AUGUSTA, Maine — A libertarian political action committee has released a report grading lawmakers on how well they toed the PAC’s line promoting small government and a hands-off approach to the market during the recently concluded legislative session.
The results were predictable to political observers in and outside the Capitol: 10 Republican representatives — and no Democrats — were placed on the PAC’s “honor roll,” while 21 Democrats and unenrolled Rep. Joseph Brooks of Winterport were deemed “constitutional Threats.”
Overall, the PAC gave Republican lawmakers a B- and Democrats an F.
The scorecard, published by the Defense of Liberty PAC — led by GOP Senate District 15 candidate Eric Brakey, who recently made waves on YouTube dancing in a swimsuit — assigns grades to legislators for how each representative and senator voted on 17 bills that “clearly demonstrate the level of respect our elected representatives show for our individual rights and liberties,” according to the report.
Included were bills the PAC supported, such a law that would have made concealed carry of firearms legal for all Mainers, without a permit, and bills they opposed, such as the budget proposal that ultimately won enough legislative support to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto, and an effort to raise the minimum wage.
Brakey said the report is a tool to help voters keep tabs on their lawmakers so they can make the most informed decision possible at the ballot box next year. Interest groups on both sides of the political spectrum often publish legislative scorecards or voter guides, usually in the height of election season.
“We’ll do another one after the next session, but the idea is to put one out for each session,” he said Saturday. “It’s partly to let legislators know they are being watched on how they vote, and that people are noticing.”
Dan Demeritt, a political consultant and LePage’s former communications director, said reports such as this are essentially “purity tests” produced for like-minded voters and don’t usually sway an election.
“It’s a good way for a narrow group of voters to assess where they should put their resources and energies, but it’s rare that these kinds of scorecards have a meaningful impact on a broader electorate,” Demeritt said.
Brakey said his audience is wider than it might appear: “This is primarily for people who share our values,” he said. “If they don’t care about issues of liberty, freedom and the Constitution, they may not care about this. But I think most people do care about those issues.”
Leaders in both parties responded to the report. The PAC gave House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, an F. He said in an interview Saturday that “liberty is in the eye of the beholder.”
“When people are starving, they don’t have a heck of a lot of liberty,” he said. “But minimum wage is here as a constitutional threat. So if a decent day’s wages is a threat to liberty and the Constitution, I guess I’m a threat to the Constitution.”
House Minority Whip Alex Willette, R-Mapleton, a candidate for the GOP’s nomination for Maine’s second congressional district, scored a B+.
“Republicans have a proud history of protecting the individual from undue government intrusion and limits on economic freedom, so I’m glad to see that a leading libertarian group believes that we’re upholding that tradition,” he wrote in a statement.
The Defense of Liberty PAC was formed in June 2012. Major contributors include Linda Bean, granddaughter of L.L.Bean’s founder, who has given the group $14,565 to date; her sister, Diana Bean, who has given $10,000; and the Brakey family, who has given $6,357 in cash, loans and in-kind contributions.
Among the 10 Republicans listed on the “honor roll,” Rep. Aaron Libby of Waterboro donated $120 to the group and received $700 in campaign contributions. Rep. Heather Sirocki of Scarborough also received $700 for her campaign.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.