Good morning from Augusta. Gov. Janet Mills hauled in nearly $277,000 in donations to her inaugural and transition efforts by late December, with 80 percent from corporate donors and most of it from the marijuana, financial, casino, lobbying, paper and energy industries.
Mills, a Democrat, is the first governor who must disclose these donations after voters passed a 2015 campaign finance law establishing transparency requirements for the transition committees that once fell into a limbo between campaigns and state government.
The new governor had until Wednesday to disclose the contributions and expenses as of Dec. 22 for the committees planning her Wednesday inauguration and her transition to office. Here’s where the money came from, according to filings at the Maine Ethics Commission.
Companies gave to Mills’ inauguration in large numbers and individuals funded her lower-dollar transition account. Like governors-elect before her, Mills was allowed to take unlimited amounts of money from corporations and individuals to guide her to the Blaine House.
However, Mills’ team said it would only allow lobbyists or companies employing lobbyists to donate to the committee funding inaugural activities and not the transition. The inaugural one raised $241,000 from mostly corporate entities to the transition’s $25,000 from individuals. Corporate donors gave 80 percent of that total, not including Maine-based industry associations.
The largest donor to the inaugural committee was Wellness Connection of Maine, which operates four medical marijuana dispensaries and gave $25,000. Other dispensaries, Maine Organic Therapy in Ellsworth and Remedy Compassion Center in Auburn, gave $10,000 each as the state prepares to govern a new recreational marijuana market in 2019.
Oxford Casino gave $15,000 and Hollywood Casino in Bangor gave $10,000. ND Paper, the subsidiary of a Hong Kong company that owns two mills in Maine, gave $15,000. Other $10,000 donors included LL Bean and the law and lobbying firms of Pierce Atwood and Bernstein Shur.
Most of this money came from entities that probably would have donated to a governor of any political party, but Mills has to get rid of the money by month’s end. Becoming governor — especially before you offend anyone in office — makes a lot of people like you.
Many of Mills’ big donors — including a subsidiary of the oil and forest products giant JD Irving, Inc., Bernstein Shur, LL Bean, the Maine Credit Union League and the Maine Association of Realtors, also gave to her predecessor, Republican Paul LePage, during his 2010 transition, when he voluntarily disclosed donors but not amounts of money.
That shows that while the donations may be used in hope of currying favor, they’re not necessarily political — or at least partisan. The main difference between the transitions is that LePage was able to start an outside political operation, Maine People Before Politics, with the leftover money and Mills can’t do that.
Overall, her two committees only spent $70,000 of the money raised. The new regulations say that Mills must give excess money by Jan. 31 to the state, to charity or back to donors. Her team hasn’t announced a plan for any leftover money and they can still raise it until month’s end.
Recapping Golden’s first day in DC
Maine’s newest congressman cast his first votes on Thursday. U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District, after being sworn in Thursday, voted in favor of an emergency spending bill package that would end the two-week government shutdown.
Golden, along with 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat who was re-elected in November to a sixth term, voted for the emergency spending package that would reinstate funding to six government agencies through the end of September and maintain another month of funding for the Department of Homeland Security.
Golden also kept a pledge he made during his campaign not to support Nancy Pelosi as the next House speaker, a position she won for a second time Thursday with the support of most Democrats, including Pingree.
The 36-year-old spoke often during his 2nd District campaign against former Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of the need for new House leadership, and instead on Thursday supported for speaker U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois. Bustos, who Golden’s spokesman said represents a district demographically similar to his, was recently named chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which aided Golden’s campaign.
“When I told Mainers I thought it was time for new leadership in Washington, I meant it,” Golden said after the vote. He also called the government shutdown a “ manufactured crisis” eclipsed in attention by President Donald Trump’s demand for money to build a southern border wall.
The Democrat-sponsored spending package does not include the $5 billion Trump and some other Republicans have requested for the wall, so it’s largely symbolic, as Senate leaders and Trump said before the vote that they would not support it.
— Maine’s new governor followed through on a major campaign promise. On Thursday, her first day on the job, Mills signed an executive order to start work on implementing a Medicaid expansion law approved by voters in 2017. She directed the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to partner with health care providers and patients to provide a communications and outreach strategy to help enroll eligible Mainers to speed up application processing. She also submitted a letter to federal regulators, laying out plans to implement expansion and attempting to answer questions they had raised about an expansion plan submitted by LePage’s administration after a judge’s December decision. She did not say whether she would seek to reverse work requirements approved by the federal government last month or how the state’s share of expansion costs would be funded beyond this fiscal year.
— The governor wants a group of people who oversee services for Maine children to begin meeting again. During Wednesday’s inaugural address, Mills said she would revive Children’s Cabinet meetings, which were curtailed early in LePage’s tenure as governor. Click here to read about the history and makeup of the Children’s Cabinet. Mills also filled out the slate of nominees for her more conventional Cabinet by asking three LePage-era commissioners to continue in their current roles.
— A date has been set to fill a vacant seat in the Maine House of Representatives. When lawmakers elected Democrat Aaron Frey to be Maine’s attorney general, the seat to which he was re-elected to a fourth term in November came open. Residents of his district, which includes parts of Bangor and Orono, will elect his successor on March 12. Candidates have until Jan. 18 to secure a spot on the ballot. Frey beat Republican Daniel Lapointe of Orono with 63 percent of votes in November, and Democrats hold a seven-point registration advantage over Republicans in the district.
— In 2017, Maine was the blackout capital of the nation. Maine Public reports that Maine electricity users endured the most frequent service interruptions and the longest outages of any state in the U.S. in 2017, according to federal reliability data. That data show Maine electricity customers in 2017 experienced, on average, more than three service interruptions — the highest rate in the country and more than double the national average. Mainers were in the dark longer than anywhere else — on average more than 40 hours. Here is your blackout soundtrack.
— Mainers now have an easier way to shop for bargains on colonoscopies. Maine Public reports that federal law now requires all hospitals to list their standard charges, and Maine hospitals have begun listing prices for services online. Here is your colonoscopy soundtrack.
Party like it’s …
Mills’ big, invitation-only inaugural celebration happens tonight at the Augusta Civic Center. My invitation must have gotten lost.
That’s OK. The only black ties I have are shoelaces. And I’ve attended inaugural shindigs at the civic center in the past. Those fetes for newly sworn-in Augusta mayors and city councilors during the 1990s would be tough to top.
The middle school band renditions of “Hail to the Chief” were a bit rough, but the Cony Madrigals were at the top of their game under Bob Morang back then, so I find it hard to imagine that the musical guests lined up for tonight — even a cover band fronted by a former Maine House speaker — could make my ears any happier than they were back then.
As for commestibles, the Vanilla Wafers were crisp, the cheddar was sharp and the punch was tangy, so I will simply relish those memories as I miss out on tonight’s spread that’s designed to highlight delights from all 16 Maine counties.
The one thing I might regret by missing tonight’s bash is that I won’t be able to sample the special Inaugur-ale brewed for the occasion or sip the “signature cocktail called The Governor Janet,” which mixes prosecco and wild Maine blueberries.
Instead, I will probably continue experimenting with my own signature cocktail. Right now, the recipe includes eight parts bitters and a splash of Moxie — to reflect my character — added to a double shot of grain alcohol — to help me forget. Stirred, not shaken.
I’m still working on a name. “The Uninvited” might seem like sour grapes, which are bad in a cocktail, so maybe “The Missed Deadline” or “The Grumpy Robert.” I welcome your suggestions, and here is your soundtrack. — Robert Long
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Alex Acquisto and Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to receive Maine’s leading newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings. Click here to subscribe to the BDN.
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