Ethics panel to take up donor list controversy

By Kevin Miller, BDN Staff
Posted Feb. 19, 2010, at 9:31 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — More than three months after Mainers voted down same-sex marriage, the organization that provided much of the money to the traditional marriage camp is still fighting to block the state from forcing disclosure of their donor lists.

This past week, the National Organization for Marriage lost another skirmish in the larger legal battle over its campaign finances.

U.S. District Court Judge D. Brock Hornby in Portland overruled NOM’s objections to having to turn over donor lists and correspondence between NOM and Stand for Marriage Maine regarding the campaign to repeal Maine’s gay marriage law. The court has yet to rule on the larger case challenging Maine’s campaign reporting laws, however.

The documents being sought — and what they say about who donated to NOM and why — are key to a Maine Ethics Commission investigation into whether the group’s failure to disclose donors violated state campaign finance laws.

NOM, which is based in New Jersey, said it donated more than $1.9 million to Stand for Marriage Maine from its war chest for fighting gay marriage nationwide. But critics contend NOM was raising money specifically for the gay marriage fight in Maine, which, if true, would trigger the state’s donor disclosure rules.

This Thursday, the Ethics Commission will decide whether to push forward with subpoenas for the documents. Hornby’s decision appears to clear the way for the commission to reiterate its demands from NOM.

Jonathan Wayne, the commission staff’s executive director, offered this explanation for why the documents are important: “NOM donated almost $2 million in support of the referendum. The commission needs to understand how NOM solicited the funds in order to determine whether campaign finance reporting was required.”

Regardless, the list of donors would only be made public if the commission rules NOM was legally obligated to file the information with the state.

Wind conflict?

Another item on the Ethics Commission’s agenda this Thursday stems from the controversy — at least among some Mainers — over industrial wind power.

Rep. Jon Hinck, D-Portland, is seeking the commission’s advice on whether he could have a conflict of interest when considering wind power legislation. Hinck’s wife, Juliet Browne, is an attorney whose clients include wind energy developers and other regulated industries that do business with the state.

Hinck is co-chairman of the Utilities and Energy Committee, which reviews legislation dealing with wind energy and regulation of power producers. Hinck requested the advice after some critics of Maine’s growing wind energy industry raised the issue.

GOP videos

As a member of the House’s minority party, Rep. Richard Cebra said he has often been frustrated trying to get the Republican message out to a wider audience.

So this legislative session, Cebra is attempting to broaden the GOP’s outreach efforts by launching the Maine Statehouse Republican Video Project.

Cebra, R-Naples, has begun posting videos online featuring brief interviews with GOP lawmakers on the issue of the day or the week. Recent videos cover Republican perspectives on everything from state health care reform, the National Popular Vote, the upcoming ballot initiative on tax reform and the state’s transportation woes.

“These are issues where you are getting a different perspective than the majority office is putting out,” Cebra said. As for his production staff, he added: “It’s just me and my camera, doing it at home on my own time.”

The 3-4 minute clips can be found on the Maine Statehouse Republican Video Project’s Facebook site and on the conservative Web site www.asmainegoes.com.

Coming up

— The Labor Committee will hold public hearings Thursday at 1 p.m. on two bills — LDs 1545 and 1552 — introduced in response to allegations that some logging contractors are discriminating against Maine workers in favor of Canadian crews.

— The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee will receive a briefing on Tuesday at 1 p.m. on the latest preliminary revenue forecasts, which directly affect the committee’s work to achieve a balanced budget.

— The Criminal Justice Committee will hold a work session on Friday at 1 p.m. on a bill, LD 1611, to limit the use of segregation or solitary confinement in state prisons.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/02/19/politics/ethics-panel-to-take-up-donor-list-controversy/ printed on July 22, 2014