An ‘issue’ ad featuring Lucas St. Clair sure looks like campaign material

Good morning from Augusta. A new group called the Maine Outdoor Alliance has booked lots of time on Maine TV stations to air what is officially an issue ad … that name-checks Democratic 2nd Congressional District candidate Lucas St. Clair without expressly advocating for him.

While St. Clair’s campaign says it isn’t involved with the ads, it turns out that the group is linked to him and the pursuit that his family may now be best known for in Maine: establishing the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

The ad walks a thin line between advocating for the monument and St. Clair himself. The group has bought at least $149,000 in airtime through mid-May in the Portland, Bangor and Presque Isle markets, according to filings with the federal government as of Tuesday.

Filings label it an an “issue” ad — or one that isn’t on behalf of a candidate — even as St. Clair runs in a June primary against Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden and bookseller Craig Olson for the right to face Republican U.S. Rep Bruce Poliquin in November.

The ad, which is posted on the group’s Facebook page, starts as advocacy for a cause, featuring Lindsay Downing, a monument supporter who runs Mt. Chase Lodge in Patten. But about 20 seconds of the ad looks almost like a campaign advertisement, with several pictures of St. Clair.

“Lucas St. Clair was able to sit with the locals and hear their concerns,” Downing says at one point. “He was able to create a plan that worked for everybody.”

Eventually, Downing implores the viewer to call President Donald Trump’s administration and tell them to “leave our Katahdin monument alone” — which is curious since Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended against major changes to the monument last year.

It is unclear who’s funding it and St. Clair’s campaign says he isn’t involved, but there are ties to him. Documents filed with the Maine secretary of state show that the Maine Outdoor Alliance was founded in March. Its only officer was Nathan Deyesso, a furniture-maker from Scarborough. He was the best man at St. Clair’s 2007 wedding in Washington state, according to the magazine at Gould Academy, a boarding and day school in Bethel that both men attended.

The ads were booked with Maine stations through Canal Partners Media, a Washington, D.C., and Atlanta firm that is linked through a complaint to lawmakers in Montana to Barrett Kaiser, a Democratic operative from that state who was hired by Roxanne Quimby, the Burt’s Bees founder and St. Clair’s mother, to manage the monument effort.

Deyesso, Kaiser and Quimby didn’t respond to requests for comment. St. Clair spokesman David Farmer (also a Bangor Daily News columnist) said the campaign “has not been involved with the group or its activities” and the campaign “wouldn’t be involved in any outside spending of this nature.”

Today in A-town

The House and Senate return to Augusta this morning for what could be a few hours or a few days. Not a lot has changed since the wee hours of April 19, when an impasse over funding a number of bills with surplus revenues sent the Legislature home without its work complete.

At the center of the disagreement is a list of bills that were enacted this year but which haven’t been funded. They include raises for direct-care workers, the elimination of waitlists for people awaiting certain social services, funding for county jails and a number of bills designed to fight the opioid epidemic.

Many of those bills have bipartisan support, but here’s the rub: The list also includes a bill that would fund start-up administrative costs for voter-approved Medicaid expansion under the provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Democrats and Senate Republicans have agreed to the list at the Appropriations Committee level. Democrats insist that it be considered by the full Legislature as a package. House Republicans want the bills to be voted on one by one.

What’s the difference? Voting on them as a package would represent compromise and include elements from both side of the debate. Voting them in one by one would make any of them vulnerable to a gubernatorial veto and essentially hand all the power to scrap one proposal or another to Gov. Paul LePage and House Republicans who can block the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.

Also in play is strong support on the Republican side for major changes to Maine’s minimum wage law, namely slowing down increases that are scheduled to reach $12 an hour by 2020. House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, held that up as an ultimatum last month, refusing to extend the session without it. He and his caucus have also made it clear they will do whatever they can to push through a tax conformity bill that includes major tax cuts and block any funding for Medicaid expansion.

At some point today there will be a vote on whether to extend the legislative session to deal with those issues. If that vote fails it would set up a possible special session later this year. Expect some fireworks. The rancor was so deep last time lawmakers were in town together that House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, accused LePage and House Republicans of “terrorism” before apologizing for the remark.

At a minimum, there are 20 gubernatorial vetoes to settle today. Whatever happens, the Bangor Daily News is poised to keep you posted in real time, with a live blog that launches around 10 a.m. (with potentially our last LePage-era veto tracker), full coverage throughout the day and analysis tonight and tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Reading list

  • Democrat Adam Cote and Republican Shawn Moody lead the Blaine House money race, but public money could even the field. Cote raised $805,000 and Moody raised $575,000 to lead the primary fields as of as of April 24, but the two Clean Election candidates in the field — Democratic lobbyist Betsy Sweet and Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls — may overtake them by certain measures when they get a new payment of $150,000 that wasn’t reflected in filings due to the state on Tuesday.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has sued the federal government over access to information on immigration checkpoints. The group sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection after it said that the agencies didn’t respond to a Freedom of Information Act request on immigration checkpoints in Maine. It came after the ACLU of Maine asked Greyhound in March to stop letting immigration officials on their buses to see if riders are U.S. citizens.
  • A group from Virginia has acquired nearly 18,000 acres in Hancock and Washington counties. The Conservation Fund acquired the land from H.C. Haynes, Inc., a forestry company from Winn. The three properties will be conveyed to other nonprofit conservation groups when those groups raise the money to purchase them. They include The Nature Conservancy, the Blue Hill Heritage Trust and the New England Forestry Foundation.
  • A district attorney candidate has been suspended from practicing law. A state court judge suspended Seth Carey from the bar on Monday, according to the Portland Press Herald. He has been accused of sexually assaulting a former client who got a protection-from-abuse order against him. He has denied that and is running in the June primary for the Republican nomination for district attorney in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties.
  • A World War II veteran from California will give new life to a trolley that once carried Theodore Roosevelt through Maine. Arthur Jones, 88, has committed more than $500,000 to the restoration of the Narcissus, a trolley that traveled between Portland and Lewiston during the early 20th century. The restoration is underway at the Seaside Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport.

Deep breaths, relax

The tension is mounting again in Augusta and we could all use some encouragement to relax. There’s nothing that does that for us at the Daily Brief better than music, and it just so happens we discovered a perfect soundtrack just last night.

Ever heard Duane Allman and Aretha Franklin collaborate? It’s special. Take a load off and crank it. — Christopher Cousins

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins, Michael Shepherd and Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

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Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.