June 01, 2020
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This proposal to ban foreign money in Maine elections is aimed at the CMP corridor fight

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
In this May 28, 2019, file photo, a sign in protest of Central Maine Power's controversial hydropower transmission corridor is stretched across a business sign in The Forks. The power corridor would extend 53 miles from the Canadian border into Maine's North Woods.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The jury’s verdict reflects the sad fact that racism and violence remain linked more than 150 years after our nation abolished slavery,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division said after a jury convicted  Maurice Diggins of two counts of assault and a count of conspiracy under a federal hate crime act stemming from separate assaults against black men in Portland and Biddeford in 2018. 

What we’re watching today

As the campaign to defeat Central Maine Power’s proposed corridor kicks into higher gear, an effort at the State House is aimed at preventing one of the largest players from participating financially. The bill from Rep. Kent Ackley, I-Monmouth, a vocal opponent of CMP’s proposed New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line through western Maine, would prevent “foreign nationals” from influencing ballot campaigns, including making contributions. It will get a public hearing before a legislative committee on Wednesday.

It’s directly aimed at Hydro-Quebec, the province-owned utility partnering with CMP on the corridor project. A political committee Hydro-Quebec formed to participate in the referendum campaign paid a $35,000 ethics fine upfront earlier this year. Through the end of 2019, CMP spent $2.3 million on the referendum through its own political action committee. Ackley’s bill came after Maine Public reported in December it had joined the campaign to defend the corridor from a November 2020 referendum challenge and met with legislative leaders and the administration of Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat who supports the project.

For now, Hydro-Quebec is still allowed to spend on politics. The Canadian company booked a series of radio ads to run in the Portland area through mid-May, according to federal findings, at a cost of $18,000. Foreign money is barred from federal elections, but it isn’t barred from Maine elections. Offshore companies were the key backers of a 2017 casino referendum that was soundly defeated by Maine voters.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine CDC: 20 tests returned, all negative for the coronavirus,” Jessica Piper and Charles Eichacker, Bangor Daily News: “Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said Tuesday there still remains a ‘possibility’ that the virus is circulating in Maine, given that relatively few residents have been tested so far. … Hospitals and long-term care facilities have been advised to prepare for the possibility that it could be spreading undetected in a process known as community transmission, based on the cases of community transmission that have been documented in the Pacific Northwest, Shah said.”

Maine is one of a dozen states with no positive tests for coronavirus, but the effects are still being felt here. There have been at least 92 reported cases in Massachusetts, five in New Hampshire, three in Rhode Island, two in Connecticut and one in Vermont. The University of Maine urged students to stay on campus over the upcoming spring break in order to avoid potentially contracting the virus, while Portland Public Schools reported responding to a spike in bullying against students of Asian ancestry. Bowdoin College announced Monday morning that students would not be allowed to return to campus after spring break, with the remainder of the college’s semester to be completed remotely.

— “Maine ethics watchdog votes to investigate anti-CMP corridor group,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “Clean Energy Matters, a CMP-funded political committee, brought three ethics complaints, two concerning whether Stop the Corridor and Say No to NECEC, a grassroots group that shares leadership with an anti-corridor committee, should be made to register as political committees. The Maine Ethics Commission backed an investigation into the first group, but not the second.”

— “Regulators want to know who should pay for $580K CMP audit,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “Under Maine law, ratepayers typically pay the full cost of a management audit. One exception is if an audit of an investor-owned public utility like CMP results in a commission finding of ‘impudence,’ or a lack of care, that in turn causes a financial penalty.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email clumm@bangordailynews.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

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