Monday, February 28, 2011

Mother Jones picks up "LePage's Secret Puppeteers"

My recent Portland Phoenix story "LePage's Secret Puppeteers" -- on how Maine Governor Paul LePage outsourced the creation of his regulatory reform package to lobbyists for outside corporations -- has been picked up by Mother Jones, which has been doing a lot of hard-hitting reporting on the national Tea Party movement.

The piece has also made its way into the Lewiston Sun Journal, the Kennebec Journal, and the Portland Press Herald, though the latter paper swiped the article's findings without noting where they came from.

Funny enough, Mike Tipping's column in the Kennebec Journal elicited a letter from one of the sources in my article, Geoff Herman of the Maine Municipal Association. Tipping had noted -- accurately -- that Herman had "denied" the MMA had requested that a repeal of the state's culvert rule (designed to protect trout and other fish) be included in the governor's reform list, as LePage's spokesman, Dan Demeritt claimed. Herman took issue with that characterization, saying "there was no duplicity in the way the culvert issue made its way to the table" -- though since he wasn't involved, he can't know for sure -- and that he told me he presumed the issue made it onto the agenda by member municipal officials -- just as I reported in my piece.

But from there, Herman stopped making sense. "I didn't "deny" anything. There was nothing to deny," he wrote. "Even if the municipal association had expressly made the request, that also would have been a grass-roots process."

Two things: First, I called Herman specifically to confirm if Mr. Demeritt's assertion that MMA had requested the culvert rule change was correct. It was not. That's called a denial

Second, neither my article nor Tipping's suggested the MMA's participation -- had there been any -- would have been inappropriate. Rather, the piece provides evidence suggesting certain rules changes were instead made at the behest of outside corporate interests.

With Mr. Demeritt and Mr. Herman's stories at odds with one another, it's still unclear who really requested that the culvert rule be put on the agenda.

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