Thursday, November 29, 2007

Away Game

In Susan Cover's interview with Maine Republican Party Executive Director Julie O’Brien, we learn:

Early in 2008, Republican incumbent Sen. Susan Collins will open her campaign headquarters in Portland, and O’Brien expects national attention to follow soon thereafter.

“I do know people on the national level will be playing in Maine with resources,” she said.

Will be? I'd say the floodgates are already open.

As we noted two weeks ago:

Seven out of every ten dollars raised by Collins has come from outside of Maine.

She's raised more money for this race in the DC metro region than from any city in Maine.

She's raised more money from one zip code in Paradise Valley, AZ than any Maine zip code but one. (04107: Cape Elizabeth.)

And she's raised more money from business PACs than from all of her in-state donors combined.
Call me kooky, but I think that qualifies as "national attention."

Or is Sen. Collins camp planning to crank it up a couple of notches?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Collins and Race

Sen. Trent Lott's (R-MS) retirement is a reminder that the Julie Myers episode isn't the first time Sen. Collins has allowed racial sensitivity to take a backseat to other considerations.

Lott, you'll remember, was widely condemned after observing, at the birthday of then-Senator Strom Thurmond, who ran in the 1948 presidential race as a segregationist:

We voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years, either.
But that wasn't all.

It soon became apparent that Lott had a long history of racially-charge rhetoric, coded racial appeals and association with known segregationists.

As the controversy snowballed, growing uglier and more humiliating by the day, the GOP found itself in crisis. There was no choice but to take decisive action to remove the stain: Lott was swiftly booted from his Senate leadership post.

Flash forward to 2006: Less than four years after exposing himself as a dabbler in racism and an ally of racists, Lott makes the surprising decision to run for Senate minority whip. And incredibly, he wins.

The hard-fought contest against Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) ends in a 25-24 vote among Republican senators.

Following Lott's victory, Republicans moved quickly to dispel the notion that his resurrection said anything about their racial attitudes. They denied that his elevation to the leadership amounted to tacit tolerance for racism and disputed that earlier repudiations of his behavior were political theatre.

What, you may ask, does any of this have to do with Maine's junior senator?

Sen. Collins cast the deciding vote in Lott's favor.

That's right: Faced with a choice between elevating Lott and freezing him out, the junior senator opted to make him the number two Republican in the Senate.

Now. Let me be clear. I'm not saying Collins is a racist--I have no reason to believe that's the case.

But both the vote for Lott and the support for Myers do suggest that when it comes to race, Collins is willing to tolerate conduct that crosses way over the line.

And that she's ready to forgive racism among her Republican allies even when letting them off the hook sends a depressing message to racism's victims.

Make of that what you will.

UPDATE: Is it all about money? I doubt it. But Lott's PAC New Republican Majority Fund has contributed $5,000 to Sen. Collins this cycle.

UPDATE UPDATE: Via Senate Guru here's a link to the definitive account of Collins' role in putting Lott back in the GOP leadership in the senate.

Myers Watch

Unlike Sen. Collins, both the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle have come out against the Julie Myers nomination.

From the Plain Dealer:

When Julie Myers judged as "most original" a white employee's Halloween costume--dark makeup, dreadlocks and a prison jumpsuit--it wasn't the first time she was exposed as woefully unqualified to lead the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch.

Two years ago, when President Bush nominated her, Congress questioned her ability to direct a $4 billion agency of 20,000. At the time, Ohio Sen. George Voinovich wanted a personal explanation from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff as to "why he thinks you're qualified for the job, because based on the résumé, I don't think you are."

He was right, and it's time for her to go.


Directing ICE should not be a patronage bone. The agency deserves a top-caliber manager who can deftly steer it through tumultuous times. Myers isn't that person.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Collins Calls for Higher Taxes?

Apparently so. (Via Maine Democrats.)

Although you have to wonder why BDN snuck the article's most interesting revelation into the nineteenth paragraph of a twenty-one paragraph story:

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, expects there will be a temporary patch of the AMT this year, even though she supports a permanent repeal of the tax. She said a better way to assure upper-income taxpayers pay more in taxes would be to set higher rates for them instead of using the AMT.
Let's unpack this.

Collins wants to permanently repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax, which the article says will hit about 85,000 Mainers this year.

And she wants to pay for it with higher rates for "upper-income taxpayers."

Fair enough: It's a perfectly legitimate position to take. But it's an extraordinarily strange stance for someone who's voted for every single one of President Bush's giant, budget-busting tax cuts for the super-rich.

Does Collins now regret those votes? Is she ready to repudiate them?

BDN reporter Mal Leary doesn't seem to have asked those questions. But someone better: Repealing the AMT will cost approximately $800 billion over the next decade.

That comes to more than $2500 for every man, woman and child in America. Not exactly pocket change.

So if Sen. Collins wants to close the gap by raising taxes on "upper-income taxpayers" Mainers deserve to know exactly which taxpayers she has in mind.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Myers Watch

In the wake of the notorious Halloween party incident, Sen. Collins--in a rare show of openness and clarity--has gone ahead and taken a bold, decisive stand on the nomination of Julie Myers to head the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).


Well, not so fast.

Because it turns out that Collins has taken exactly the wrong position: She says she'll vote to confirm the thirty-six year-old lawyer.

"Sen. Collins has concluded that Ms. Myers recognizes that she made serious mistakes in judgment. She clearly regrets the incident and has apologized. Despite this incident, Sen. Collins believes that Ms. Myers has done a good job leading ICE," said Collins' spokeswoman.
This is a big deal.

Remember, Myers arrived at ICE in 2006 without any relevant immigration or managerial experience. Connections were her main credential: She's the niece of retired Joint Chiefs Chair Richard B. Myers and the wife of Michael Chertoff's then-chief of staff.

Two years later, the Halloween incident--with Myers' display of casual racism and staggeringly bad judgment--gives Collins the perfect opportunity to withdraw her support for a nomination that should never have been put forward in the first place.

And yet, as red state Republicans abandon ship, Collins still stands with the Bushies.

Not last year. Not last month. Today.

With everything the country's been through, she's still content to side with cronyism against competence; with stunningly bad judgment at the expense of professionalism; with racial insensitivity--at the top of an immigration-related agency, no less--and against accountability.

Has the junior senator learned nothing over the last seven years? From the Iraq fiasco? From the Walter Reed mess? From Hurricane Katrina?

Simply put: When is enough enough?

This is about abetting political sleaze, to be sure. It's about political favors and horsetrading and nepotism. But it isn't just about that.

Because ICE is one of the most important agencies in the executive branch.

It's charged with one of the trickiest and most important jobs in government: Protecting our borders and keeping Americans safe while at the same time allowing goods and people to move smoothly and efficiently over national boundaries.

It's pivotal, in other words, to both our national security and economic well-being.

Especially to Maine, with its $4+ billion trading relationship with Canada.

So how else to read Collins' support for Myers but as a repudiation of Maine voters and their interests?

And if the junior senator is willing to thumb her nose at constituents during a contested campaign, what can Mainers expect from her after she wins re-election?

Office Hours

Press Release:

U.S. Senator Susan Collins today announced that a representative from her Augusta office will hold office hours in Cambridge on Thursday, November 29th.

Staff Assistant Charles Mahaleris 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.

Cambridge Town Office
202 Ripley Road
Thursday, November 29th
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Questions can be directed to Senator Collins’ Augusta office at 207-622-8414.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Myers Watch

Here's Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) on the status of Julie Myers's nomination to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE):

"Our nation's immigration enforcement agency needs noncontroversial leadership. That would be best served by going in a different direction with this nomination."
So Bond--no liberal pawn--wants her out.

Where is Sen. Collins on the Myers nomination? Would it be so hard for her to do the right thing here?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Senator From Away?

In comments over at Turn Maine Blue, GordonM points to the updated fundraising tallies over at, which now include the 2008 race.

There's a wealth of data on the site. And looking it over, one quickly learns that Collins has raised more money--and a higher percentage of her money--out-of-state than has Rep. Allen.

But that's really the least of it.

Because just about every statistic listed has one fascinating thing in common: They all puncture the narrative that the Collins camp has been pushing throughout this campaign.


Seven out of every ten dollars raised by Collins has come from outside of Maine.

She's raised more money for this race in the DC metro region than from any city in Maine.

She's raised more money from one zip code in Paradise Valley, AZ than any Maine zip code but one. (04107: Cape Elizabeth.)

And she's raised more money from business PACs than from all of her in-state donors combined.

It's not clear to me how the candidate favored by Washington DC, big business and Paradise Valley, AZ has gotten away with portraying herself as the victim of outside forces rather than the tool of them.

But it's clearly time for the Maine media to stop indulging this fantasy.

UPDATE: Just in case you were wondering--we certainly were--Paradise Valley, AZ is a town of 14,558 just outside Phoenix.

According to Wikipedia, it sports twelve resorts, a median household income of $150,228 and a median home price of $1.74 million.

Collins: I Need $8 Mil

This according to the Philadelphia-based Jewish Exponent.

The kicker--wait for it--is that Collins says she wants to raise most of that money outside Maine:

Collins said that she needs to raise at least $8 million to remain competitive, the bulk of which would need to come from out-of-state donors.

In fact, picking up some campaign cash was high on Collins' agenda while here in Pennsylvania.

Toward that end, [Republican Jewish Coalition] member Judy Davidson hosted a Sunday-night fundraiser for the senator in Chester County.
Where to start?

It's worth mentioning, first, that I've never understood the view that money raised out-of-state is somehow tainted. This is a big country, we're all Americans and we all have a right (a duty?) to be involved in the national political process.

But here's the thing: That position has not been Sen. Collin's position.

In fact, back in April, she castigated her political opponents for daring to use out-of-state dollars to fuel their ad campaign.

And now she's not only welcoming out-of-state donations. She's making them the backbone of her financing operation and declaring them a critical part of her campaign strategy?

Others can decide where this ranks on the hypocrisy meter.

But the next time the Collins camp talks about the nefarious influence of Maine outsiders, the first question should be why they're defaming their own donors.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The 'B' Word

John Aravosis has a question for Sen. Collins.

Collins Still Opposes Iraq Timelines

Just in case there was any doubt:

Collins, who won't decide whether to support the war supplemental until she sees the language, said the key to the Nelson-Collins proposal is its call for a change of mission in Iraq without specifically setting any withdrawal timelines.

If President Bush, Sen. Collins and Collins presidential endorsee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) get their way, we'll be in Iraq for a very, very long time.

UPDATE: For those just tuning in, it's worth underscoring that Collins is the only member of the Maine congressional delegation to oppose an Iraq redeployment timeline.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Duffy: Collins Vulnerable


Of the 11 Senate seats rated as competitive by Jennifer Duffy, an analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, only two belong to Democrats, and neither is considered to be in dire jeopardy.


Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) has $3 million in the bank; her Democratic challenger, Rep. Tom Allen, has $2 million. This is Collins’ first serious challenge, and the timing could be fatal.

A moderate from a small state where the war in Iraq and President Bush are highly unpopular, her profile mirrors that of former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R), who lost his seat last year.

“If they can wrap Bush around Chafee’s neck, why not Collins?” asks Duffy.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Horses, Barns, Etc.

Sen. Collins has a new blog post up patting herself on the back for her work on the new federal contracting bill:

The legislation will implement many reforms, including requiring more competition in the award of government contracts. Fewer than 50 percent of federal contracts are awarded using full and open competition despite the obvious benefits of lower prices and better quality that competition helps to ensure.
I haven't read enough about the bill to have an opinion of it.

But the key take-away point here is: That horse has already left the barn.

Look: Collins was chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs from the beginning of the Iraq war through 2006.

She could have pushed through contracting reform legislation in 2003, when stories of lax contracting procedures started to emerge.

She could have acted in 2004 as the problem grew worse, or in 2005, in the wake of the calamitous federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

Even in 2006, legislation outlawing the Bush administration's unique approach--a potent mixture of chaos and corruption--could have saved billions of dollars and perhaps even lives.

But Collins, the senator best-positioned to force change, didn't lift a finger to hold the Bushies accountable for their dangerous and expensive procurement practices. As our Iraq adventure morphed from a failure into a tragedy, and then into an abomination, she stayed on the sidelines.

It's a particularly glaring (and costly) example of fecklessness in the face of disaster. And it's one that ought to be aired and analyzed during this senate race.

Mooney: Maine Wants New Leaders

Am I wrong to read this Op-Ed by Republican second district congressional candidate Thomas Cornelius Mooney as a slap at Sen. Collins? I don't think so:

A palpable sense of desperation was evident in the voice of most every person involved in this teleconference. And while Sen. Collins was very empathetic and considerate in her responses to them, one couldn’t help but come away with the sense that a majority of Mainers remain deeply dissatisfied with our leaders, and that our nation is very much on the wrong track.


Americans must now elect new, more courageous leadership to help transform our nation; to reprioritize spending, and invest in our own people, for this season, and for seasons to come.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

They Write Op-Eds

Craig and Kathie Jamison Cote, in Saturday's BDN:

Veterans Day holds a special significance for us as the parents of a sergeant tank commander in the U.S. Army serving in Iraq.


Instead of accepting the reality of the situation on the ground and listening to the American people, the president continues to stand by a failed strategy and Sen. Collins follows him down this dangerous path, at times saying that she is against the war but refusing to support binding legislation to end it. She is the lone remaining member of our state's congressional delegation to endorse the president's failed policy.


Sen. Collins won't even explain her position to her constituents, having turned down an invitation to a community town hall to discuss Iraq in Orono this summer. As constituents of Sen. Collins, and as the parents of a soldier serving in Iraq, we find it personally insulting that Sen. Collins won't answer questions from her constituents on the war in such forums.
Emphasis added.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Myers Watch

When a young lawyer named Julie Myers was nominated in 2005 to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), questions were raised about her thin resume, which didn't contain any relevant immigration or bureaucracy management experience.

She did happen, however, to be the niece of retired Joint Chiefs Chair Richard B. Myers, and the wife of Michael Chertoff's chief of staff. Seriously.

Democrats held up her nomination.

But Myers, 36--vastly underqualified to manager a giant new agency with 20,000 employees--was given a recess appointment by the Bush administration.

Sen. Collins supported Myers.

Flash forward to this week: With Myers once again up for confirmation (as her recess appointment nears its expiration) Collins is having second thoughts:

A key Senate Republican has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding a controversial Halloween party at the Homeland Security Department, in which an agency director approved of a racially insensitive costume.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Wednesday she asked her staff to question Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Julie Myers over the incident.

Myers, whose confirmation is pending in the Senate, had judged an employee's costume of dreadlocks, dark makeup and prison stripes as the most original at an ICE party last week and even posed for photographs with the worker.

Collins said she is now withholding judgment whether to support Myers' nomination.
Myers also allegedly had the photographs destroyed.

In any event, with the Myers nomination--and as so often seems to be the case--Sen. Collins seems to be less troubled by questions of substance than with appearances.

Of course, in this case, appearances matter: It's beyond unprofessional for the head of a major government agency to tolerate casual racism, let alone to endorse it.

But anyone who was paying attention knew Myers wasn't right for the ICE job two years ago.

Rothenberg: Collins Vulnerable

Via Maine Politics, we learn that the latest rankings from the Rothenberg Political Report classify the Collins-Allen race as "narrow advantage for incumbent."

It's one of eight races the nonpartisan report sees as competitive.

Mukasey Watch

I'm a little late in noting that Sen. Collins voted in favor of Michael Mukasey's appointment as Attorney General yesterday.

Apparently she's content to have a chief law enforcement officer who's vague about whether he intends to enforce the laws.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Allen: Iraq War A Fiscal Mess, Too

They write columns:

Advocates of changing the mission say it could leave around 60,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely (although the number could be much higher). The CBO evaluated a scenario that is consistent with this strategy at a cost of another $687 billion through 2017. And, since all of this is deficit spending, CBO projects that American taxpayers will spend an additional $152 billion in interest on this borrowed money by 2017.

As a member of Congress for 11 years and of the House Budget Committee for the last three, I can attest that such forecasts invariably underestimate the eventual cost and that the credibility of predictions from administration officials has been consistently unreliable.
$687 billion could cover a lot of diabetes prevention programs.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Another New Poll

Via Senate Guru, we learn of another poll, this one from Survey USA: Collins 55%; Allen 38%.

Those numbers are roughly in line with what we've been seeing elsewhere lately.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Maine and Term Limits

Maine Democrats flags a Kennebec Journal article discussing Tuesday's election referendum number five:

The fifth ballot question would extend term limits for state legislators from four consecutive terms, or eight years; to six consecutive terms, or 12 years.

Voters passed the current law in 1993, effective in 1996. Maine is one of 15 states with term limits for state lawmakers, and the only one in New England.


In a statewide poll of likely voters released last week...most opposed changing the term-limits law.

The Critical Insights poll of 408 people, with a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points, found...close to two-thirds of those polled--64 percent--opposed allowing state lawmakers to keep their jobs longer. Only 32 percent supported it, with another 4 percent undecided.

Of course, whether it tells us anything about how Mainers will weigh Sen. Collins' broken term-limit promise as the 2008 race heats up is an open question.

But the lopsided results suggest breaking the two-term pledge just might come back to haunt her.

Friday, November 2, 2007

New Poll

Via Maine Web Report we learn about a new poll from Critical insights: 54% to 34%, in favor of Sen. Collins. 12% undecided.

Charge It

Sen. Collins sure has a lot of ideas for spending tax dollars.

The problem is, you can't have it both ways: You can't support every single one of President Bush's budget-busting tax cuts for the mega-rich, and then turn around and complain about funding cuts.

While at the same time touting your credentials as a deficit hawk.

Most Republicans want to cut taxes and shrink the government. Most Democrats want to let tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires expire, investing the revenue in healthcare, the environment, etc.

But Sen. Collins votes for low taxes for the rich and plenty of new spending.

It's an intellectually dishonest and fiscally irresponsible position. And it's one of the reasons the country is swimming in debt.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

All Pops and Buzzes

Sen. Collins says that "a lot more work needs to be done." And she calls for agencies to work together.

But I don't think I can locate a single idea, proposal or bit of policy analysis in this entire five minute softball interview:

Encouraging people to work better or harder or with more coordination isn't leadership. It's cheerleading.