Maine GOP accuses weatherization program of being ‘slush fund for Democrats’

Posted Feb. 15, 2011, at 2:36 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 15, 2011, at 8:33 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Republican Party wants an investigation into state lawmakers’ involvement in a weatherization program.

But one of the Democratic lawmakers singled out by the Maine GOP, Rep. Emily Cain of Orono, said she paid for her home energy audit out of her own pocket and dismissed the Republican attack as a “pathetic” political ploy.

State GOP Chairman Charlie Webster on Tuesday cited the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, which said 50 homes have received weatherization retrofits through the Maine Green Energy Alliance. The nonprofit program had received $1.1 million through a federal energy grant with the stated goal of connecting 1,000 homeowners with auditors and home improvement professionals.

Webster decried the program as a “slush fund for Democrats” and stated that Cain was one of the 50 people to receive retrofits through the MGEA program, a statement that both Cain and program representatives said was false.

“If members of the Maine Legislature were singled out to have work done on their homes, or if preference was given to their districts, something needs to be done,” Webster said in a statement. “I hope the Attorney General, as well as the legislative committees of jurisdiction, will take a close look at what transpired between Representative Cain and the MGEA, as well as other members of the legislature.”

But Cain, who is House minority leader, said Webster has his facts all wrong.

Cain said MGEA connected her and her husband with an independent contractor who performed an energy audit, but they paid the auditor out of their own pockets, so there was no financial gain. Additionally, Cain never completed the recommended weatherization upgrades on her home so she is not among the 50-plus homes included in MGEA’s figures.

“These baseless charges from the Maine Republican Party are a pathetic attempt to create a scandal out of thin air to distract the public from their own wildly unpopular energy and budget proposals, and their governor who can’t stay out of trouble,” Cain said in a statement.

The energy alliance also said in a statement that a variety of communities — including both lower-income and wealthier towns — were selected for inclusion in the pilot program on a nonpartisan basis. Another 120 homes are in the pipeline for retrofits.

BDN staff writer Kevin Miller contributed to this report.

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