Monday, June 30, 2008

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins:

"I represent a state that has very limited income and only a small number of people who are able to help me financially...Having my colleagues be willing to host fundraisers for me in their states is a big help."
CQ Weekly reports that Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) used his donor list to fill a Tennessee fundraiser for Collins and that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) held a Washington D.C. fundraiser for the junior senator earlier this month.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Quote of the Day

Karen Hanretty, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee:

"This is a challenging environment," she said. "Any Republican running for office has to run basically on an independent platform, localize the race and not take anything for granted. There are no safe Republican seats in this election."
(Via Daily Kos.)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Quote of the Day

State Chairman of the Maine Republican Party Mark J. Ellis:

Our next president will likely be making appointments to SCOTUS and, now more than ever, we need justices like Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Stat of the Day

We've received three eNewsletters from Sen. Collins since last June, including one that hit our inbox on Wednesday.

The word "Iraq" hasn't appeared in any of them.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

And That Leaves...?

Gerald flags the news that Blethen Newspapers (which owns Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal, and the Morning Sentinel) is letting go more reporters. Including, apparently, all the scribes on the politics beat:

Al Diamon is reporting on his blog that Blethen Newspapers is laying off more staff, this time including their three political reporters, Jonathan Kaplan, Paul Carrier, and Kevin Wack...

It is unclear just who will be covering political events throughout southern Maine.

We've had our issues with Blethen coverage from time to time. But this is still pretty terrible news.

Pot, Kettle, Astroturf, Etc.

A letter from Joe Bruno of Raymond in the PPH:

It is obvious to me and many others that there is a calculated and organized letter-writing campaign trying to denigrate a fine U.S. senator like Susan Collins. This is the work of national organizations like [sic]...


As a selectman in Raymond, when we needed help with a federal issue, Sen. Collins' office responded quickly and intervened to address the issue. That's more than I can say about our representative...

Please join me in rejecting negative campaigning by voting for Sen. Collins and keep our highly respected Sen. Collins in the U.S. Senate.
Yes, the usual baseless charges and manufactured indignation.

But get a load of this coincidence: Not only is this guy's name Joe Bruno. There's also a former Maine House Republican Leader and state Republican Party Chair named Joe Bruno! And both Joe Brunos hail from Raymond!

What are the chances?

Maybe the next time a GOP bigwig writes in with a cut-and-paste version of the Collins camp's talking points, PPH will insist on a full identification. But I'm not holding my breath.

UPDATE: I'm afraid I may have been a bit too coy above: Let's be clear about what's going on here.

I try to read as many letters to the editor in Maine papers as I can. And over the last year or so, there have been no fewer than eight pro-Collins letters published in Maine papers written by unidentified or under-identified members of the Maine GOP apparatus.

(By contrast, I've spotted literally only a handful of pro-Collins letters that don't seem to be connected to party elites.)

So what we have here is a former House leader and state party chair complaining about a stealth, calculated negative letter writing campaign as part of what appears to be a stealth, calculated negative letter writing campaign.

Blogger Josh Marshall calls this, "up-is-downism." I'll just note that it's a lot easier to get away with sliming your opponent if you can make it sound like he slimed you first.


As we've often noted, Sen. Collins seems to have an aversion to answering questions from Maine voters: How else to explain the fact that she hasn't stood before adult Mainers in an open forum for (as far as we can tell) more than 16 months?

Well, there's news. The junior senator is slated to participate in a public panel--and to answer audience questions--on July 11. So mark your calendars!

One caveat: The event starts at 9am, so you'll want to hit the road early. Very early. Y'know what? It might make sense to forget about sleeping the night before.

That's right. What just might be the best (only?) chance between now and election day for average Mainers to pose a question to Sen. Collins is taking place at an elite Washington D.C. think tank 495 miles from the Maine border.

Of course, there could well be Q & A opportunities down the line. But I wouldn't bet on it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

BDN Plays Politics

The raging lefties at BDN have now joined their hippie friends at PPH in condemning the FISA legislation that the Collins campaign is touting.

The BDN editorial characterizes the Senate version as, among other things, "premature" and an affront to states' rights.

Pretty remarkable that just about everyone but Sen. Collins is playing politics on this issue.

Quote of the Day

Chris Powell, managing editor of the Connecticut-based Journal Inquirer and a one-time Republican state senate candidate:

For mistaking symptoms for causes, it would be hard to outdo U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, with their proposal to prohibit pension funds and government agencies from investing in commodities...

In seeking to prohibit pension funds from investing in commodities...Lieberman and Collins would punish not just supposed speculators but also ordinary working people, whose pension fund investments in commodities may be the only practical way for them to protect themselves against dollar devaluation.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Politics of Speculation

For some time now, Sen. Collins' most conspicuous and forceful response to the energy crisis has been to blame speculators for the run-up in gas prices. And today she and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) are holding a hearing on the impact of speculation.

Now, we've never taken a single course in economics--so we're out of our depth here. But when Paul Krugman and the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal both think an idea is nonsense, it gets our attention.

Here's Krugman on energy speculation:

A futures contract is a bet about the future price. It has no, zero, nada direct effect on the spot price...

Any effect on the spot market has to be indirect: someone who actually has oil to sell decides to sell a futures contract to Joe Shmoe, and holds oil off the market so he can honor that contract when it comes due; this is worth doing if the futures price is sufficiently above the current price to more than make up for the storage and interest costs.

As I've tried to point out, there just isn't any evidence from the inventory data that this is happening.
Here's the Journal:
Every dogma has its day, and so it is with the posturing that blames the run-up in oil prices on "speculators." The new political consensus is that further "common-sense regulation" of the energy futures market is necessary. Let's grant that the sentiment is common, but the sense--like the evidence--is nonexistent.


The futures market may be a convenient scapegoat, but it's simply a price discovery mechanism. Major energy consumers--refiners, airlines--buy and sell these contracts to lock in goods at a future price, as a hedge against volatility...
Is the case against blaming speculators really as airtight as this? It can't be.

Because that would mean Sen. Collins was, well, playing politics. And as we all know, that could never happen.

Quote of the Day

The Portland Press Herald, in an editorial lambasting the FISA "compromise":

Even if the government asks you to break a law, the law still exists. Lawsuits that would have probed whether the companies knowingly complied--despite having legal departments that are well aware of what they are allowed to turn over without a warrant--will now conveniently go away.
Guess they're playing politics too.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Collins to MPBN: No Comment

Gerald flags a report from MBPN on Sen. Collins' role in the Iraq war contracting mess.

There's little new in the piece, but this is striking:

For the duration of the election cycle, MPBN is asking candidates to personally respond to remarks directly voiced by their opponents. Sen. Collins did not do so for this story.
Given a prime opportunity to explain her decision to forego oversight of Iraq contracting by a major media outlet, the junior senator instead chooses silence.

After trotting out four different talking points to justify her inaction, this approach is perhaps the most telling.

It speaks volumes.

Collins Slams Allen on FISA

Collins camp internet czar Lance Dutson posts a press release from the campaign under the title, "TOM ALLEN VOTES (AGAIN) TO JEOPARDIZE THE SAFETY OF AMERICAN PEOPLE." And it gets better:

Congressman Tom Allen chose politics over the safety and security of the American people by voting Friday with a small minority against a bipartisan compromise that would modernize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA
A couple of points.

First, we're beginning to see a pattern from the Collins folks where any vote, action or suggestion they disagree with is condemned as "politics." Sen. Collins wants everyone to think of her (facts be damned) as some kind of transcendent, non-partisan figure. And so the argument seems to be that anyone who disagrees with her is, ipso facto, playing politics.

Second, about the substance: Nowhere in Collins' release does she mention that the bill grants retroactive legal immunity to telecom companies that broke the law by violating privacy agreements with their customers, or that the legislation would scuttle a lawsuit against the companies by Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe and a complaint currently before the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

In fact, I don't believe Collins has ever fully explained why huge corporations that spied illegally on their customers deserve get-out-of-jail free cards, or which other business interests she thinks deserve the right to break the law with impunity.

But I'm sure her explanation--assuming we ever get one--will have nothing whatsoever to do with politics.

UPDATE: A statement from Rep. Allen:

As I have stated before, neither the government nor large telecommunications corporations are above the law; everyone must be held accountable. This ‘compromise’ fails to hold either the Bush administration or the telecommunications companies to the same standards that apply to other Americans.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Anatomy of a Dodge

When Sen. Collins' failure to investigate corrupt procurement practices first gained traction as an issue in January, the junior senator explained away her inaction by claiming that she didn't want to duplicate the work of others.

In February, her rationale shifted--a spokesman asserted that requests for oversight all the way back to 2003 amounted to a partisan effort by a single overzealous Democrat.

After we debunked that argument, Collins moved on to a third set of justifications: Hearings themselves, she implied, are nothing more than political theatre.

Now that version 3.0 has proven weak, the Collins camp is unveiling its fourth rationalization in a mere six months:

"These misleading claims...have been discredited in the past," Kevin Kelly, Collins' campaign spokesman, said in a statement.
Naturally, no word on what's supposed to have been misleading.

And for the record, we've yet to see even an attempt from the Collins camp to discredit the notion that Collins sat on her hands while Iraq burned, let alone a successful refutation of the charge.

And we've been following the issue pretty closely.

Friday, June 20, 2008

BDN in the Tank

And I don't mean the aquarium. Gerald has the latest bit of nonsense.

Centrism Watch

Spot a newspaper article that calls Sen. Collins a "centrist"? Or a TV news report that labels her a "moderate"? How about a radio broadcast in which she's characterized as a "progressive"?

We want to hear about it.

Obviously, straight news reports will be of most interest. But please get in touch about editorials, op-Eds and commentaries too.

And remember that we also want to hear about political phone calls and mailers all the way up through November.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What's Appropriate

As we noted earlier today, Sen. Collins' vote in favor of the Military Commissions Act helped secure one of the ugliest and most important legislative victories of the Bush presidency.

The act trampled the constitutional principle of habeas corpus, ignored the separation of powers and granted retroactive immunity for certain kinds of war crimes.

As if to underscore her support for the Bush policy, Collins later refused an opportunity to restore habeas corpus, breaking rather publicly with Sen. Snowe in the process.

So, as Gerald notes, it's particularly rich for the junior senator to turn around and, in the middle of an election campaign, complain about the appropriateness of interrogation tactics at Guantanamo Bay.

As her friend President Bush might say, that accountability moment has already passed.

New Poll: 7 Points

Via Daily Kos and TMB, a new Rasmussen poll is out:

Tom Allen (D): 42 (42) (38)

Susan Collins (R-inc): 49 (52) (54)

Numbers in parenthesis are from 5/14 and 4/1, respectively.

From Rasmussen's analysis:

Senator Susan Collins’ lead in her bid for reelection in Maine continues to fade...

Two months ago Collins led her Democratic challenger Tom Allen by 16 percentage points, but that spread fell to 10 points in May. Now her lead is down to seven points, 49% to 42%, dropping her below 50% for the first time and putting her among the Republican senators at risk this November. Incumbents who poll less than 50% are generally viewed as potentially vulnerable.

Collins' favorability rating has fallen as well for the third month in a row, but she is still is viewed favorably by a substantial majority of Maine voters (65%), down from 70% last month. By a nearly identical number, the incumbent’s unfavorables have risen from 29% in May to 33% now.


Collins...leads Allen by 14% among men but has just a two-point edge among women voters.


Among Democrats, Allen’s support has increased to 72% this month, up from 64% in May. Twenty-four percent (24%) still support Collins.

However, when it comes to unaffiliated voters, Collins leads 52% to 34%. These numbers represent a major improvement for the incumbent since last month when the two candidates were tied at 44%.
Well, shows what I know.

UPDATE: An 18 point swing to Collins among independents? That seems like noise, or a sampling error. We'll have to wait till next month to see whether the May or June number is the outlier.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Breaking it Down

It's as clear as ever that the Maine media's near-monolithic view of Sen. Collins as a "moderate" or "centrist"--in the face of strong contrary evidence--stems from something other than garden variety sloppiness.

We took a stab at analyzing the myth's strength and persistence last week. And we've spent more than a year debunking the notion that Collins has been some sort of GOP maverick.

But until now, we've never boiled that case down to its simplest, barest essence. So here it is.

MYTH #1: Sure, Collins sides with President Bush now and then. But she sides with the Democrats just as often.

False. The junior senator has voted with the President 81% of the time.

MYTH #2: The 81% number is misleading. The point is, when it comes to the big issues, Collins routinely stands up to her party and the President.

Well, let's see.

Reasonable people can disagree about what to include in a list of the Bush administration's top legislative priorities over the years. But this is a good place to start:

1. Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq [link]

2. Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 [link]

3. Defeating withdrawal time lines in Iraq supplementals--multiple votes [link]

4. Military Commissions Act of 2006 [link]

5. Confirmation of Samuel A. Alito to the Supreme Court [link]

6. Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 [link]

7. Legalizing warantless wiretapping via Protect America Act of 2007 [link]

8. Medicare Part 'D' [link]

9. No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 [link]

10. Energy Policy Act of 2005 [link]

Other strong candidates include the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, retroactive legal immunity for telecom companies and the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.

Now consider: The junior senator voted with President Bush on all of these.

To put her rock-solid GOP credentials in context: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) opposed the 2001 tax cuts and Medicare Part 'D'. And Sen. Snowe voted for Iraq withdrawal time lines and against the 2003 tax cuts while managing to miss the Military Commissions Act vote.

But when the stakes were highest, President Bush and the GOP got Susan Collins' support literally every single time.

MYTH #3 Even if Collins has cast some party-line votes, it's abundantly clear from her speeches and statements that she's just not a partisan person.

Well, now we're getting into existential territory: If you believe that being a centrist is more about posture than substance--more about what you profess to believe than what you actually do--then okay: Maybe on those terms, Collins is a moderate.

But then the word is meaningless as a political category. And to accept Collins as a moderate on that basis is to accept that the label is more about aura than actions; more akin to an article of faith than an evidence-based conclusion.

Collins-friendly Maine journalists are certainly free to adopt a faith-based approach in the voting booth. But they have an obligation to keep it out of their reporting.

(Footnote: Cynical readers may assume the above list is a cherry-picked assemblage of Collins' Bush-friendly votes rather than a good-faith effort to rank the President's top priorities. I deny this, and encourage such readers to document glaring omissions to the list in comments.

Note, though, that I omitted the Afghanistan use of force resolution and the USA Patriot Act from contention because they were uncontroversial. And I ruled out the administration's Social Security privatization effort because it never congealed into a concrete legislative proposal.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Allen: Big Majority, Big Change

Rep. Allen thinks it's 1964 all over again.

Think he's right?

UPDATE: Gerald notices the Maine Sunday Telegram's strange, sort of baffling editorial on the same topic.

The writer deserves credit for organizing the piece around the (sound) assumption that on the issues, Allen is a better fit for Maine than Sen. Collins.

But given the sensible premise, a number of passages are all the more perplexing. None more so than this one:

Allen is asking that Maine voters do something that voters generally don't do: Set aside your feelings for his opponent on a personal level and vote your party and/or your politics...This will be a tough sell.
Forget whether this is correct. (No evidence is produced to support it.) More important: What's left unsaid is that the MST and it's sister publication, the Portland Press Herald, aren't exactly uninvolved parties here.

Their journalistic duty when it comes to covering politics is to deliver citizens the truth about pols and elections, and to explain the stakes.

So in an editorial on the senate race, you'd think seasoned journalists would come down firmly and clearly on the side of issues and substance over personality. But instead, we get this:

Americans tend to put a lot of stock into likability and other candidate qualities that have nothing to do with the issues. This is especially true of the swing voters who decide the tight races.
Okay, perhaps. (No evidence is cited here either.)

But if you're waiting for the part of the editorial where the MST rejects the notion that likability should trump substance, you're waiting in vain.

In fact, instead of using the opportunity to be a truth teller, debunking myths and disentangling fact from spin, the editorial repeats (again, with no evidence) the specious message that Collins has been a "moderate."

To be fair: It never argues in favor of the adolescent idea of politics as a popularity contest. It never suggests that stances on universal health care, soldiers coming home from Iraq and the future of the Supreme Court are less important than whether Collins is, "the opposite of slick."

But in the middle of an unpopular war and economic upheaval, during a time when it's never been clearer that elections have serious consequences, you'd think that anyone paying attention--let alone a prestigious editorial page--would use whatever column inches were available to council strongly against seeing the Allen-Collins race as a referendum on the junior senator's personal popularity.

Maybe that sentiment will be expressed in a future editorial. But--and call me a cynic--I'm not betting on it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Big Tent

So, here's something odd and compelling.

Check out this post from the Log Cabin Republicans blog, which places Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon, Sen. Collins and homophobe Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) within smiling inches of each other.

Explains Log Cabin blogger Scott Tucker:

Last night, Log Cabin Republicans hosted a fundraiser in Washington, DC for one of our endorsed Senate allies, Susan Collins (R-ME)...Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)...surprised the crowd by stopping by to express his support for Sen. Collins.
Surprised? I'll bet. (There's another pic here.)

Coburn, you see, has had some, well, interesting things to say about gays and gay rights over the years.

In the lead-up to his 2004 campaign, he told a Republican group:

The gay community has infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country, and they wield extreme power ... That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today. Why do you think we see the rationalization for abortion and multiple sexual partners? That's a gay agenda.
Around the same time, he warned of rampant lesbianism in Oklahoma schools.

(He's also called for the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions.)

Coburn explained his presence at Log Cabin event this way: "I always come to a fundraiser for Susan Collins. The Senate needs more people like her, and I’m proud to call her my friend."

So we have to ask: Why does Sen. Collins welcome the support of this dangerous man?

And why does Coburn see Collins' reelection as so important that he's willing to fight for it even if it winds up advancing the "gay agenda" that he thinks is "the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today"?

Finally, what of the Log Cabin Republicans? What kind of train wreck of an organization downplays the the virulent views of someone who longs for the group's political annihilation, and then goes out of its way to boast of its "friendship" with him?

As I said, odd and compelling. But not exactly pretty.

Can't say it reflects well on any of the parties involved.

A Revolution Stalled

Gerald flags yesterday's 5-4 verdict from the Supreme Court rejecting the suspension of habeas corpus and upholding the separation of powers. As Yale constitutional law professor Jack Balkin writes:

Boumediene is further proof, if any were necessary, that the constitutional revolution proposed by the Bush Administration after September 11, 2001 has failed.
It's a revolution that, per Gerald, Sen. Collins worked to advance.

And it may still succeed if the junior senator has her way.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

BBC: $23 Billion Wasted in Iraq

Maine Owl spots a new BBC report about the astronomical toll of waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq war contracting.

Back in 2003, Sen. Collins ignored pleas from many--including Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT)--to investigate war contracting. And while the true cost of her inaction is hard to quantify, the BBC number gives us somewhere to start.

Memo to the Maine press: Keeping your head down to protect your party and the President is a lot of things. But it ain't centrist.

Nonsense Watch

Journalism or mythmaking? Foster's Daily Democrat shows us all how it's done:

Collins has developed a centrist image...She is respected by Democratic colleagues as well as Republican ones, and she has given the Bush Administration the shivers and shakes on more than one occasion.
Naturally, no examples of this shiver-inducing behavior are cited.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The "Moderate" Narrative

Three distinct groups of people are responsible for the amazing power and endurance of the "Sen. Collins is a moderate" narrative. And while any discussion of them runs the risk of overgeneralizing, the narrative is potent enough that it's a risk worth taking.

First, there's the GOP noise machine. This includes Collins' senate and campaign staffs; her Republican allies in DC and Augusta; and Republican-friendly pundits, journalists, interest groups and organizations.

These people know full well that Collins has been there for President Bush whenever he's needed her and that she's a reliable Republican when it counts.

But because airing these facts would imperil their interests, supporters downplay the truth and advance the "moderate" narrative to protect Collins politically. (There are, of course, occasional bursts of candor.)

The second group is made up of under-informed progressives: Gore and Kerry-supporting Mainers and others who've been hearing the "moderate" narrative so long that they've come to believe it.

These people will tell you they "like" Susan Collins. Pressed further, they'll tout the junior senator's credentials as (nominally) pro-choice, pro-gay and pro-environmental protection.

But they don't know details, and often aren't interested in them. And because they hear so little in the Maine media that undercuts the established view of Collins, they have little reason to question their impressions--which makes them all the more powerful as narrative proponents.

The last group is the hardest to pin down, which may make it the most important to discuss. Call it the "centrist caucus." This group is made up of politicians, journalists, editorial boards, interest groups and Mainers with a stake--tangible or just intellectual--in the idea of transcending partisanship.

So we're talking about people like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a life-long liberal who had no path to power through the Democratic party and so styled himself as a centrist Republican.

We're talking about Human Rights Campaign, which justified its endorsement of the junior senator largely on the basis of a desire to endorse candidates from both parties.

And we're talking about national journalists and pundits who, in an electoral climate extraordinarily favorable to Democrats, are looking for ways to demonstrate their non-partisan credentials by singling out one or two Republicans for praise.

But we're also talking about people who may be your friends and neighbors--unaligned voters who profess to despise the partisan nature of politics.

These people are hungry for politicians who will reject party orthodoxy, but sometimes seem indifferent about the substance of the issues involved. They want a stop to all the bickering, but don't always see the point of taking the time to determine who's right and who's wrong.

These people are less interested in results than in tone. They're driven much less by issues than by posture.

Some of them don't know the truth about Collins' record. Others do, but are willing to overlook it: After all, members of the centrist caucus need someone to champion as an exemplar of their politics.

And with the nation polarized and Republicans in denial, Collins' willingness (occasionally) to at least make the right noises is enough to distinguish her from most of her GOP colleagues.

To Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to Human Rights Campaign, to the Maine press--that's enough to qualify her as a moderate in good standing.

The power of the moderate myth--and the degree to which it's entrenched in Sen. Collins' political narrative--points to the difficulty of Rep. Allen's task in this election.

He needs to first educate Mainers about Collins' record and issues positions and then make the argument against them.

It's not an insurmountable task. But the two-tiered nature of the effort certainly adds to the challenge.

Quote of the Day

From The New York Times:

"This issue whether to extend critical tax incentives right now should be, frankly, a straightforward decision," [Sen.] Snowe said. "This country is in an energy crisis, but by the way Congress acts, you wouldn’t know."
Sen. Collins voted to block the legislation.

Monday, June 9, 2008

What Senate Race?

Number of articles in the Minneapolis-based from 6/2-6/9 referencing Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN): 25.

Number of articles on the website of the Portland Press Herald from 6/2-6/9 referencing Sen. Collins: 7.

Number of those seven PPH articles focused on the CD-1 House race: 3.

Number of the remaining four articles focused primarily on the Senate race: 1.

Astroturf From Away

Jonathan Kaplan has a funny tidbit:

A non-profit group opposed to a key legislative priority for organized labor has confused Portland, Maine with Portland, Oregon.

"If Tom Allen thinks a private election is the best way to elect himself, why doesn’t he support the same system for working Oregonians?" the group writes on its Web site.

Of course, Democratic Rep. Allen is running in Maine against Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, who is seeking a third term. Oregon features its own potentially competitive Senate race.

"Just as they don’t know much about hard-working Mainers, they seem to know even less about geography," Carol Andrews, Allen's spokeswoman, said.

Tim Miller, the group's spokesman, said it was a "typo."
Still nothing from Sen. Collins to suggest she has a problem with these jokers.

On the Web

Bill in Portland Maine draws attention to the absence of policy discussion on Sen. Collins' campaign website. It's a topic I've considered tackling for a while. But I kept convincing myself that--surely--more issue detail was just around the corner.

And yet, except for a cursory, backward-looking list of "legislative accomplishments" the site contains virtually no discussion of the challenges facing Mainers and the nation.

That means no policy statement on Iraq. Or on health care. Or the economy, or taxes or education.

It's rather stunning, actually.

Rep. Allen's issues section could certainly use some bulking up. But Bill in Portland Maine is right: Allen's site is positively encyclopedic compared to the junior senator's effort.

Of course, an incisive reporter might wonder whether Collins' decision to forego nuts and bolts discussion signals anything about the nature of her candidacy, or about her priorities in the senate.

Hard Ball

Philip Anschutz, the right-wing billionaire whose GOP-aligned trumpeted the paranoid insinuation that Google was out to get Sen. Collins, owes $143.6 million in back taxes, according to the IRS.

Which is not to say this reflects in any way on the junior senator herself.

But the week after not the first, not the second but the third corporate-backed, anti-union astroturf organization began spending money in Maine to re-elect Collins, it's a reminder that her big money backers are willing to go to great lengths to defend their interests.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Get In Touch

Have you received a phone call about the Collins-Allen race? How about a piece of mail?

Even if you haven't yet, that's likely to change in the coming months. And when it does, we want to hear from you: E-mail us at the address at right with as much information as possible.

(If you're able to scan a mailer or tape a phone call, so much the better.)

As the race heats up, there's likely to be a lot of questionable "voter education" going on below the media radar--as Maine's recent brush with astroturf suggests. And we'd like to be able to shine some light on the more egregious examples.

But to do that, we'll need your eyes and ears. So please do be in touch.

Friday, June 6, 2008

More Berman has the scoop:

An organization called The Center For Union Facts has launched a nationwide television ad campaign attacking labor unions and supporting workers rights. Those ads recently ran on stations here in Maine, including NEWS CENTER.


The Center For Union Rights is a Washington D.C. Based 501-c3 non-profit organization...President of the Eastern Maine Labor Council, Jack McKay, says the Center is nothing but a front organization for lobbyists who are pro-big business and anti-union interests. McKay says the organization is run by Richard Berman, a notorious lobbyist for the alcohol, tobacco, and fast food industries.


Collins' Deputy Campaign Manager Felicia Knight issued a written statement addressing the ads.

"Senator Collins' campaign has nothing to do with these ads, which are currently airing in several media markets around the country."
It's one thing, of course, to say that the Collins camp "has nothing to do with the ads."

It would be something else to actually reject Berman's help, or criticize his dishonest, multi-pronged campaign.

UPDATE: From the Berman site FAQ:

"Is this part of a political effort? No. The Center for Union Facts doesn't support candidates for office. We are about education."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Test for Collins

The new Collins-friendly push poll from Richard Berman's anti-union astroturf group presents the junior senator with her first opportunity to stand by her camp's recent pledge to shun support from outside attack groups.

So will Collins repudiate Berman and his slimy tactics? Or will she and her staff sit by silently as the so-called Employee Freedom Action Committee works to malign Rep. Allen?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Push Poll?

Is a Republican-aligned, corporate-funded astroturf group push-polling Mainers for Sen. Collins' benefit?

It would appear so:

A survey released today by the non-profit Employee Freedom Action Committee (EFAC) revealed that Representative Thomas Allen trailed United States Senator Susan Collins in head-to-head general election match-up. Rep. Allen's prospects are not improved by his support of the misleadingly named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) or "card-check" legislation...

His support for card-check made 32% of voters less likely to support him and only 11% more likely to support his candidacy.
So, what exactly is the Employee Freedom Action Committee?

According to Oregon-based Willamette Week, "the group is headquartered in the office of D.C. lobbyist Richard Berman, who has a history of setting up AstroTurf groups for the tobacco and booze industries, as well as anti-union employers."

An internet search for NMB Research, which conducted the poll on EFAC's behalf, returns very few pertinent hits. But Google does turn up this $13,000 payment to NMB from the National Republican Congressional Committee. Go figure.

More on push-polling here.

UPDATE: More on Richard Berman here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Alito: The Job Application Memo

(This is the second in our series of posts on Justice Samuel Alito. Read the first here.)

Samuel Alito graduated from Princeton in 1972. After stints as a law clerk and an Assistant U.S. Attorney, he joined the Reagan administration as Assistant to the Solicitor General, where he served from 1981-85. He then applied for the job of Deputy Assistant to Attorney General Edwin Meese.

In a "personal qualifications statement" accompanying his application for the Deputy Assistant job, Alito wrote:

I am and always have been a conservative and an adherent to the same philosophical views that I believe are central to this administration...

In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions...

Most recently, it has been an honor and source of personal satisfaction for me to serve in the office of the Solicitor General during President Reagan's administration and to help advance legal positions to which I personally believe very strongly. I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court...that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion...
(Emphasis added.)

Alito got the job, and served as Deputy Assistant till 1987.

Supporters of Alito's nomination often noted that opposing abortion, as a personal or even political matter, doesn't amount to taking a position on its status under the Constitution. That's plainly correct: One can be against the death penalty, after all, without thinking it's unconstitutional.

But in describing his affinity for the Reagan administration's legal positions above, Alito isn't explaining his personal views. Instead, he's articulating his personal views of the Constitution. His legal views, in other words. And that's a huge difference.

It's especially significant because, at 35, he's writing as a seasoned constitutional lawyer. And because the conclusion he states is simple and unambiguous: That abortion isn't protected by the Constitution. Period.

He's so sure of this, in fact, that he goes out of his way to cite this view as an example of a legal position he holds "very strongly" and the advancement of which he is "particularly proud."

Naturally, to most observers who think the right to an abortion is protected by the Constitution, this was a red flag.

Indeed, The New York Times characterized Sen. Collins' reaction to the memo's public release as follows:

Two other Republican senators who support abortion rights, Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, expressed sharp concerns about the statement.
But the junior senator ultimately voted in favor of the nomination.

Monday, June 2, 2008

AP: Collins Has $4.6 Million in Cash

In a "pre-primary" report that takes us up to May 21, Collins has built up a $2 million cash advantage over Rep. Allen, the Associated Press reports.

Allen: Collins Cryptic on Health Care

In a brisk, substantive speech that repeatedly took on Sen. Collins, Rep. Allen addressed the Maine Democratic Convention on Saturday.

Allen observed that his disagreements with the junior senator are "in plain view" in the legislative record before criticizing Collins for her stances on Iraq, war contracting, economic policy and judges.

When the discussion shifted to health care, he allowed, "I don't have a clue" where Collins stands. has video in two parts here and here.