Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Maine political items: Nov. 23 edition

A few items of note for those with an obsessive interest in Maine politics:

In campaign, Baldacci did as asked: I recently interviewed Governor John Baldacci for an upcoming Down East story on the election. One tangential item from our talk that didn't make it into the piece: why did he have such a low profile in the recent election (in which would-be Democratic Libby Mitchell came in a distant third)?

"I certainly did whatever I was asked to do and wanted to be helpful," Baldacci said. "I supported and voted for Libby Mitchell and got involved in the land bond conservation effort while I was trying to help with the coordinated campaign efforts and the like."

Maine Dem Honcho Steps Down: Arden Manning, who headed the Maine Democratic Party's less than triumphant 2010 campaign efforts, will step down on Dec. 31 to pursue graduate studies in France, the Press Herald reported in an easy-to-miss brief yesterday. Manning took considerable heat for a series of negative campaign ads containing falsehoods and Sinophobic messaging.

Opponent of Portland elected mayor considering bid to become elected mayor: Cheryl Leeman, the sole Republican on the Portland city council, spearheaded the effort to stop Portlanders from instituting an elected mayor. But towards the end of this Press Herald piece she notes she hasn't ruled out running for the new post, which voters approved earlier this month. (Some background on the elected mayor story here.)

In a possibly related move, she declined her fellow councilor's offer to serve as the last appointed mayor in lieu of letting Democrat Nick Mavodones occupy the post. One thing is for certain: the Democratic majority on the council would rather have a Republican mayor than allow their true rivals, the Greens, to occupy the ceremonial position.

Following the money imperiled again? Last year I broke the story that Maine city clerks had destroyed most of the campaign finance disclosures (for city offices) in their possession, on the bad advice of a poorly-informed state bureaucrat. As a result, it is now impossible to fully reconstruct who past and present city politicos owe their careers to, including, say, Governor-elect (and former Waterville mayor) Paul LePage.

As a result of my reporting, the legislature ultimately amended the appropriate law to correct the problem. As of August 2011, the state Ethics commission is to take over the task of gathering and permanently archiving disclosures for Maine municipal offices for towns with a population of 15,000 or greater), just as they already do for state elections candidates.

But this morning, the Ethics commission held a conference call with the city clerks to tell them why they've decided to ask the new legislature to delay or reverse the change in responsibility, claiming it will be too hard or costly to accomplish by next August. If this happens, the only online source of campaign disclosures for Maine's largest city will remain my own webpage, which costs me $12 a month and takes a few hours of my time each election cycle.

[Update, 11/23/10, 16:05: I had an opportunity to speak with Ethics commission executive director Jonathan Wayne and learned that (a) the central problem has to do with adapting their database to allow municipal candidates to file electronically; (b) the discussion with clerks suggested a sort-of no frills alternative -- a database of scanned PDFs, for instance -- would probably satisfy everyone, without imposing undue costs and technical challenges. Mr. Wayne said the commission will be considering the issue over the next couple of weeks.]

I'll be following this story, of course. But for those interested in the whole saga, here's a list of appropriate posts.

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