Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mukasey Watch

Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey isn't sure whether the interrogation practice of near-asphyxiation--triggering the gag reflex via simulated drowning--is intended to cause suffering or prolonged mental harm.

What does Sen. Collins think about waterboarding? About Mukasey? Why hasn't anyone in the Maine press corps asked her?

Monday, October 29, 2007

They Get Endorsements

The Maine AFL-CIO is with Rep. Tom Allen. From their press release:

BANGOR--Delegates to the Maine AFL-CIO Convention voted unanimously to endorse Rep. Tom Allen, Democrat, in the U.S. Senate race with incumbent Susan Collins.

"Congressman Allen has consistently championed the interest of Maine’s working families," said AFL-CIO President Eddie Gorham. "On trade, jobs, health care and worker rights to organize he has led the way."


Congressman Allen has a 96% lifetime AFL-CIO voting record whereas Senator Collins has a 34% lifetime voting record..."When you compare the two candidates on working family issues its no contest," added Matt Schlobohm, Maine AFL-CIO political director...

The Maine AFL-CIO represents more than 30,000 workers throughout the state of Maine.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Office Hours

Press release:

U.S. Senator Susan Collins today announced that a representative from her Bangor office will hold office hours in Danforth on Thursday, November 8th.

Staff Assistant Jessie Logan will be available to hear constituents voice any concerns they might have and to provide assistance with federal issues and agencies, such as Social Security, Veterans Affairs, Citizenship and Immigration. No appointment is necessary.

Danforth Town Office
18 Central Street
Thursday, November 8th
10:30 AM – 12:30 PM
Questions about Iraq, FISA and habeas corpus would also, presumably, be entertained.

BDN Loads The Deck

Friday's Bangor Daily News features a maddeningly misleading article, built on a loaded premise, about Senate race fundraising.

The fog rolls in right in the first paragraph:

Sen. Susan Collins has received more money from her congressional colleagues than any other member of Congress, and Rep. Tom Allen has received more money from out of state than any other House member.
This obscures much more than it reveals.

Allen, after all, isn't running for the House. And his House colleagues aren't running for the Senate. So comparing his fundraising profile to those of his House colleagues sets up a false and unhelpful contrast.

What readers need to know, instead, to determine whether Allen is up to anything unusual, is how his fundraising compares to other candidates for Senate.

Figuring this out isn't exactly rocket science.

So it's extremely hard to understand why reporter Rebekah Metzler would build her story around this red herring rather than looking for a more meaningful measure of Allen's out-of-state support.

Unfortunately, it gets worse.

Because for all the article's talk of Allen's out-of-state funds (and there's a lot of it) Metzler apparently couldn't find any space to answer the obvious companion question How much money is Sen. Collins raising outside of Maine?

But the answer to that question saps the article of whatever credibility it has left.

Consider: According to, Sen. Collins received nearly $1.3 million in out-of-state funds between 2001 and 2006. (2006-7 data is not yet available on the site.)

That amounts to more than sixty percent of the funds she raised during the period, compared to less than forty percent in Maine.

Contrast those totals to Allen's $500,000 in out-of-state money, which amounts to "about a fourth" of his total receipts.

And Allen is the one whose out-of-state money is drawing scrutiny? Even though Collins has historically raised far more money--and a higher percentage of it--outside Maine than Allen has in this race? It's enough to make a person's head spin.

Now, perhaps the Collins camp duped Metzler into parroting their charges. Or maybe what we're seeing here is simply sloppy reporting.

But whatever the case, it's disturbing. And it deserves an explanation.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Right Flank

Sen. Collins has made it onto the conservative Powerline blog's Pork Dishonor Role for supporting wasteful spending. And the right-leaning, Collins-friendly Examiner is accusing her and some other Republicans of "jump[ing] off a political cliff."

Says the Examiner:

Some [of these Republicans] are retiring, thank goodness. It would be better for the GOP if all of them headed home for good.
I'm not sure why the junior senator is supporting hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks for New York and Pennsylvania.

But these are two more votes Mainers might have wished that she'd missed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kennebec Journal Silliness

The paper's editors let op-Ed scribe George Smith get away with this gem:

Money drives your votes and rarely does the underfunded candidate win.

Sen. Susan Collins has raised $3.6 million for her 2008 re-election campaign while her Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, struggles along with just $2.2 million. Although she has one-third more money than Allen, Collins won't win by that margin. More like 10 to 12 percent.
Smith is free to make whatever prediction he wants.

But in an era where party money, DSCC and NRSC money and independent expenditures all matter, his suggestion that a campaign's health can be distilled down to one number is silly.

And his claim that "rarely does the underfunded candidate win" is just plain wrong.

There were 32 senate races in 2006 (Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) ran unopposed). Of those 32, the candidate with less money won in eight. (Scroll down to "Candidate Receipts and Party Spending in All Senate Races, 2006" for a .PDF.)

That's nowhere near a majority, granted. But the 8 for 32 figure demonstrates pretty clearly that while money matters, it isn't destiny.

As I said, Smith is entitled to his opinion. But I wish Kennebec Journal's editors would hold him to the facts.

Monday, October 22, 2007

More On The Poll

My blasé initial reaction to the new Maine senate poll may have been premature. Digging deeper into the results, one number sticks out as a genuine surprise:

Sen. Collins' approval rating clocks in at an underwhelming 56% (adding up the "approve" and "strongly approve" columns.)

That amounts to a 13 point drop from SurveyUSA's July 25, 2006 result.

Now, you'd expect Collins' number to erode as the race unfolds. But a double-digit slide this early in the cycle strikes me as a newsworthy development. It suggests that the junior senator's consistent support for President Bush on Iraq has taken a significant toll.

UPDATE: I'd be remiss not to mention this April poll, which I'd somehow forgotten all about.

It shows similar results on the head-to-head question. I haven't yet been able to track down that survey's approval number for Collins.

Kos Poll

Markos Moulitsas and Co. have shelled out the big bucks for an independent Maine Senate race poll. And while I wish I could say that the results are shocking or provocative, they're about what you would expect:

If 2008 election for U.S. Senate were held today, for whom would you vote for if the choices were between Tom Allen, the Democrat, and Susan Collins, the Republican?

Collins (R) 56
Allen (D) 33
Kos adds:
Allen needs to push Collins below 50 percent within the next 4-6 months for this race to become top-tier. He's got the material to work with.
I think that's about right.

On the one hand, Rep. Allen certainly has his work cut out for him. He's going to need not just to get the word out about his own strengths, but change Mainers minds about a (relatively) popular legislator.

On the other hand, the race doesn't look like the slam dunk that Sen. Collins' backers might have expected it would be fifteen months ago. She's still the favorite, but to win she'll need to hold off a strong, serious challenge.

In other words, things are just about where you'd anticipate they'd be.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Question for ME Reporters

How does Sen. Collins feel about granting retroactive immunity to telecom companies that illegally shared customer records with the executive branch without a warrant?

Just wondering.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dutson's Triumph

Just before we left town last week, we noticed Collins campaign consultant Lance Dutson complaining about Google's rejection of a few keyword ads that violated its policy toward trademarks.

Eight days later, it's worth taking a moment to examine how the Collins camp used that relatively mundane occurrence--something experienced by just about anyone who uses the Google's AdWords platform regularly--to kick up a right-wing media frenzy.

First, give Dutson et. al. credit: They understood that the rejection of keyword ads by Google feeds into--or could be portrayed to feed into--a pair of paranoid right-wing narratives that, while false, loom large in the Republican imagination:

1. That even though Republicans have been in control of all three branches of government for six of the last seven years, conservatives remain under the yoke of a corrupt, liberal-dominated establishment that won't give them a fair shake.

2. That (relatedly) secret, nefarious liberal alliances are plotting against them, conspiring to suppress their voices and undermine their interests.
As I say, these are both canards. But in certain circles, they're widely-believed canards.

So it couldn't have been hard for Dutson to place the story with Robert Cox, a right-wing blogger who, if I read him correctly, thinks that George W. Bush is basically a modern-day Abraham Lincoln.

And it couldn't have been hard for Cox to get the story into, an outlet owned by Discovery Institute-funding, Media Research Council-supporting, George W. Bush-admiring Philip Anschutz. From there, of course, it was just a hop, skip and a jump to Fox News.

That the legitimate media didn't take the bait is refreshing. But I doubt that was really even the Collins camp's hope. Instead, they were aiming (and succeeded) in portraying their candidate--who's never been a darling of the far-right--as under attack by the same evil forces that have it in for Rush Limbaugh, Vice President Dick Cheney, etc.

And you know what they say about enemies of enemies.

Whether this will work as a fundraising strategy is unclear. But it seems like a pretty savvy gambit to me.

Of course the downside, at least from a public interest perspective, is that the fake flap has nothing to do with the, y'know, issues.

Consider: Dutson has so far published eight separate blog posts about Google, but I only count one mention of the word "Iraq" on his entire front page.

Sen. Collins' own blog contains two mentions of, but her entire site contains not one mention of habeas corpus.

I guess this is the kind of campaign you run when your candidate is desperate not to talk about the issues. But it's not particularly edifying. And as things heat up--and the need to divert attention from the issues grows more intense--it ain't gonna be pretty.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Catching Up

We were away for the last few days, and there are a couple issues we'd like to get caught up on. But first an observation about the third quarter fundraising numbers.

While Sen. Collins retains a decisive lead--in both receipts and cash on hand--it seems clearer than ever that this race will not be decided by money.

Rep. Allen may not achieve one-to-one parity, but because he's also an incumbent--and because he'll likely be getting a fundraising hand from prominent blogs--he'll have no trouble bringing in plenty of money--more than enough to compete.

That sets the stage for a balanced race focused on the issues, at least if that's what both candidates want. Which is fantastic.

Of course, Sen. Collins and her team have demonstrated yet again in the last week that they're looking to discuss nearly anything but the issues facing Mainers.

More on that in the next day or two.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Q3 $$$ Totals

The AP delivers the goods:

Republican Sen. Susan Collins reported Monday she raised more than $1 million for her re-election campaign from July through September, bringing her total contributions to date to $3.6 million, with $3.1 million in cash on hand.

The campaign of Democratic challenger Tom Allen, the sixth-term congressman from Portland, reported receipts of $666,096 for the quarter, raising his total contributions for this election cycle to $2.2 million. Allen reported having $2.1 million on hand.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Moveon Again

Well, you knew it was coming: Sen. Collins is now using the Petraeus ad flap as part of a fundraising pitch.

It's entirely fair game, although one of the Collins camp's central charges is misleading: That " has contributed more money to her opponent than all of the presidential candidates combined, $250,000 already."

Phrasing it that way conjures up images of a (nefarious) left-wing behemoth dumping a giant check on Rep. Allen.

But that hasn't happened--at least as far as I know. Instead, hundreds (thousands?) of individuals have responded to solicitations by making mostly small dollar donations to Allen's campaign.

So they're the ones doing the giving. Moveon is just using their megaphone--and their web platform--to draw attention to the race.

It's a subtle distinction, especially if you don't follow these types of things closely. But it's an important one. And it's why the National Republican Senatorial Committee, for example, has been careful to characterize the donations as "conduit donations" and to describe them as having been given "through"--rather than "by"

In any case, Lance Dutson and the Collins camp are making no such distinctions.

Speaking of Dutson, he's shocked and scandalized about Google's rejection of a few keyword ads that he tried to buy for Sen. Collins.

The story has been bouncing around the right-wing blogs all day, often with intimations that it amounts to some kind of conspiracy. (Paranoid, anyone?)

But as someone extremely familiar with Google AdWords from my real job, I think I can safely say that what Dutson encountered is pretty typical: Google rejects ads all the time, for a host of reasons--and often without the kind of consistency you might expect.

It's an inevitable upshot of managing a giant advertising platform in a litigious society.

In any case, the idea that a huge corporation--with hundreds of thousands of advertisers and billions in revenue--has singled out Dutson or Sen. Collins for unfavorable treatment isn't just silly. It's bonkers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Little Interest" in Oversight?

Steve Benen brings us a snippet from an article on Iraq oversight in today's (subscription-only) Roll Call:

The day news broke that the Iraqi government was revoking the license of Blackwater USA over a questionable Baghdad shootout that killed 17 civilians, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) announced plans for hearings to probe the State Department’s reliance on private security contractors.

On that same day--Sept. 17--Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) announced two firefighting grants for the towns of Bolton and Willington in his home state.

Though the two committees have similar investigative powers and mandates to uncover waste, fraud and abuse of government funds, Waxman has held eight hearings on Iraq and contracting abuses this year, while Lieberman has held only one on reconstruction challenges in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

And though Waxman rarely has missed an opportunity to fire off angry letters to the administration over potential waste, fraud, abuse and misconduct among government contractors, Lieberman--along with his predecessor and current ranking member, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)--has shown relatively little interest in tackling those issues.
But at least she's never missed a vote!

Monday, October 8, 2007

BDN On Habeas

Bangor Daily News editorializes in favor of habeas corpus. And give the editorial board credit for detailing the junior senator's embarrassing record on the issue:

The 2006 Military Commissions Act was intended to assure the end of habeas corpus for "enemy combatants," by setting up military commissions at Guanatanmo to hear detainees cases rather than using the federal court system. Before the final vote, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., tried to remove a section prohibiting any federal court from hearing habeas corpus appeals. But his amendment lost, 48 to 51. Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins voted no. Sen. Olympia Snowe, absent for a family funeral, did not vote. Sen. Collins voted for the unchanged bill, as did Sen. Specter, although he called the measure unconsitutional [sic]. Sen. Snowe again did not vote.

Sens. Specter and Pat Leahy, D-Vt., raised the issue again last month, introducing a bill to restore habeas corpus. The vote of 56 to 43 lacked the necessary 60 votes needed to block a filibuster. Sen. Collins voted against cutting off debate. Sen. Snowe, with five other Republicans, voted with the Democrats to allow a vote on the bill.
So let us ask again:

What does Sen. Collins understand about human freedom and dignity that she thinks the Founders overlooked?

As we've said in the past, this issue isn't about conservatives versus liberals. It's about conservatives and liberals versus reactionaries.

It's about the rule of law versus creeping lawlessness.

UPDATE: BDN rightly focuses in on the contrast between Sen. Collins' votes and the actions of Sen. Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Specter (R-PA).

But it might also have been worth noting (space permitting) that Rep. Allen voted against the Military Commissions Act and, unlike Collins, supports the Specter amendment.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Knowing The Shot

Bill Nemitz explores the Collins camp's nasty, disingenuous attack on Rep. Allen for votes he missed while attending a funeral here.

He makes a point that's obvious but worth underscoring:

Before you publicly hammer someone with the question, "Where were you?" you'd best find out the answer in advance.
Or, as Ricky Roma put it in Glengarry Glen Ross:
Never open your mouth until you know what the shot is.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Change of Address

News reader users take note: Our feed has moved to

The old address automatically forwards posts to the new one. So feed subscribers shouldn't have to take any action. At least that's what we've been assured.

But if you run into trouble, try redirecting your reader to the above url.

(If this all sounds like gobbledygook, ignore it. And don't feel bad: This stuff is over our heads too.)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Sullivan on Torture

Andrew Sullivan makes a prediction:

The way in which conservative lawyers, and conservative intellectuals, and conservative journalists aided and abetted these war crimes [relating to America's ban on torture]...the way in which Republicans and Democrats in the Congress pathetically refused to stand up to these violations of American honor and decency in any serious way...these will go down in history as some of the most shameful decisions these people ever made.
(Sen. Collins voted in favor of the Military Commissions Act. Rep. Allen didn't.)

In The Papers

Didn't realize that had a political blog. But it does. And Susan Cover has picked up the Allen funeral story.

(Unfortunately, she doesn't dig any deeper.)

In other news, Sen. Collins is calling the President's veto of S-CHIP "a tremendous mistake."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

They Release Statements

According to a press release from Valerie Martin, Rep. Allen's campaign manager:

Two of Monday's missed votes named post offices in other states. The third honored a National Guard unit from another state.
If this is true (and as far as I know, the Maine GOP hasn't produced any information to the contrary) then the Collins campaign is indeed guilty of launching a cheap shot attack on Allen.

Look: It's important for legislators to show up. But the job of a representative is to advance the interests of his or her constituents--not to a pursue perfect attendance record as an end in itself.

If Sen. Collins thinks attendance matters above all else she should say that. If she thinks this election should turn on the fate of legislation naming out-of-state post offices, she ought to explain why.


As the incisive Senate Guru notes, Maine GOP chair Mark Ellis' press release update--the one acknowledging that Rep. Allen was at a family funeral in Bangor during three House votes Ellis accused him of skipping--contains nothing resembling an apology.

(How did I miss that?)

So important questions remain: Does Ellis believe Allen abrogated his obligation to his constituents by attending the funeral? Does Sen. Collins--whose campaign took the lead in disseminating the original attack--think an apology is in order?

Or does she concur with Ellis that Allen's absence--for a family funeral--indicates that the six-term Democrat "seems to have lost interest in showing up to work."

And does anyone in the Maine press corp find any of this salient enough to be worth a couple hundred words?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


From the Collins campaign, via its internet guru Lance Dutson, we get wind of this Maine GOP press release:

Congressman Tom Allen missed each of the three votes the House of Representatives held yesterday, bringing his missed votes total to 132...

Maine Republican Party Chairman Mark Ellis said, "Congressman Allen really seems to have lost interest in showing up to work. At the very least, he should tell his constituents why he is choosing to leave them unrepresented in Congress less than a year after he was reelected. For these and the many other days that Tom has skipped votes, Mainers deserve to know the answer to the question: Where was Tom?"
Later amended as follows:
“It has come to our attention that Congressman Tom Allen was in Bangor on Monday attending the funeral of a family member. Without question, the most difficult times in our lives are those in which we grieve for the loss of family or friends. Our thoughts are with Congressman Allen and his family during this difficult time,” said Maine Republican Party Chairman Mark Ellis.
Look, I'm agnostic on the Collins camp's "missed votes" allegation, at least until I see some hard data: If Allen missed close-call votes on important issues, then he certainly deserves to be taken to task.

On the other hand, if what we're talking about is mostly near-unanimous resolutions, procedural votes and the occasional post office naming, then it's a silly, distracting charge.

So it's time for Collins and her Maine GOP allies to show their cards here, and tell us why these particular votes were so important.

Otherwise, they wind up looking petty or callous. Or--as they do in this case--both.

UPDATE: I seem to have picked nearly the same headline as Kos, who I think may have beaten me to the punch by an hour or two.

That'll teach me not to leave the house...

The Freedom Agenda

The more I think about Sen. Collins' habeas votes, the more convinced I become that they'll come back to bite her during the campaign. And not just because the more recent vote exposed a widening rift between the junior senator and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

Allow me to explain.

For those who are a little fuzzy on their high school civics, habeas corpus is the right to challenge one's imprisonment in a court of law.

Or to put it even more plainly: When the government knocks on your door and takes you away, habeas is what entitles you to tell a judge "Wait a second. They got the wrong guy."

So we're talking about something pretty basic here. And while I'm no expert, it seems safe to call habeas a foundational principle of Western law and culture--the kind of basic minimum standard that helps us tell the difference between societies that respect individual autonomy and those that don't.

So Collins' votes against habeas are a stark reminder of which side she's been on these last few years in the battle between the rule of law and creeping autocracy.

They're a clear example--in the way the Iraq war, with its various nuances and complexities, isn't--that when it's mattered, Sen. Collins has helped advance the slow march toward lawlessness and national disrepute rather than confronting it.

And there's nothing "moderate" or "centrist" about that.

But more than that: There's nothing "conservative" about stripping people of core legal rights, or about refusing an opportunity to undo the wrong one year later.

The truth is, stripping habeas was a radical, reactionary step, undertaken by people who think that the Magna Carta and the US Constitution got things fundamentally wrong.

And in standing with the Bushes and Cheneys and Gonzaleses of the world--rather than the Arlen Specters and Colin Powells and Olympia Snowes--Sen. Collins enabled, supported and participated in their radical agenda.

That she did this without (at least to my knowledge) so much as issuing an explanatory press release underscores the junior senator's stunning disrespect for basic human freedoms.

It's a remarkable turn of events, and one I wish the Maine press would explore--or at least touch on. In any case, it's a topic I'll be returning to as the campaign unfolds.