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Maine’s lobbyist disclosure laws are among the nation’s most comprehensive, but many other ethics regulations are weak, and the legislature often makes important budget decisions in secret. Read more from SII State Reporters Naomi Schalit, Lance Tapley, and John Christie.
AUGUSTA — The state’s Republican governor and a leading Democratic legislator have teamed up to try to improve the ethical standards for both elected and appointed state officials.
A bill unveiled this week by Gov. Paul LePage and Sen. Emily Cain of Orono will require greater disclosure of the financial and political interests of legislators and high-ranking executive branch officials.
Lawmakers in Maine have begun debating a series of ethics reform bills that would close the revolving door between government and lobbying and strengthen financial disclosure requirements for legislators and some executive branch officials. In a hearing today, advocates for reform faced of with a representative of Gov. Paul LePage, who opposes the new revolving door proposals for the executive branch.
As reported by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, the hearing focused on just one of many reform bills proposed this session. Maine received an F grade from the State Integrity Investigation, a data-driven analysis of state government transparency and ethics. Sponsors of several of the separate bills have cited the state's poor showing as a reason for proposing new reforms.
See the full story at Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting website.
By Naomi Schalit and John Christie
©Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting
Legislation to make it unlawful for state officials to leave their jobs and immediately go to work for industries they regulated – the so-called “revolving door” – is one of several ethics bills expected to be debated in the legislature this session.
Rep. Adam Goode, D-Bangor, has sponsored legislation requiring executive employees “in a major policy-influencing position” to wait one year before accepting a job with “a business activity that is regulated by the state or quasi-state agency by which the former executive employee was employed.”
PACs and Super PACs have been the focus of presidential election coverage this year, but the issue is alive in the states too. In Maine, the ethics commission is now looking into whether a state senator improperly coordinated with one Republican PAC.
The state Democratic Party filed a complaint last week after the Maine Senate Republican Majority PAC spent nearly $73,000 on television ads supporting Nichi Farnham, who is running for re-election to represent Bangor and a neighboring town. The only problem is that it turns out that Farnham is listed as the primary fundraiser and authorizing agent for the PAC, and PAC’s aren’t allowed to coordinate with the candidates or their campaigns.
By Naomi Schalit and John Christie, ©Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting
The state has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations run by legislative leaders or the spouses of high-level state officials since 2003. But because of a loophole in ethics law, the public didn’t know about it.
That won’t happen again.
A bill to require disclosure of state contracts with legislators and executive branch officials has sailed to approval through the House and the Senate. The bill, L.D. 1806, now awaits the signature of Gov. Paul LePage, who said Thursday he will sign it.
““It is reasonable to ask our elected leaders to disclose who is paying them. It is good for the health of our democracy and the people of Maine,” said LePage.