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/poll-religion-not-considered-critical-for-most-voters/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/poll-religion-not-considered-critical-for-most-voters/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 22:28:35 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/poll-religion-not-considered-critical-for-most-voters/ NEW YORK — Religion’s role in politics and public policy is in the spotlight heading toward the midterm elections, yet relatively few Americans consider it crucial that a candidate be devoutly religious or share their religious beliefs, according to a poll released by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Just 25 percent of Americans say it’s very or extremely important that a candidate has strong religious beliefs, according to the poll.

Only 19 percent consider it very or extremely important that a candidate shares their own beliefs, and nearly half say that’s not very important or not important at all.

Still, most Americans see a role for religion in shaping public policy. A solid majority of Americans, 57 percent, want the influence of religion on government policy to extend beyond traditional culture war issues and into policies addressing poverty. Americans are more likely to say religion should have at least some influence on poverty than on abortion (45 percent) or LGBT issues (34 percent).

There is little public support for the campaign by some conservative religious leaders, backed by President Trump, to allow clergy and religious organizations to endorse political candidates while retaining their tax-exempt status. Such a change is opposed by 53 percent of Americans and supported by 13 percent. The rest expressed no opinion.

Trump’s stance on political endorsements by clergy is one of many reasons he has retained strong support among white evangelical Christians, despite aspects of his behavior and personal life that don’t neatly align with Christian values.

The AP-NORC poll found that 7 in 10 white evangelical Protestants say they approve of Trump, a Republican.

The importance of a candidate’s religious faith varied across religious and political groups.

Among white evangelical Protestants, 51 percent consider it very or extremely important that a candidate has strong religious beliefs. An additional 25 percent think it’s moderately important. Far fewer Catholics and white mainline Protestants considered this important.

Roughly two-thirds of Republicans said it’s at least moderately important that a candidate has strong religious beliefs, compared with 37 percent of Democrats.

Jack Kane, an accountant from Key West, Florida, was among the Republican-leaning poll participants.

“I’d much rather have a guy run the government and not spend all our money, instead of sounding off on what’s going on in the church or on things like abortion,” said Kane, 65, who describes himself as nonreligious.

“Who is Catholic, Jewish, Southern Baptist – I could care less, as long as they’re going to carry the torch of freedom.”

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Waterville mayor proposes 3% limit on tax rate increases, ending city’s partisan elections https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/waterville-mayor-proposes-3-limit-on-tax-rate-increases-ending-citys-partisan-elections/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/waterville-mayor-proposes-3-limit-on-tax-rate-increases-ending-citys-partisan-elections/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 21:14:34 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/waterville-mayor-proposes-3-limit-on-tax-rate-increases-ending-citys-partisan-elections/ WATERVILLE — Mayor Nick Isgro wants to end partisan elections for local offices, put a 3 percent cap on the amount the property tax rate can be increased per year and require people paid to lobby city officials to register with the city clerk.

Calling his initiative “Waterville Works,” Isgro, a Republican, wrote in a recent news release that based on feedback from residents, he will support those charter changes when the charter is reviewed next year.

Some Democrats and City Manager Michael Roy disagree with some of Isgro’s ideas. Roy said he “very much” disagrees with the mayor’s proposal to place a permanent 3 percent tax cap on future city expenses.

Roy said he wanted to emphasize that his views are his own and do not represent those of city councilors, for whom he works.

“If adopted, voters today would be restricting voter options in the future for needed or agreed upon expenses,” Roy said of the tax cap proposal. “Are we saying that we don’t trust voters in the future to make good decisions? This idea doesn’t sound very democratic to me.”

The City Council in June voted 6-0 to approve a proposed $41.9 million municipal and school budget for 2018-19 that increased the tax rate by $1.94 per $1,000 worth of property valuation — an 8.3 percent tax increase. Isgro vetoed the action, but the council later overrode his veto. The current tax rate is $25.27 per $1,000 worth of property valuation.

In arguing for a tax cap, Isgro says there should be a better way to “keep Waterville affordable for working middle-class families and seniors living on fixed incomes, while making sure critical needs are met.” It would protect residents, Isgro writes, and ward against “wild proposals” of a 13 percent tax increase — a reference to the initial city budget Roy proposed earlier this year before the City Council began its review and voted on spending cuts.

Such budget proposals “are done to scare everyone so later they can tell us we should be happy with ‘only’ an 8 percent increase,” Isgro writes. “We can find common ground within reasonable guidelines that this kind of charter change would put in place.”

Roy concurs with the mayor that a charter review provides an important opportunity to look at how the city is governed.

“I also agree with him that electing city officials based on Democrat or Republican party affiliation can be a real detriment to effective governance,” Roy said. “I would add one additional concern about our present system of electing city councilors and school board members. In my opinion, the ward system of deciding who’s elected is an antiquated, undemocratic method of choosing our city leaders. This system serves to discourage many interested and qualified people from running for office. It can also serve to pit one section of the city against another, and this is never healthy. People should run to represent the entire city and not one specific neighborhood.”

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Claude Francke, who until recently was chairman of the Waterville Democratic City Committee, but who resigned because of personal issues, called at least two of Isgro’s ideas “red herrings.”

“Instead of worrying about party affiliation, how about citywide election of councilors using a proportional representation system?” Francke said. “Lobbyist registration is a red herring. The size of the Waterville budget is laughable in terms of lobbyist interest. Is the mayor being supported by the National Heritage Foundation?”

Francke describes placing a cap on the property tax rate as also “a red herring” and thinks it is “an attempt to shift the debate away from the progressive income tax, which shifts the tax burden from static property taxes to the economic engine of our society, rising incomes.”

The new Democratic City Committee chairman, Lily Herrmann, said she is focusing on the Nov. 6 election, in which voters will have an opportunity to elect four new Democrats to the City Council. Republicans have nominated three people to run for City Council seats, and there are also three people running unenrolled.

Herrmann, a Colby College student, didn’t address the partisan election proposal directly when asked for comment via email, but said, “When looking at their ballots, voters will know that Democrats support core values such as economic opportunity and equal access to adequately funded education. I look forward to engaging in conversation with Waterville voters in order to learn about what issues are important to them.”

Isgro says party affiliation should be removed from ballots and people should vote for the person they think would do the best job.

“Political parties are subject to influence by lobbyists and outside special interests, and they try to divide us by making us look at each other as adversaries instead of neighbors. It’s time to take away one of the ways we can be divided as a people and make it easier for folks who care deeply for our community to run for office.”

He also said anyone paid to lobby a mayor, city staff or councilor on behalf of another entity should register and pay an annual fee to the city clerk.

“The registration process should include paying an annual fee, disclosing all communications with city officials, and filing a monthly report on all lobbying activity and compensation received,” Isgro’s release says. “Lobbyists have to register with the state to lobby legislators in Augusta, so why not do this locally so we can have as much transparency as possible about who is trying to influence Our City?”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

acalder@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/waterville-mayor-proposes-3-limit-on-tax-rate-increases-ending-citys-partisan-elections/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1015958_321014_20180129_isgro_2.jpgWaterville Mayor Nick Isgro has proposed changes to the city charter that include ending partisan elections for local offices, enacting a 3 percent cap on the amount the property tax rate can be increased per year and requiring people paid to lobby city officials to register with the city clerk.Fri, 14 Sep 2018 18:18:16 +0000
Admiral who oversaw raid that killed bin Laden resigns from Pentagon board https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/admiral-who-oversaw-raid-that-killed-bin-laden-resigns-from-pentagon-board/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/admiral-who-oversaw-raid-that-killed-bin-laden-resigns-from-pentagon-board/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 20:05:22 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/admiral-who-oversaw-raid-that-killed-bin-laden-resigns-from-pentagon-board/ WASHINGTON – The Pentagon says the retired Navy admiral who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden resigned from a Defense Department advisory board, after his criticism of President Trump’s decision to revoke a former CIA director’s security clearance.

Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza, a Pentagon spokeswoman, says William McRaven, former head of U.S. Special Operations Command, left the Defense Innovation Board on Aug. 20.

That was four days after he wrote in The Washington Post that Trump’s actions revoking former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance “embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.”

Trump revoked Brennan’s clearance last month, saying he felt he had to do something about the “rigged” Russian election interference probe.

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Rallies held at Sen. Collins’ Portland office as accusation hangs over Kavanaugh https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/anti-kavanaugh-rallies-in-portland-as-accusations-surrounding-supreme-court-nominee-swirl/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/anti-kavanaugh-rallies-in-portland-as-accusations-surrounding-supreme-court-nominee-swirl/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 19:38:12 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/anti-kavanaugh-rallies-in-portland-as-accusations-surrounding-supreme-court-nominee-swirl/ An accusation of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh from when he was in high school intensified opposition to his nomination on Friday that coincided with rallies in Portland where progressive activists urged Sen. Susan Collins to vote “no” on his confirmation.

Laura Friel joins a group of students from Bowdoin College at Congress Square in Portland before marching to Sen. Susan Collins’ office on Friday to rally and demand she vote against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A group of about three dozen Bowdoin College students marched through downtown holding a sign that said “Collins, Stand For Our Futures #VoteNoOnKavanaugh.” Soon after that rally broke up, a second group of similar size, wearing black clothing and veils, converged outside Collins’ Portland office for another rally.

The New Yorker, which previously broke the sexual assault scandal that has engulfed Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, touching off the #MeToo movement, first published the accusation against Kavanaugh, now 53, and The New York Times followed with a similar account.

The New Yorker story said a letter that has since been referred to the FBI by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, detailed allegations that Kavanaugh forcibly held down a woman and attempted to “force himself” on her at a high school party in Maryland in the early 1980s. Feinstein, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had been in possession of the letter since July, when it was forwarded to her by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California.

“In the letter, the woman alleged that, during an encounter at a party, Kavanaugh held her down, and that he attempted to force himself on her. She claimed in the letter that Kavanaugh and a classmate of his, both of whom had been drinking, turned up music that was playing in the room to conceal the sound of her protests, and that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand. She was able to free herself,” The New Yorker story said.

The New York Times published a similar story on Friday, adding that the encounter occurred in a bedroom. According to CNN, Kavanaugh attempted to remove her clothes, Kavanaugh was laughing during the incident, and the woman later received medical treatment related to the event, CNN reported.

Kavanaugh denied the accusation in a statement released by the White House on Friday.

“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time,” Kavanaugh said.

Collins had an hour-long telephone conversation with Kavanaugh on Friday, CNN reported. Her office did not respond to the Press Herald’s requests for comment on Friday regarding the sexual misconduct allegations.

Jenna Scott of Saco, center, joins fellow Bowdoin students in a rally outside Sen. Susan Collins’ office in Portland on Friday to urge Collins to vote against the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Collins remains undecided, and she and fellow pro-abortion rights Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are being targeted by progressives as possible “no” votes on Kavanaugh. Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, and it would take all the Democrats and left-leaning independents voting “no” plus two Republican defections to sink Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, announced his opposition to Kavanaugh on Wednesday.

Kavanaugh has been a controversial nominee, with progressives arguing that he would likely be a vote to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion or vote to greatly restrict abortion rights. Collins has said she’s been encouraged by Kavanaugh telling her and the judiciary committee that Roe is “settled law” and “precedent upon precedent,” indicating that he would not overturn abortion rights.

Isabella McCann, a senior at Bowdoin College, said the news about the accusation against Kavanaugh should, if true, be “disqualifying.” McCann said she already had been opposed to Kavanaugh based on Roe and other issues.

“Susan Collins should know better than to vote for Brett Kavanaugh,” McCann said. “The Supreme Court should be representative of the American people. Kavanaugh is far to the right of where the American people are.”

The Supreme Court is currently split 4-4 between conservatives and liberals. Kavanaugh would replace Anthony Kennedy, who on some issues was a centrist and voted with the liberal bloc on some noteworthy cases, including a 2015 decision making same-sex marriage legal.

The Bowdoin College students marched from Congress Square Park to Collins’ Portland office on Middle Street, chanting “shut down Kavanaugh now,” “our life, our choice” and other slogans.

Haley Maurice, a Bowdoin College junior, said that Kavanaugh is “terrifying” because of his potential impact on reproductive rights and because he may rule on health care issues that would weaken or dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

“He should not be representing the American people by being on the Supreme Court,” Maurice said.

About 20 people, mostly women, gathered at the Maine Lobsterman statue near Collins’ Canal Plaza office at Middle and Temple streets in downtown Portland late Friday afternoon, dressed in black and wearing veils, signifying their mourning for what they said would be the loss of reproductive rights for women and a loss of ethics and morality on the Supreme Court if Kavanaugh is confirmed. They carried signs that said “Kava-No!” “We Mourn the Loss of Truth” and “Susan – Maine Women Need You.”

Three activist group from southern Maine organized the rally, including the Democrats of the Kennebunks and Arundel, and the Stand Up Women of the Kennebunks.

Glenn Simpson of Portland flashes a peace sign among nearly 20 protesters, dressed in black while staging a protest outside U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ Portland office Friday urging her to vote “no” on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We feel that if Kavanaugh is approved for the Supreme Court it will change the lives of our daughters and granddaughters for decades to come,” organizer Penelope Groen of Kennebunkport said. “We are counting on Susan Collins to not let that happen. We need her to be a hero.”

Lorena Porfido of Kennebunk said she thought Kavanaugh came off as “a little squirrelly” during his confirmation hearings, and she worries his Supreme Court would be bad for women, bad for the environment and bad for social justice. “We’re hoping Sen. Collins will be truthful and represent what she said she has said she represented all along,” she said.

A few men joined the protest. Glenn Simpson of Portland also wore black, and said he showed up after seeing it advertised on Facebook because, “it’s important to come out and support this. This is an important decision that’s going to affect us all, possibly beyond our lifetimes,” he said. “We need Susan Collins to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.”

Richard Izbicki of Cape Porpoise stood out among the other protesters, because we wore light-colored clothing. “I didn’t wear black, but I’m here in support. I admire my friends who are doing this as a show of solidarity,” he said.

As he spoke, a driver tooted a car horn in support, and the protesters hollered back.

In groups of two and three, they crossed the street to register their views with Collins’ office staff. “We gave them our spiel and they took our names and said they would give Collins the information,” said Maryellen Foley, also of Cape Porpoise. “It’s so important to me that Judge Kavanaugh not go to the Supreme Court. I worry about his integrity.”

The Portland rallies were the latest attempts by progressives to lobby Collins. A crowdfunding effort organized by Maine and national advocacy groups had raised $1.3 million as of Friday that ties a Collins vote on Kavanaugh to the release of the money to a Democratic opponent in 2020, when Collins would be up for re-election if she seeks another term. Donors would only be charged if Collins votes “yes” on Kavanaugh.

The campaign raised the funds through small, mostly $20.20 donations, with more than 45,000 pledges so far. Collins has criticized the effort, comparing it to bribery.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes contributed to this report.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

jlawlor@pressherald.com

Twitter: joelawlorph

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/anti-kavanaugh-rallies-in-portland-as-accusations-surrounding-supreme-court-nominee-swirl/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/159608-20180914_BRally_4-1.jpgPORTLAND, ME - SEPTEMBER 14: Jenna Scott of Saco, center, joins fellow Bowdoin students in a rally outside Sen. Susan Collins' office in Portland on Friday, September 14, 2018, to urge her to vote against the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. (Staff photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer)Fri, 14 Sep 2018 23:29:10 +0000
Brett Kavanaugh denies allegation of sexual misconduct while a teen https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/brett-kavanaugh-denies-allegation-of-sexual-misconduct-while-a-teen/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/brett-kavanaugh-denies-allegation-of-sexual-misconduct-while-a-teen/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 16:58:50 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/brett-kavanaugh-denies-allegation-of-sexual-misconduct-while-a-teen/ WASHINGTON – Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Friday denied a sexual misconduct allegation from when he was in high school.

In a statement released by the White House, Kavanaugh said: “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Kavanaugh’s statement comes after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she has notified federal investigators about information she received about the nominee but won’t disclose publicly.

The New Yorker reported the alleged incident took place at a party when Kavanaugh, now 53, was attending Georgetown Preparatory School. The woman making the allegation attended a nearby school.

The magazine says the woman sent a letter about the allegation to Democrats. A Democratic aide and another person familiar with the letter confirmed Friday to the Associated Press that the allegation is sexual in nature. Two other people familiar with the matter confirmed to the AP that the alleged incident happened in high school. They were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The AP has not confirmed the details of the alleged incident in The New Yorker’s account.

Rallying to Kavanaugh’s defense, 65 women who knew him in high school issued a letter, released by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying he has “always treated women with decency and respect.”

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has denied a sexual misconduct allegation from when he was in high school and brought by a woman who requested not to be identified.

“We are women who have known Brett Kavanaugh for more than 35 years and knew him while he attended high school between 1979 and 1983,” wrote the women, who said most of them had attended all-girl high schools in the area. “For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect.”

The Judiciary Committee, which has finished confirmation hearings for Kavanagh, is scheduled to vote next Thursday on whether to recommend that he be confirmed by the full Senate.

The White House called Feinstein’s move an “11th hour attempt to delay his confirmation.”

The California Democrat said in a statement Thursday that she “received information from an individual concerning the nomination.” She said the person “strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision.”

The FBI confirmed that it received the information Wednesday evening and included it in Kavanaugh’s background file, which is maintained as part of his nomination. The agency said that is its standard process.

Feinstein’s statement that she has “referred the matter to federal investigative authorities” jolted Capitol Hill and threatened to disrupt what has been a steady path toward confirmation for Kavanaugh by Republicans eager to see the conservative judge on the court.

Feinstein has held the letter close. Democratic senators on the panel met privately Wednesday evening and discussed the information, according to Senate aides who were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Some senators, including the No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, learned about the information for the first time at the meeting, according to one of the aides.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., declined to confirm reports that the congresswoman had forwarded a letter containing the allegations to Feinstein. She said her office has a confidentiality policy regarding casework for constituents.

A White House spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said the FBI has vetted Kavanaugh “thoroughly and repeatedly” during his career in government and the judiciary.

She said Kavanaugh has had 65 meetings with senators – including with Feinstein – sat through over 30 hours of testimony and publicly addressed more than 2,000 questions. “Not until the eve of his confirmation has Sen. Feinstein or anyone raised the specter of new ‘information’ about him,” she said.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican and a member of the committee, was also skeptical.

“Let me get this straight: this is (sic) statement about secret letter regarding a secret matter and an unidentified person. Right,” he tweeted.

Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was unaware of the information until it was made public, according to a Republican committee aide. Kavanaugh has undergone six federal background checks over time in government, including one most recently for the nomination, the aide said.

The new information on Kavanaugh was included Thursday in his confidential background file at the committee and is now available for senators to review, the aide said.

Democrats don’t have the votes to block Kavanaugh’s nomination if Republicans are unified in favor of it.

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Michael Balsamo, Mary Clare Jalonick, Zeke Miller and Alan Fram contributed to this report.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/brett-kavanaugh-denies-allegation-of-sexual-misconduct-while-a-teen/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1561758_kavanaugh-2a4a85f2-b834-11e8-a2c5-3187f427e253-1.jpgSupreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has denied a sexual misconduct allegation from when he was in high school and brought by a woman who requested not to be identified.Fri, 14 Sep 2018 23:14:36 +0000
Incumbent Andrew Cuomo defeats activist and actor Cynthia Nixon in N.Y. gubernatorial primary https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/incumbent-andrew-cuomo-defeats-activist-and-actor-cynthia-nixon-in-n-y-gubernatorial-primary/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/incumbent-andrew-cuomo-defeats-activist-and-actor-cynthia-nixon-in-n-y-gubernatorial-primary/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 10:39:38 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/incumbent-andrew-cuomo-defeats-activist-and-actor-cynthia-nixon-in-n-y-gubernatorial-primary/ NEW YORK – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo easily beat back a primary challenge from activist and actor Cynthia Nixon on Thursday, thwarting her attempt to become the latest insurgent liberal to knock off an establishment Democrat.

Cuomo, who always led in the polls and outspent his rival more than 8 to 1, seldom mentioned Nixon by name during an often-nasty campaign, instead touting his experience, achievements in two terms as governor and his work to push back against President Donald Trump.

In his moment of victory, Cuomo was oddly silent, skipping his own election-night party in Manhattan to celebrate with family at the governor’s mansion in Albany. He put out a tweet that said simply “Thank You New York.” His campaign declined to issue a statement.

“It’s New York’s obligation to stand up and lead and lead against a lot of these changes in Washington that are totally opposite of who we are as New Yorkers and what we believe,” he said earlier at his Westchester County polling place. “There is a divisiveness coming out of Washington that I think is cancerous to this nation.”

Thursday’s results were good across the board for Cuomo, whose preferred candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general also survived contentious primaries. And despite Nixon’s loss, liberals celebrated victories for several left-leaning challengers who ousted longtime legislative incumbents.

With registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans more than 2 to 1 in New York, Cuomo becomes the automatic front-runner in November’s matchup with Republican Marc Molinaro and independent Mayor Stephanie Miner.

Nixon, a longtime education activist and actor best known for her Emmy-winning role as lawyer Miranda Hobbes on HBO’s “Sex and the City,” was counting on a boost from liberals looking to oust establishment politicians. She called herself a democratic socialist and pointed to recent congressional primary victories by New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts’ Ayanna Pressley as evidence that underdog challengers can defy the odds.

When that didn’t happen, Nixon thanked supporters and credited her campaign for helping to push Cuomo to the left and show that liberals have a shot at making big changes.

“Before we take our country back we have to take our party back,” she said. “This is an incredible moment for progressives but it’s not just a moment. It’s a movement.”

Cuomo, who won with about 65 percent of vote, secured endorsements from Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and even Nicki Minaj, and spent much of the race touting his own liberal accomplishments such as same-sex marriage, gun control and paid family leave. And he increasingly made the race about pushing back against Trump and other Republicans. At the same time, he dismissed Nixon as a naive dilettante and mocked her work as an actor.

“If it was all about name recognition,” he said earlier this year, “then I’m hoping Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and Billy Joel don’t get into the race.”

Despite the rhetoric, Cuomo took Nixon seriously, spending $8.5 million, largely on ads, in the final weeks of the campaign to answer attacks that he has not invested enough in New York City’s beleaguered subway system and failed to deliver on upstate economic development promises.

There were indications that the 52-year-old Nixon’s aggressive campaign pushed the incumbent governor to the left on several issues, including legalizing marijuana and addressing crumbling public housing in New York City.

“Cuomo is no idiot,” said Fordham University political scientist Christina Greer. “The winds of change right now are with insurgent candidates and not necessarily with incumbents. … He didn’t just slightly pivot, he full-on leapt to the left.”

While he may have won, Cuomo, a former U.S. housing secretary and son of the late Gov. Mario Cuomo, did not escape the primary unscathed.

During the campaign’s only debate, Cuomo snuffed out speculation that he might run for president in 2020, pledging to serve a full four-year term if re-elected.

He was mocked for saying America “was never that great” during remarks criticizing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

He invited Clinton to a celebratory opening of the final span of the new Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge over the Hudson – only to keep the bridge closed after engineers warned that pieces from the old, largely disassembled Tappan Zee Bridge could hit the new structure.

Cuomo claimed to have no knowledge of a Democratic Party mailer that questioned Nixon’s support for Jewish people – despite Cuomo’s control of the party and a recent $2.5 million contribution to its campaign operations. Cuomo’s spokeswoman later acknowledged that two former aides volunteering on the campaign were behind the piece.

Nixon, who is raising two of her children in the Jewish faith, demanded an apology that never came.

In the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, incumbent Kathy Hochul, a former congresswoman from Buffalo, defeated challenger Jumaane Williams, a New York City councilman who had promised if elected to serve as a check on Cuomo.

Cuomo’s pick for attorney general, New York City Public Advocate Tish James, won a four-way Democratic primary.

Nixon now must decide whether she wants to run on the November ballot as a candidate for the third-party Working Families Party, thanks to a New York state law that allows candidates to run on multiple ballot lines. Early in the campaign, Nixon said she would stand aside if she lost the Democratic primary, but it remains to be seen whether the party can remove her name from the ballot.

Associated Press writers Stephen R. Groves and Sabrina Caserta contributed this report.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/14/incumbent-andrew-cuomo-defeats-activist-and-actor-cynthia-nixon-in-n-y-gubernatorial-primary/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1561242_APTOPIX_Election_2018_Gover.jpgGubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon delivers her concession speech at the Working Families Party primary night party, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, in New York. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo easily beat Nixon in Thursday's contest to win his party's nomination for a third term.Fri, 14 Sep 2018 06:39:38 +0000
Race for 1st Congressional District seat tests Republicans’ unity https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/in-1st-district-congressional-race-independent-candidate-and-republican-battle-to-attract-republican-voters/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/in-1st-district-congressional-race-independent-candidate-and-republican-battle-to-attract-republican-voters/#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 21:45:12 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/in-1st-district-congressional-race-independent-candidate-and-republican-battle-to-attract-republican-voters/ Independent Marty Grohman and Republican Mark Holbrook are battling for Republican voters as they take on the challenge of unseating incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree.

And while the Maine Republican Party’s official stance is to support Holbrook, Republican Gov. Paul LePage has made positive comments about Grohman, who has been endorsed by Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, assistant majority leader in the Maine Senate, and other prominent Republicans.

Grohman, of Biddeford, this week rolled out a list of endorsements by 26 Republicans, including Volk, Sen. Tom Saviello and a number of state senators and representatives. Also endorsing Grohman are Christie Lee-McNally, former Maine campaign manager for President Trump and former executive director of the Maine Republican Party, and Ben Gilman, a onetime staffer for Olympia Snowe when she was a U.S. senator from Maine. Gilman also was the Maine directed the 2008 presidential campaign of the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

On Thursday, Demi Kouzounas, chair of the Maine Republican Party, emailed Republicans to say the party stands “100 percent” behind Holbrook and that Grohman is really a Democrat. Grohman, a state representative, was elected as a Democrat in 2014, but quit the party in 2017.

“We have enough fake ‘independents’ representing Maine in Washington. We need another conservative down there,” Kouzounas wrote.

Holbrook, in a phone interview with the Portland Press Herald, said he has never sought endorsements because “candidates should run on their own merits.” He said most of Grohman’s endorsements are from “squishy” Republicans and not conservatives.

“Marty Grohman is a liberal Democrat,” said Holbrook, of Brunswick. “There’s nothing conservative about him.”

Pingree defeated Holbrook 58-42 percent in 2016, but two years ago there wasn’t an independent candidate or ranked-choice voting, which is new this year in Maine congressional elections. Under the ranked-choice system, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no one has won more than 50 percent of the vote after the first count, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who had favored the eliminated candidate would have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots would be retabulated. The process continues until two candidates are remaining, with the one with the majority of votes being declared the winner.

The three candidates are competing in the left-leaning 1st Congressional District, where Democrats traditionally have a greater advantage. The Cook Political Report, which forecasts U.S. House races, gives Pingree, who has been in office since 2009, a “solid” chance to retain her seat, putting her in a category with 182 other Democrats considered most likely to win.

Grohman, who is positioning himself as a pro-business moderate, said ranked-choice voting adds a new dynamic to the race, giving candidates like him a “great opportunity” to compete in seats that would otherwise be controlled by a party.

“Ranked-choice voting gives me a better chance to make my case. People from all points on the political spectrum are really responding to my ‘fix not fight’ message,” Grohman said.

However, Grohman does not have a long list of Democratic endorsements, and his most prominent Democratic supporters are probably mayors David Rollins of Augusta and Alan Casavant of Biddeford.

Volk said in a tweet that she supports Grohman because he is “an independent who is willing to work with anyone and everyone to get the job done. We need more of his common-sense leadership in Washington.”

LePage, while not explicitly endorsing Grohman, said in a June speech in Portland that Grohman is “what Maine needs. He’s a good man. He’s doing it for the right reasons.”

But Kouzounas wrote in the Thursday email that Pingree and Grohman are “two sides of the same liberal Democrat coin.”

“One side admits it. The other side pretends it is something else,” she wrote.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

jlawlor@pressherald.com

Twitter: joelawlorph

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Meet the candidates for Maine’s 2018 governor race https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/meet-the-candidates-for-maines-2018-governor-race/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/meet-the-candidates-for-maines-2018-governor-race/#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 20:16:34 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/?p=1005102

These are the four candidates who will be on the officials state ballot in November.


Alan Caron

Age: 66
Hometown: Freeport
Profession: Economic development consultant
Previous elected office: None
Party affiliation: Independent
Talking points: “We need big change in Maine, from the bottom up. We need to build a new economy of small businesses and innovators that works for everyone. An economy that is supported by a smarter and more efficient government. And we must instill a new spirit of respect, civility, common sense and common purpose in our public square.”

Website
Facebook

Caron is a traditional, privately financed candidate.

Terry Hayes

Age: 60
Hometown: Buckfield
Profession: Maine State Treasurer
Previous elected office: Maine House of Representatives, 2006-2014; MSAD 39 School Committee member, 1991-2004
Party affiliation: Independent
Talking points: “The rules governing our democracy have been written by the powerful to maintain their privilege at the expense of Maine people. As Governor, I will lead with integrity and respect, giving Maine citizens more voice and more choice in our democracy, making government more transparent and accountable to the people, and inviting and encouraging partnership, not partisanship.”

Website
Facebook

Hayes is a Maine Clean Elections, publicly financed candidate.

Janet Mills

Age: 70
Hometown: Farmington
Profession: Maine Attorney General
Previous elected office: District Attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties, 1980-1992; Maine House of Representatives, 2002-2008. Attorney General, 2008-2011; 2013-present
Party affiliation: Democrat
Talking points: “I’m not campaigning against anybody else in particular. I’m campaigning for the job on the basis of my own record and experience and on the basis of what people tell me across the state of what they want to see. They want to see a government that responds more proactively, that responds more effectively to the needs of children who can’t learn in school because they have missed too many meals, of seniors who want to stay in their homes but can’t afford the heat, of veterans coming back from battlefields and they can’t find comfort here. They want positive energy. They don’t want a governor who disparages the state.”

Website
Facebook

Mills is a traditional, privately financed candidate.

Shawn Moody

Age: 57
Hometown: Gorham
Profession: Auto body shop entrepreneur
Previous elected office: None
Party affiliation: Republican
Talking points: “I know the best way for someone to succeed is to have great paying job. As an entrepreneur, I have helped create jobs all over Maine. We will help build Maine’s economy now and for years to come.”

Facebook

Moody is a traditional, privately financed candidate.
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Senator gives ‘information’ about Brett Kavanaugh to federal investigators https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/senator-gives-information-about-brett-kavanaugh-to-federal-investigators-raising-many-questions/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/senator-gives-information-about-brett-kavanaugh-to-federal-investigators-raising-many-questions/#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 20:14:41 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/senator-gives-information-about-brett-kavanaugh-to-federal-investigators-raising-many-questions/ WASHINGTON – Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Thursday she has notified federal investigators about information she received – and won’t disclose publicly – concerning Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The California Democrat said in a statement that she “received information from an individual concerning the nomination.” She said the person “strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision.”

The Judiciary Committee, which has finished confirmation hearings for Kavanagh, is scheduled to vote Sept. 20 on whether to recommend that Kavanaugh’s nomination be confirmed by the full Senate.

Feinstein’s statement that she has “referred the matter to federal investigative authorities” jolted Capitol Hill and threatens to disrupt what has been a steady path toward confirmation for Kavanaugh by Republicans eager to see the conservative judge on the court.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.

Feinstein declined to answer questions outside the hearing room, and other senators’ offices largely deferred to the ranking member. Democratic senators on the panel met privately Wednesday evening and discussed the information, according to two Senate aides who were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly but spoke on condition of anonymity.

The White House questioned the timing of Feinstein’s move, calling it an “11th hour attempt to delay his confirmation.”

“Throughout his confirmation process, Judge Kavanaugh has had 65 meetings with senators – including with Senator Feinstein – sat through over 30 hours of testimony, addressed over 2,000 questions in a public setting and additional questions in a confidential session. Not until the eve of his confirmation has Sen. Feinstein or anyone raised the specter of new ‘information’ about him,” said Kerri Kupec, a White House spokesperson.

Brett Kavanaugh on the third day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.

Kupec added that the FBI has vetted Kavanaugh “thoroughly and repeatedly” during his career in government and the judiciary.

Democrats don’t have the votes to block Kavanaugh’s nomination, if Republicans hold unified, but are fighting it and decrying the process that Republicans used to compile his government records for review.

At the committee Thursday, Republicans brushed aside a flurry of Democratic attempts to delay the consideration of Kavanaugh or subpoena more documents about his past work, sticking with a schedule that could see him confirmed by Oct. 1.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut protested that the nomination will be “tainted” and “stained” by the unusual process for vetting the nominee.

“We lack the time. We lack the documents.” He called it a “badly broken process.”

Feinstein had sought a subpoena for documents from Kavanaugh’s time as Bush’s staff secretary. She said senators “should be able to see this record” and wondered, “What in Judge Kavanaugh’s records are Republicans hiding?”

The Republicans have declined to pursue Kavanaugh’s staff secretary documents, saying it would be too cumbersome. They rejected Feinstein’s motion and several others, including motions to subpoena documents and witnesses and a motion to adjourn.

Chairman Chuck Grassley set the panel’s vote on Kavanaugh for Sept. 20.

New documents released ahead of Thursday’s hearing included Kavanaugh’s 263-page written response to questions from senators, along with dozens of files from the judge’s work in the George W. Bush White House that had been available to senators only on a “committee confidential basis.” Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey made the Bush documents public.

Among the details in the new written responses, Kavanaugh says he would have shaken the hand of a school shooting victim’s father during a break in last week’s Senate hearing had he recognized him before being whisked away by security detail.

The 28 new “committee confidential” documents released by Booker, meanwhile, are from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House counsel’s office during the George W. Bush administration and deal with his work on judicial nominations.

The documents show Kavanaugh’s involvement in Bush’s nomination of Charles Pickering to an appellate court in the South as Pickering faced questions about his views on race relations. Kavanaugh had indicated in 2006 testimony that he was not substantially involved in the nomination.

In releasing a new batch of committee confidential documents about Kavanaugh, Booker, the New Jersey Democrat, was repeating a tactic that could prompt a review from the Senate Ethics Committee.

Booker is being criticized by his Republican colleagues and outside groups for releasing the documents. Last week, he released some documents that were later made public by the committee, but also others that weren’t. Wednesday’s disclosure brings the total to 75.

The conservative group Judicial Watch delivered a letter Wednesday to the Senate Ethics Committee seeking an investigation. It says Booker violated Senate rules against disclosing confidential documents and could face Senate expulsion.

Booker has welcomed the fight. He says the documents about Kavanaugh’s work “raise more serious and concerning questions” about his honesty during his testimony before the committee.

At issue has been the unprecedented process the Senate Judiciary Committee used for gathering documents on Kavanaugh, an appellate court judge who is President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy on the court.

Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/senator-gives-information-about-brett-kavanaugh-to-federal-investigators-raising-many-questions/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1559662_Supreme_Court_Kavanaugh_62-1.jpgSenate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, left, accompanied by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking member, center, speaks with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., right, during a Senate Judiciary Committee markup meeting on Capitol Hill on Thursday in Washington. The committee will vote next week on whether to recommend President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh for confirmation. Republicans hope to confirm him to the court by Oct. 1.Thu, 13 Sep 2018 22:53:03 +0000
Governor’s energy director steps down https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/governors-energy-director-steps-down/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/governors-energy-director-steps-down/#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 19:57:04 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/governors-energy-director-steps-down/ Steven McGrath, the director of the Governor’s Energy Office, is stepping down Friday after just over a year on the job.

Steven McGrath

Angela Monroe, who has served as deputy director of the office, will now serve as director, according to a statement from the state.

“Under Steve’s leadership, the energy office has led our efforts to increase access to energy and to reduce energy costs for the people of Maine,” Gov. Paul LePage said in a prepared statement. “Steve has worked with the Legislature, within the administration and with private industry to help us achieve those goals. I thank him for his service to the people of Maine, and I wish him the best.”

McGrath had been the CFO of Downeast Energy Corp. before accepting the post last August. He succeeded Patrick Woodcock, who held the directorship from 2013 to the end of 2016, when he left, in part, because of the influence of lobbyists in the crafting of energy policy.

McGrath led the state’s efforts to assist Mainers during the oil and propane distribution crisis that occurred last winter in the wake of a sustained polar vortex. In anticipation of the 2018-19 winter, he coordinated with other state agencies and propane distributors to develop a road map of key contacts, as well as critical propane distribution centers and railroads, according to the statement.

He holds an MBA in finance from New York University, and is a certified management accountant.

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Donald Trump Jr. to visit Maine to raise money for Republicans https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/donald-trump-jr-to-visit-maine-to-raise-money-for-republicans/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/donald-trump-jr-to-visit-maine-to-raise-money-for-republicans/#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 18:37:22 +0000 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/donald-trump-jr-to-visit-maine-to-raise-money-for-republicans/ President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., will visit Maine on Oct. 1 for a fundraising event with Gov. Paul LePage, U.S. Senate candidate Eric Brakey and others.

“I’m elated to host Donald Trump Jr. and have his wonderful assistance in raising money to strengthen our efforts in the final few weeks of this election,” Maine Republican Party chair Demi Kouzounas said in a statement Thursday. “It’s amazing that we’ll have a member of the first family in Maine as we push to get Eric (Brakey) and the rest of our candidates elected. The resources we raise here can go directly into the things that make a difference on election day. ”

The event, which will be held at the Holiday Inn By the Bay in Portland, will feature a private reception for which tickets start at $1,500 per person and also a public event that will cost attendees $100.

Also included on the invitation as guests are: Mark Holbrook, the Republican challenging U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree in the 1st Congressional District race, Maine Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason and House Republican Leader Kenneth Fredette.

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Donald Trump Jr. leads his father’s eponymous foundation, which focuses largely on real estate development, but he also has been a top cheerleader for his father’s policies and regularly appears on cable news programs.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/09/13/donald-trump-jr-to-visit-maine-to-raise-money-for-republicans/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/09/1490146_750362-TrumpJr.jpgDonald Trump Jr. attended the Trump Tower gathering, along with the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is now on trial.Thu, 13 Sep 2018 14:41:29 +0000