This past week she's been under additional pressure from Democrats, after my Phoenix story revealed her to be the new state co-chair for the controversial American Legislative Exchange Committee. So, not surprisingly, the Bangor Daily News picked up on the story today, asking if it matters that corporations are writing many of the bills legislators introduce in Augusta.
But halfway down the story is a real shocker. Governor LePage's spokseperson, Adrienne Bennettt, told the News that despite "Democrats' claims," Ann Robinson is not an advisor to the governor!
That's not what LePage's deputy chief of staff, Kathleen Newman, told the Portland Press Herald a few months ago. "Ann is a trusted adviser and friend to the governor and to our policy team," Newman said Feb. 11. "We appreciate her efforts to date and her commitment to continue to advise and assist the administration going forward as we seek to create clear, reasonable guidelines for businesses to grow and prosper while protecting our precious natural resources."
That's not what Bennett's old boss, communications director Dan Demeritt, told me in early February. "Ann Robinson is still advising the governor on regulatory reform matters," he said.
Indeed, that's not even what Ann Robinson's own web page at Preti Flaherty says today. "Ann served as Co-Chair of Governor Paul LePage's transition team, with specific responsibility for policy and regulatory review, and continues to serve in an advisory capacity," it reads.
Shame on Ms. Bennett for telling such a whopper. And shame on Eric Russell and his editors at the News for letting it go to print unchallenged.
[Update, 9/16/11: The governor's office has failed to respond to my questions about Robinson and ALEC, but in a round-about way I've obtained their response to this blog post. Dan Billings, LePage's in-house counsel and shadow communications chief, wrote Mike Tipping to complain that this blog post (cross-posted at Maine Politics) is misleading because it failed to note that Ms. Bennett had asserted that Robinson isn't a regular advisor to LePage.
Of course, as I wrote Billings, Robinson's "regularity" is irrelevant. LePage's office -- which describes her as a "trusted adviser and friend" -- allowed her to essentially write the governor's Phase I regulatory agenda. She presumably is still advising the governor on legislative and regulatory issues, even as she maintains her day job as a registered lobbyist for companies with interests in these issues and serves as ALEC's state co-chair. Billings' complaint appears entirely semantic in substance; Bennett is dismissing criticism on the grounds that Robinson isn't really an advisor when she actually is one, or at least was until, well, now.
Which raises another ambiguity: Bangor Daily News reporter Eric Russell has indicated in the comments section here that his understanding of the conversation he had with Bennett was not that she was asserting the regularity or irregularity of Robinson's status, but that she is not an advisor at this time.
So I posed the following questions to Billings to get to the bottom of things:
1. Is Robinson still an "irregular" advisor to the governor?
2. If not, when did she cease being one? Why the change in status?
3. How long has Robinson been affiliated with ALEC, beyond her new role as state co-chair?
4. Does your office have any conflict of interest concerns in regards to either her role at ALEC or her simultaneously compiling the governor's legislative agenda and being the registered lobbyist of interested parties?
He hasn't responded, but I'll let you know if he does.]