POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

People before politics, take two

Posted March 18, 2011, at 8:07 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — There’s a new political organization in Maine with a name and leadership rostrum that might ring familiar to followers of Gov. Paul LePage’s gubernatorial campaign.

The fledgling nonprofit Maine People Before Politics, or MPBP, describes itself as a membership organization “focused on improving Maine’s future by stepping out and away from the special interests.”

The group’s “People Before Politics” moniker, of course, is straight out of LePage’s campaign and virtually every speech he has delivered since moving into the governor’s office in January.

That’s not surprising given that the two declared leaders of the organization — Brent Littlefield and Jason Savage — were heavily involved in the LePage 2010 campaign.

Although based in the Washington, D.C., area, Littlefield served as key campaign consultant to candidate LePage and continues to work as an unpaid “external senior adviser” to the governor. Littlefield is listed as a strategic adviser to MPBP.

Savage, who is MPBP’s executive director, helped with LePage’s online and social media presence during the campaign.

In an interview, Littlefield said that, although he continues to advise the governor, the Maine People Before Politics group is not a part of LePage’s office. In fact, it is not uncommon for such “independent” side groups to pop up to support the policies of political figures.

“We are a separate organization. We are not part of the government and we are advocating issues that we believe are helping move Maine people forward,” said Littlefield, echoing another phrase popular with the governor.

The group’s first act — apart from establishing a Web presence — was to issue a report suggesting the Maine State Employees Association and the Maine Education Association were “directly responsible for putting the legislative leaders in power who created the growing pension crisis Maine faces today.”

That contention will likely be refuted by Democrats who point out that the pension shortfall was caused by the recession and decisions made decades ago by Democratic and Republican legislatures and governors.

And the “Pollie” goes to …

Speaking of Littlefield, his efforts during Maine’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign earned his firm, Littlefield Consulting, recognition last week from the American Association of Political Consultants.

Littlefield received a “Gold Pollie Award” — a type of high national recognition from his fellow campaign gurus — for his work to woo Maine voters of Franco-American or French-Canadian heritage to the LePage campaign.

Maine’s Franco-Irish heritage

And speaking of Maine’s connections to France and French-speaking Canada, hundreds gathered in Augusta on Wednesday to celebrate Franco-American Day. As is tradition, part of the day’s floor sessions in the House and Senate were conducted — albeit less fluidly — in French.

The next day, Maine’s Irish lawmakers celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in their own way with remarks and performances in the State House.

The two cultural observances seemed to flow better than last year’s when, to the dismay of some Irish Mainers, Franco-American Day in the State House was scheduled for St. Patrick’s Day.

After all, the eye can only absorb so much colorful attire in one day.

Baldacci appointment

Former Gov. John Baldacci isn’t the only member of his family to receive a new appointment.

The former first lady, Karen Baldacci, has been appointed to the 17-member Library Commission that oversees the Maine State Library, makes recommendations on the use of federal funds and establishes policies for statewide library programs.

LePage named Baldacci to the commission earlier this week.

Coming up …

Here’s a sampling of interesting or noteworthy items on the Legislature’s agenda next week:

  1. Death and taxes: On Monday, the Taxation Committee will hold public hearings, beginning at 1 p.m., on several bills to reduce or eliminate the estate tax levied on heirs of property or businesses valued at more than $1 million.
  2. Cyberbullying: The Education and Cultural Affairs Committee will hear testimony at 1 p.m. Wednesday on a bill, LD 980, that would require schools to develop policies specifically prohibiting online bullying as well as other types of hazing.
  3. College board: Also Wednesday, the Education Committee will consider a bill, LD 982, that would create a single governing board for Maine’s university system, community colleges and Maine Maritime Academy.
  4. Moose lottery: Various proposals to tweak Maine’s moose hunting lottery system will be considered by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
  5. Noisy “hogs”: The Transportation Committee will take up the recurring issue of excessive motorcycle noise at 1 p.m. Thursday when they consider two bills, LDs 477 and 1011, to curb exhaust noise from bikes.

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