LePage adds to feud with U.S. Humane Society

Good morning from Augusta, where the Maine and U.S. flags here and across the state are flying at half staff in memory of the victims of the Orlando night club shooting on Sunday.

You’ve heard by now that a gunman opened fire in a LGBT night club and killed 50 people, marking the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Gov. Paul LePage has ordered flags flown at half staff until sunset on Thursday.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims who were killed or injured in this senseless and horrific attack,” said LePage in a written statement. “Ann and I send our condolences and pray for the safety and recovery of all those affected by this tragedy.”

I spent a chunk of Sunday reading the news reports and like most everyone else, it lit a burning knot of disgust in my stomach. I saw a Facebook post from an old friend, Cameron McWhirter, who is in Orlando covering the tragedy for the Wall Street Journal. His post included a photo of bloodstains on a sidewalk near the night club. Here’s part of what Cam wrote, which seems like fantastic advice amid this sea of sorrow brought on by senseless violence:

“People you love, love them harder and better than you did yesterday. If you are holding anger toward people, let it go.”

Thanks, governor. Thanks, Cam. — Christopher Cousins

LePage lashes out at Humane Society for egg farm allegations

Gov. Paul LePage has penned a letter to the Humane Society of the United States, castigating the organization for a video it released last week that alleged inhumane treatment of the chickens at the Hillandale Farms egg production facility in Turner. The video has resulted in a state investigation which LePage wrote could have happened without the Humane Society going public with its allegations.

“Because of the manner in which this was brought to out attention, I can only conclude you are more concerned with fundraising than you are about the animals involved,” wrote LePage to Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle. “Your tactics to try to uncover wrongdoing are deplorable in this case. … The Humane Society of the United States should have picked up the phone and called my administration instead of using the press to create uncertainty in the market.”

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has said eggs from the facility are monitored on an ongoing basis are safe for consumption. Both the Humane Society and Hillandale Farms itself have asked for the investigation.

LePage’s administration also clashed with the national humane society during the 2014 campaign over certain types of bear hunting in Maine. — Christopher Cousins

Ethics board receives new finance complaint in Portland Senate race

The Maine Ethics Commission, which oversees campaign finance activities in Maine elections, will convene on Tuesday — primary election day — to consider a second complaint against Democratic Rep. Diane Russell by Michael Hiltz, an unsuccessful 2008 Green Independent candidate for the Legislature.

This marks the second complaint by Hiltz in a brutal three-way primary election race that is unfolding through a flurry of ethics complaints. Up for grabs is the Senate seat currently held by Sen. Justin Alfond, who is term limited out of office. Whoever wins the primary on Tuesday is likely to take the seat in the mostly Democratic Portland district.

Hiltz already has a pending complaint against Russell over her Working Families Political Action Committee. His new complaint, filed Friday, involves a more than 200,000-person email list that Russell uses for fundraising and advocating for various causes. Hiltz questions how Russell procured the list and whether it constitutes a campaign contribution that should be disclosed in her Ethics Commission filings.

Under Maine campaign finance laws, a “contribution” to a candidate includes any “gift, subscription, loan, advance or deposit of money or anything of value made for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of any person.”

The ethics commission staff has asked a series of questions about the email list, including how Russell developed it and whether there were expenses involved. A response to those questions is expected today. The commission is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. Tuesday, when Portland voters will be in the midst of hitting the polls.

Hiltz’s complaint is likely on behalf of Democratic Rep. Ben Chipman — a former Green Independent — who himself was the subject of an ethics commission probe launched by Russell supporter Steven Biel in May. That complaint involved whether Chipman should have disclosed the cost of invitations to fund raising House parties. Chipman was cleared of wrongdoing, though the commission may take action later this year to remedy what it sees as  a loophole in campaign finance laws.

The third Democrat in this primary, Charles Radis, has yet to file or be the subject of any ethics complaints, though at the time of this writing there are still about 22 hours left until the polls open in Portland. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Public relations for the Stand Up for Students campaign, a citizen initiative to increase public school funding by creating a 3 percent surtax on income above $200,000, has been taken over by the Knight Canney Group, the campaign announced Monday. The hiring of the PR firm, whose past clients include Angus King and Eliot Cutler, is a signal that the funding question on this November’s general election ballot will be the subject of an intense campaign.
  • Gov. Paul LePage announced Friday that he’s starting a three-day swing through Aroostook County today with a series of town hall meetings. The governor will appear tonight at the University of Maine Fort Kent, Tuesday at the University of Maine Presque Isle and Wednesday at Houlton High School. All of the meetings begin at 6 p.m.

Reading list

Handshake snub as a campaign issue?

Ande Smith, who is locked in a primary election battle for the 1st Congressional District seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree, launched an attack against fellow Republican Mark Holbrook Friday for refusing to shake his hand following a debate last week.

Here’s the BDN’s Mike Shepherd with the snark:

Here’s your soundtrack, guys, from the mouths of children. — Christopher Cousins


Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.