CONTRIBUTORS

Doing away with the middle man

Posted June 05, 2012, at 5:23 p.m.

Members of Congress make a decent salary. State legislators, usually part-timers, come from all walks of life from across the state: teachers, business owners, laborers, retirees, mill workers, woodcutters and farmers to name a few.

Most Mainers know Maine Senate President Kevin Raye, a Republican candidate for Maine’s 2nd District, is now in his second try for the congressional seat against Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. He was a longtime D.C. Republican congressional staffer who returned home to Washington County seeking his quest for high elected office and, along the way, took over a family business, Raye’s Mustard — a very good mustard.

Raye’s campaign spokesman was recently quoted in a BDN story on fundraising, saying “how fully Congressman Michaud has embraced his Washington-insider status.”

How convenient of the Raye campaign to play the two sides. On one hand Raye embraces his experience in D.C. to raise money from his D.C. connections — not as much as Michaud so far. On the other hand, he faults Michaud for his success in raising funds from the same crowd. It’s like faulting Michaud for getting more votes than he did the first time the two ran against each other because Michaud had more votes.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing unlimited campaign spending by political action committees, and with the recent history of the outside influx of unreported cash into our Maine legislative races, we need to fully evaluate who’s raising money, where and how. It’s not all in a campaign report. Some get direct money flowing into their pockets as income.

Raye’s legislative biography does not list his being paid as a lobbyist for a D.C. national trade lobbying organization while serving as the Washington County state senator.

Raye has ran a consulting service, Down-East Strategies, and served clients with interests in ongoing public policy discussions. I understand businesses are profit driven, as they should be, but how does an elected public official serve two distinct sides? Lobbyists aren’t bad people. But they provide one side of an issue. That’s their job.

Raye was hired by Advanced Medical Technologies (AdvaMed), a D.C. trade organization representing some of the largest medical equipment makers in the world, such as 3M, Siemens, and Johnson & Johnson to name a couple. He was paid by AdvaMed for public outreach on parts of the Affordable Health Care Act. As Raye put it, “basically contacting Maine businesses and making them aware that the tax [on medical equipment] would hurt them.” The special interest’s side of the issue.

A public official needs to balance the benefits and negatives of public policy. As a hired lobbyist, his job is to advance the client’s goals.

Some of the companies Raye lobbied for through AdvaMed also lobbied the Maine Legislature on bills that Raye was voting on as a state senator.

In comes the troubling rub. The separation of private interests and public interests in a democracy comes from those who serve us. The general public and special interests are separated by a government (and yes, it has its problems) of the people, by the people, for the people, with our elected and appointed officials on “the people’s” side, supposedly. If our elected officials also serve as employees of the special interests, if they are one and the same, whose interest is truly being served?

Raye’s judgment, that he had the ability to serve his clients’ interest in advocating public laws favorable to their bottom line, his own interest and his constituents’ interests leaves doubt that he exercised the proper judgement of his role representing the people of Washington County and Maine.

It’s like representing both sides in a lawsuit, as well as being the judge. We’re just not sure whose interests are represented. We’re not sure who Raye was representing on those issues. But I guess it does away with the middle man in enacting public policy.

I am sure Raye would object to state employees being hired as lobbyists for special interests “influencing” fellow employees on public policy.

Charles Pray of Millinocket was state senator from 1975 to 1992 and state senate president from 1984 to 1992.

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