Thursday, July 31, 2008

And Yet Again

Is the lesson of the last six years that we need less regulation and oversight of government contracting?

Sen. Collins would have you believe that it is:

A Senate committee Wednesday approved a bill to extend the Homeland Security Department's authority to contract for specialized research and development without going through regular procurement regulations.


Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, who sponsored the bill, said it would provide "an important, alternative procurement strategy for research and development programs."

The idea, she said, is to accelerate prototyping of break-through technologies by companies that have not generally done business with the government. These firms are usually smaller and less able to handle multiple government regulations, she said.
Translation: More money for the Howe brothers. Less money for programs that actually protect the homeland.

At It Again

Sen. Collins' failure to police costly, corrupt and deadly military procurement practices while chair of the Homeland Security Committee will go down in history as one of our government's seminal Iraq war failures.

But the junior senator seems not to have learned her lesson.

This week, the Homeland Security Committee considered the nomination of Jim Williams to head the General Services Administration--the federal government agency that spends $16 billion a year managing, maintaining and supplying 8,300 federal buildings.

Like so many other Bush administration appointments, the Williams nomination raised red flags from the beginning: As a GSA officer, Williams had been involved in granting a suspect, controversial contract to Sun Microsystems.

Specifically, an investigation by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) found that:

Williams pressured a GSA contracting officer to approve [the] Sun contract, even though [he] knew GSA's inspector general had detected alleged fraud and had referred the matter to the Justice Department.

"As FAS commissioner, he was the top GSA official responsible for making the tough calls, and he chose not to protect the taxpayers," Grassley said. "He made the wrong choice. He is now accountable for that decision." Because of that choice, Grassley said, Williams should not be GSA administrator.
In fact, the Justice Department later sued Sun Microsystems for fraud.

But earlier this week, Collins placed a committee vote in favor of Williams' nomination. Here she is explaining her take on his role in the Sun contract:

“I don’t know if his actions were perfect in retrospect, but I am convinced that his motivations were always in the best interest of the taxpayers” Collins said.
So Williams has good intentions. Glad that's all that matters when it comes to executive-level government service.

Look: Susan Collins knows better.

But apparently, being a team player is more important to her than learning the lessons of the past; the rewards that come from not ruffling any feathers trump her interest in fiscal discipline and good government.

It's an unfortunate story, but an interesting one. And one that deserves to be told.

NRSC: Going For Broke

The National Republican Senatorial Committee and its chairman Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) are ready to give faith-based fundraising a try:

I will not allow our Republican candidates to be outspent by the DSCC this cycle. Therefore, it is my intention to give the NRSC's IE Unit the total budget to match the DSCC dollar for dollar in every state they run ads.

"While I am aware we do not currently have the funds to match the DSCC, I am giving our IE Unit this budget on faith--faith that my Republican colleagues will step up to the challenge and transfer the funds necessary to remain competitive with the Democrats. I have informed my colleagues that it is now up to them.
I know Republicans are down in the dumps this cycle. But does it make sense to sound this desperate?

In any case, no reason to feel sorry for Sen. Collins: You'll remember that the anti-union front groups have her back.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More Stevens

Here's another article from the national press. Still no word from the local papers.

Remember, less than a week ago, Blethen ran a "news update" on their website when a six week old poll with skewed demographics (and other problems) came out showing a sizable lead for Sen. Collins.

But they've yet to even mention the fact that the junior senator is washing her hands of $10,000 from a sitting fellow senator, or that her PAC gave him $5,000 just as the FBI investigation that led to yesterday's indictment gathered steam.


Tunnel Vision

Al Diamon wonders (via Maine Politics) why the Maine media has ignored the Sen. Collins angle of the Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) story, even as that angle gets plenty of coverage nationally.

Could it have anything to do with the Maine media's decision to ignore polls that put Collins' advantage under ten percent?

Or the fact that there's better coverage of Rep. Allen's legislative proposals in New York-based Newsday than there is locally?

Of course, maybe it's all just a giant coincidence.

Quote of the Day

Sen. Collins:

I can't think of two more creative minds than Bob Kerrey and Newt Gingrich.

Moment of Zen

We'll have more to say about photos and the Allen-Collins campaign within the next few days.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Collins to Dump Stevens Money

Maine Politics breaks the story. No word yet on whether Sen. Collins will ask for her $5,000 back from Stevens.

It's worth underscoring that Sen. Collins' PAC went ahead with its donation to Alaska's senior senator last June, right around the time that evidence of Stevens' wrongdoing was mounting.

Of course, she is a Republican team player.

Spreading the Wealth

There will now undoubtedly be new calls for Sen. Collins to return the $10,000 given to her this cycle by indicted Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-AK) Northern Lights PAC.

But I'm more interested in the $5,000 Sen. Collins's Dirigo PAC has given Stevens this cycle.

Anyone care to explain how that contribution has advanced the cause of good government? Or fiscal discipline? Or moderate bipartisan centrism?

Um, Guys?

The nation deserves a proper debate in Congress about the growing energy crisis...But you'd be hardpressed [sic] to find many real proposals to deal with high gasoline and high heating oil prices in Congress during this election year.
--Kennebec Journal, July 29

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) used a news conference in Riverhead yesterday to promote a bill that would give tax credits to families who are expected to struggle this winter to pay their heating bills.

The bill would give a $1,000 tax credit to individuals and $2,000 tax credit to families - an earning cap of $100,000 per person would apply - to help pay for rising heating costs. The bill also calls for loans of up to $5,000 per household at 1 percent interest to pay for energy-saving improvements.

The bill, the Middle Class Home Heating Relief Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives on Thursday by Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine).
--Newsday, July 29

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More on the Howe Brothers

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At the beginning of the month, I wrote about the $3 million grant Sen. Collins seems to have steered to Howe & Howe for their (dubious?) Rip Saw prototype--an investment of taxpayer dollars that seemed questionable at best.

I promised to dig further and am back with some results.

Unfortunately--though not surprisingly--there's not much information out there about the Howe brothers. But it does seem that their company was less than two years old when it first received federal funds; that it has a grand total of two employees; and that it has estimated annual sales of $130,000.

And the grant does seem to have been the result of an earmark.

(Also, while it's admittedly not clear, I think this Russian site--translated by Google--may be making fun of them.)

Look: I understand that some Mainers will see the Howe brothers' federal jackpot as evidence of Sen. Collins' success at bringing money back to the state for local projects.

But here's the thing: There are a lot of worthy local projects.

So the real question is why the brothers and their fledgling $130,000-a-year business got 25 times that much money from the government when those funds could have gone to a weatherization pilot program.

Or to any number of other programs.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Big Picture With Pictures

Maine Politics, Mike Tipping's return to the Maine blogging scene, surveys the state of the Allen-Collins race.

His discussion of the developments at Bath Iron Works--which we've given short shrift here--are particularly welcome.

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No Longer Operative

Remember the attempted video ambush of Maine House Majority Whip Sean Faircloth we highlighted last week?

It's now gone from Youtube, replaced (without explanation) with a new video that edits out the embarrassing bit about Employee Freedom Action Committee's funding sources.

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First it was one corporate-backed anti-union group. Then another. And now the Republican National Senatorial Committee is trying to spook voters about the Employee Free Choice Act:

That they feel the need to lie about card check legislation--it isn't a law "eliminating the secret ballot from union elections"--speaks to their desperate circumstances this cycle.

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Centrism Watch

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Bob Benenson brings up Sen. Collins for just two sentences in his latest column at CQ. But even in that short space, he feels the need to let us know that the junior senator has a "centrist profile."

Is he talking about her voting profile? Her political reputation? The way she would look on a coin?

It's unclear.

But the phrase almost seems constructed to gloss over the facts and give Benenson maximum wiggle room: You sort of know what he means, and yet he hasn't really committed to anything.

Why a reporter for an important, prestigious publication would choose to indulge a myth instead of debunking it--or at least steering clear of it--is a good question. But it's a topic for another time.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ramping Up

It's fundraising week at Collins Watch. So if you can give a few bucks, please do. Details here.

(Our fondness, as of late, for italicized red text will soon pass. Don't worry.)

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

More Poll Blogging

Gerald has some serious (and legitimate) issues with the Critical Insights poll--now available (.pdf) in full online.

The questions he raises make it even harder to understand why PPH would give the Collins-Allen results such prominent treatment after ignoring the last few Rasmussen surveys.

UPDATE: Looking at the survey data, the poll does seem to have oversampled Democrats, as one of our anonymous commenters suggested.

And the concerns raised by Gerald and the other Anonymous--about skewing by age, income and voter registration status--are also worrisome.

The bottom line is: This poll asked a host of questions on a variety of topics. It clearly wasn't designed to give the clearest possible picture of the Maine senate race, and the coverage in Maine papers should have reflected this.

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GOP? Who, Me?

Sen. Collins has voted for literally every one of the Bush administration's top priorities over the last eight years. She's an old friend of Karl Rove and former Sen. Rick Santorum's idea of a quintessential Republican team player.

And she's the favorite recipient of campaign donations from her GOP colleagues in the senate.

But amazingly: She won't be attending the Republican convention in Minneapolis.

Maybe she's not sure she could withstand the overwhelming outpouring of support and affection?

(Gerald has more.)

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Friday, July 25, 2008

In The Field

Good to be here.

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Still Sketchy at PPH

PPH runs with the Critical Insights poll in this morning's print edition, teasing it on A1 and slapping the article on B1.

This after having ignored a recent Rasmussen result and despite the fact that the Critical Insights numbers are, on average, six weeks old.

Of course, that PPH would make such a dubious editorial decision is, unfortunately, no longer surprising.

On a related note: MaryEllen Fitzgerald, president of Critical Insights, confirms in an e-mail that the poll surveyed registered voters, rather than a wider pool of Maine adults or Maine residents--as the poll's data release implied. So the 14-point number isn't completely worthless.

But relegating the ten point "likely voters" spread to a footnote still strikes me as questionable news judgment.

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Talking EFCA at BIW

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That would be the Employee Free Choice Act and Bath Iron Works.

Not surprisingly, the take among Bath Iron Works employees is a bit different from the line being pushed by corporate front groups like Rick Berman's Employee Freedom Action Committee.

Sen. Collins doesn't seem to popular there either.

More videos here.

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Collins Astroturf: Lucky 13

Gerald spots at least the 13th pro-Collins letter that's made its way into a Maine paper without proper author identification of its author.

And he takes the time to explain why the charade has become so tiresome.

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They Write Op-Eds

Via BDN, here's Maine AFL-CIO President Edward Gorham on card check and the Employee Freedom Action Committee.

Didn't realize the paper had endorsed card check legislation.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Poll: 10 Points

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Critical Insights' "Spring 2008" survey is out and the numbers are interesting.

The poll, conducted June 1-27, found the following:

Tom Allen (D): 40 (34)

Susan Collins (R-inc): 50 (54)

Numbers in parenthesis are from Critical Insights' last poll, conducted Oct. 12-30, 2007.

Curiously, several Maine news outlets are reporting a 14 point spread, which refers--as far as I can tell--to an unscreened pool of Maine residents.

But the 50%-40% spread represents the result among likely voters, which is obviously the more important number. It's the number we focused on when the last Critical Insights' poll was released. And the "likely voters" number is the one that was widely reported at that time.

Of course, screening for "likely voters"--or at least "registered voters"--is pretty standard among pollsters.

So why are outlets going with the 14-point number, and ignoring the 10 point spread? Your guess is as good as mine.

In any case, looking at the Critical Insights result in the context of the last three independent polls leaves us with the following:

Critical Insights (July) (June) Collins +10
Rasmussen (July) Collins +7
Pan Atlantic (June) +25
Rasmussen (June) +7
It now seems more likely that the Pan Atlantic poll is an outlier. And it seems pretty clear that we've got ourselves a race.

UPDATE: The data that Critical Insights includes with the results doesn't appear to be restricted to likely voters, so it's not as helpful as it might be.

But it is notable that there's only a slight discrepancy in outcomes between the first and second congressional districts: Collins does just three points better in the second than in the first.

Also of note: Allen gets only 65% of Democratic votes, according to Critical Insights. That number is sure to rise--and perhaps substantially--as voters begin to educate themselves about Collins' performance in office over the last six years.

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Why Not Now?

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Last week, TMB flagged the astounding New York Times story about faulty electrical work by KBR at US military bases in Iraq: Electrocutions and electrical fires have resulted in at least fifteen solider deaths.

We've long known that Sen. Collins' refusal to perform oversight of no-bid Iraq war contracting as chair of the Homeland Security Committee was an important and devastating moral failure, and that the absence of oversight lead to the loss of American lives.

And in general, when it comes to Iraq, it's long been clear that when Mainers and Americans desperately needed Collins to be the serious-minded, hardworking, independent-thinking legislator that she professes to be, she instead kept her mouth shut and toed the Republican line.

But here's my question--and one Gerald asks, implicitly, in comments at the TMB post referenced above: What about now?

Sen. Collins is still the senior Republican on the Homeland Security Committee. And from the Times article, we now know that there were an alarming 283 electrical fires at American military bases in Iraq between August 2006 and January 2007. And that:

A log compiled earlier this year at one building complex in Baghdad disclosed that soldiers complained of receiving electrical shocks in their living quarters on an almost daily basis.
So why isn't Sen. Collins using her position, today, to fix this pressing problem?

Mainers and other Americans are clearly hungry to root out waste and malfeasance in Iraq--especially when it threatens our women and men in uniform. So in her capacity as a representative of the people, why isn't the junior senator using her clout to get to the bottom of this dangerous situation?

Why isn't she doing it right this minute?

I don't think we've heard anything resembling to an answer to this question. I'm not even sure Collins has been asked it.

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Alito: US v. Rybar

(This is the fourth in our series of posts on Justice Samuel Alito. Read the first three posts here, here and here.)

US v. Rybar [link]

The background: Raymond Rybar, Jr. was convicted of violating a federal law criminalizing possession of machine guns. He appealed, challenging the law on constitutional grounds.

The question: The court had to decide whether a law making it, "unlawful for any person to transfer or possess a machinegun" was outside the scope of Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce.

And it had to decide this in the context of a new Supreme Court precedent, US v. Lopez, which held that Congress' authority to regulate interstate commerce was limited to activity with a substantial effect on interstate commerce, rather than a merely incidental effect.

The question had ramifications far beyond guns laws. For example: Laws designed to protect the environment--to protect clean water, clean air and endangered species--all depend on the commerce clause as a source of authority.

And while these laws all have important implications for commerce, a narrow reading of what counts as a "substantial" commercial effect could render them unconstitutional.

The decision: Two of the court's three members upheld the machine gun ban on the grounds that preventing widespread machine gun possession was likely to have a "meaningful" effect on interstate commerce--by preventing violent crime--and that Congress had the authority to act on that basis.

But not Alito. As in Sheridan v. Dupont he used the ambiguity in the case law as a chance to champion the interpretation most in sync with conservative ideology.

In a dissent, he wrote:

We are left with no congressional findings and no appreciable empirical support for the proposition that the purely intrastate possession of machine guns, by facilitating the commission of certain crimes, has a substantial effect on interstate commerce, and without such support I do not see how the statutory provision at issue here can be sustained.
In short, he felt no one had proved a relationship between economic activity on a national scale and machine gun crime, and accordingly, wanted the law struck down.

The majority countered:

Nothing in Lopez requires either Congress or the Executive to play Show and Tell with the federal courts at the peril of invalidation of a Congressional statute.
Lopez required a substantial effect on commerce, they argued, not a scientific study of that effect; Alito was distorting the precedent.

The reaction: Rybar helped persuade the Sierra Club that Alito, "doesn't believe Congress should have the authority to pass laws that protect most of our streams and wetlands--or that citizens have a right to ensure our government enforces Clean Air and Water laws." And that:

We need Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to protect Maine's water and Ed Muskie's legacy--by opposing the nomination of Sam Alito. There's just too much at stake to give Alito a lifetime seat on America's highest Court."
Earthjustice agreed, concluding that Alito "would support Commerce Clause challenges by polluters and developers to public health and environmental laws."

Meanwhile, conservative magazine Human Events noted approvingly, in a discussion of Rybar: "No liberal would have written that dissent. Nor would any judge who fears the scorn of the liberal establishment."

And Jeffrey Rosen, legal affairs editor of The New Republic opined that the views articulated in Alito's Rybar dissent were "far more troubling" than his views on abortion.

But it was the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence that put Alito's dissent in context:

Judge Alito's conclusion that the machine gun ban violates the Commerce Clause...has been rejected by every other federal appellate court that has considered the issue, including the Second, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Circuits. The Supreme Court has been asked to review lower court decisions on this issue six times and has declined in each case.
Alito was all alone.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Collins on the Air Tonight

From her campaign site:

The Collins for Senator campaign will begin running television ads on the evening Wednesday July 23.
Here's one of the two ads:

UPDATE: A couple of points.

First, this is a big deal. Remember, a mere six weeks ago Sen. Collins was saying that campaigns are too long and that Mainers don't want to hear about politics until after Labor Day.

Clearly, that's out the window. Unprompted by Rep. Allen, Collins apparently now feels it's essential to start her general campaign immediately. Even at the cost of contradicting herself. And even though there are millions of dollars being spent by her allies to attack Allen.

So what's changed? Obviously, Collins' team would have preferred Allen to have finished more than seven points back in the last two independent polls.

But it's got to be more than that: They must be seeing something in the data or in the field that's making them awfully nervous.

Second, on the substance of the ad: This is Collins' standard, form-over-substance message. (Even if she does throw in a few perfunctory, misleading claims about her legislative accomplishments).

Will this approach work in 2008? Would Mainers rather have a senator who plays nice or one who'll help push through universal health care and end the war in Iraq?

It's still not clear. But it looks like that's the choice voters will be offered.

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Help Us Surge

You may have noticed that we've accelerated the rate of posting here at Collins Watch over the last couple weeks.

Naturally, we're excited about the Maine senate race. And we've got big plans for the next few months, including a couple of new features. We're also gratified by the steady rise in readership and humbled by the kind things readers have said in e-mails and comments here and elsewhere.

But ramping up coverage comes at a cost. And that's where you come in: We're asking for your financial support.

Put it this way: If everyone who reads this blog at least once a week--even excluding campaign staffers and fellow bloggers--were to give an average of $15, that would pay for all the projects we've got planned between now and November.

To put it in perspective $15 comes to about a dollar a week up through Election Day.

If you can afford it, please consider clicking on the "donate" button at right. (Caveats and fine print here.)

Thanks for your support.

Collins' McCain Introduction

Sen. Collins: I'd "go to the ends of the earth for John McCain."

Apparently she'll also campaign for him in July, even though Mainers don't want to hear about electoral politics until the fall.

(Video courtesy of

Fact Checking CDW

Here's a no-nonsense "reality check" of an ad from Coalition for a Democratic Workplace currently running in Minnesota:

The piece, from a Minneapolis local news broadcast, doesn't mince words--it's aggressive and direct in a way you rarely see in the Maine media.

When similar ads start running in Maine, will we'll see similarly vigorous fact-checking on TV, on the radio and in print?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Union Foes To Spend Huge in Maine

So says CongressDaily:

This summer, a coalition of business groups is spending millions of dollars on ads in Maine and Minnesota in support of vulnerable incumbent Sens. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine. Coleman and Collins voted against card check legislation in the Senate.

The group, called the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, will spend $6 million-$8 million on the first round of ads, an industry source said.
The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace shouldn't be confused with the Employee Fredom Action Committee, which has an Allen-bashing radio ad on the air. And it's also not to be confused with Freedom's Watch, which is robocalling Mainers in support of Collins.

This money represents new spending--above and beyond what those two corporate-backed front groups are shelling out.

UPDATE: This column names Wal-Mart and an association of anti-union contractors--the Associated Builders and Contractors--as two of CDW's backers. The group was formed by the US Chamber of Commerce.

Faircloth Asks a Question

Maine House Majority Whip Sean Faircloth takes a different tack with Employee Freedom Action Committee ambushers:

Notice the sudden reticence of his interrogator once the conversation turns to the subject of's funders.

Incidentally: Why does EFAC keep posting these clips? Do they really think the videos put their organization in a good light?

Quote of the Day

Sam Collins, brother of the junior senator:

"Personal attacks are upsetting, and something we don’t believe in,” Sam said. “It’s difficult to see negative ads and read planted Letters to the Editor, but you deal with it. It’s politics."

Make It Twelve

Jonathan Crimmins is the chair of the Brunswick Republican Town Committee. And he's a candidate for the Maine House.

But you wouldn't know it from reading his letter in yesterday's PPH--a letter that just so happens to parrot one of the Collins camp's kookier talking points.

Funny, Crimmins was identified more accurately in a recent letter to his local paper.

(Maybe the Google is broken at PPH?)

The Crimmins letter marks at least the twelfth time in this campaign that a Collins-friendly letter has made its way into a Maine paper without a full identification of the Maine Republican official behind it.

Here's a question: Why do members of the state GOP apparatus seem to be nearly the only ones excited about the Collins candidacy?

Monday, July 21, 2008

McCain: I'll Ride Collins' Coattails

In his Maine Military Museum speech, he also said that:

"I have never been prouder to be in the company of two colleagues and friends as I am of these two great senators from the state of Maine."
More here.

Centrism Watch

As if in an effort to cram as many empty labels into his article as possible, Blethen reporter Dieter Bradbury references "mavericks"; "maverick"; "GOP moderates" and "independent thinkers" in this preview of Sen. John McCain's visit to Maine on Monday.

Naturally, the first two terms refer to McCain, whereas the latter two refer to Sen. Collins and her supporters.

Bradbury also allows Christian Potholm--whose loyalties you can pretty much discern by looking here--to pose as an independent analyst, and to invoke the legendary "moderate wing of the Republican party in Maine."

Wondering if Bradbury ever defines these terms, or cites any specific votes or other evidence to justify using them?

Come on, don't be silly.

McCain in Maine

Jessica Alaimo is live-blogging Sen. McCain's (R-AZ) visit to Maine.

She reports that Sen. Collins will give an introduction before McCain's speech at the Maine Military Museum in South Portland. That should be happening any minute now.

DSCC in for $5 Million

In comments, Hokie Guru points us (via Senate Guru) to this Advertising Age column, which includes the following nugget:

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has...made more than $15 million in buys in North Carolina, New Mexico, Minnesota and Maine, with the buys in Maine and North Carolina exceeding $5 million each. A committee official declined to comment.
Good to know. Still, the piece doesn't mention when the buys are for.

As we just noted, Allen is getting pummeled with misleading vitriol right now--and from multiple angles. So far, no money is being spent to counter the attacks from Sen. Collins' allies.

The Big Picture

If you're wondering where this race stands, consider: An anti-union front group has a nasty, misleading attack ad on the airwaves in support of Sen. Collins; another corporate-backed, astroturf organization is slamming Rep. Allen via robocall.

And the National Republican Senatorial Committee has launched a guilt-by-association Allen attack site.

The junior senator has yet to repudiate any of it.

Clearly, Collins and her big money friends are taking nothing for granted. This brings to mind two thoughts.

First, this is shaping up to be the kind of campaign that political junkies savor: There's a huge amount at stake, there are stark difference between the candidates on the issues and there's big money in the background, desperate to influence the outcome.

It's the kind of campaign that serious, motivated journalist live for.

Too bad there don't seem to be any media organizations in Maine hospitable to that kind of journalism.

Second, as great as it is to see rich Republicans exercising their right to weigh in on all their pet issues, the one-sided nature of the conversation is starting to get a bit disconcerting.

After all, the senate Democrats are flush with cash. So what rainy day are they saving it for?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Troubling Pattern at PPH

Portland Press Herald's coverage of the Allen-Collins race fits a troubling pattern: Poll numbers that show Collins leading by wide margins--even when those results are out of date or from partisan sources--are played up; and timely results that suggest a closer race are ignored.

The facts:

There have been eight public polls on the Allen-Collins race this year.

Three came from Republican firms; four are from Rasmussen, a national polling outfit; and one was conducted by Pan Atlantic, a local company.

Results have ranged from a 25 point advantage for Collins all the way down to a seven point spread (twice).

Here's a chronology of PPH's coverage of the various polls.

--April 2: The anti-union Coalition for a Democratic Workplace releases a poll conducted several weeks earlier by a Republican pollster showing a 23 point lead for Sen. Collins. At PPH's political blog Political Extra, reporter Jonathan Kaplan publishes a post detailing the results.

--April 8: Rasmussen releases a poll taken a week earlier showing a safe 16 point advantage for Collins. Kaplan posts a summary of the results at Political Extra.

--May 16: Rasmussen releases a poll conducted two days earlier that shows a relatively narrow ten point spread between Sen. Collins and Rep. Allen. This is the narrowest advantage yet for Collins. PPH makes no mention of the poll in its newspaper or on its website.

--June 18: Rasmussen releases a poll conducted two days prior showing a narrow seven point margin in Collins' favor. PPH makes no mention of the poll in its newspaper or on its website.

--June 24: On its website, PPH publishes the results of a six week old poll sponsored by the GOP-aligned US Chamber of Commerce showing a 14 point lead for Collins.

The poll, released six days earlier, was conducted by a Republican polling firm. It has a larger margin of error and a smaller sample size than the Rasmussen poll released on the same day.

--July 8: Pan Atlantic releases a poll showing Collins ahead by a 25 point margin. This is the largest margin of any poll all year, including polls by Republican pollsters. PPH publishes results on its website as a "news update" reported by Dieter Bradbury.

--July 9: Despite the fact that its data is a full month old, PPH features a story on the Pan Atlantic poll on page A1 in print editions. The 727 word piece runs under the headline, "Poll finds solid lead for Collins in Maine."

It isn't until the seventh paragraph that the piece acknowledges that the poll is a month old. It isn't until the twelfth paragraph that the article contrasts the 25 point Pan Atlantic spread with the seven point margin in the Rasmussen poll from the identical time frame.

--July 18: Rasmussen releases a two day old poll which duplicates the seven point lead for Collins from its June survey. PPH doesn't run a "news update" on its website; it doesn't mention the poll in the next day's paper.

So what exactly is going on here? Why has PPH repeatedly featured partisan surveys and stale data while completely disregarding current, non-partisan polling?

The Rasmussen result from April showing a 16 point spread clearly rose to the level of "news." So why did the company's results mysteriously slip off of PPH's radar when the margin shrunk in later polls?

And how does PPH justify putting an outlier of a poll--with month-old data--on its front page when for nearly two months it failed to even mention equally salient, far more timely results?

As of this writing, PPH Managing Editor Bob Crider had not responded to an early Saturday e-mail requesting comment.

The Green Light

Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley knows perfectly well that there's a big difference between denouncing third party ads in the abstract and rejecting a particular, egregious ad campaign by an ally.

His 'Collins has always maintained' formulation tells us all we need to know about the junior senator's current attitude toward smear attacks from anti-union, corporate-backed front groups: She's got no real problem with them.

Friday, July 18, 2008

New Poll: 7 Points

If Rasmussen was spooked into changing its formulas by the lopsided Pan Atlantic poll, there's no sign of it in their latest results:

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

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

We're talking zero movement from last month's numbers.

UPDATE: At and elsewhere, some commentators are characterizing the result as a ten point advantage for Collins--because Rasmussen lists a breakdown including leaners (53-43) with the poll.

But since Rasmussen has never included leaners before--and I'm still not sure why they did this time--I think it makes more sense to stick with the raw numbers. Which puts things at 49-42.

Andrews: Collins Should Denounce EFAC

Apparently our friends at the Employee Freedom Action Committee have a new hard-hitting, fact-challenged radio attack ad of questionable taste up on the airwaves. Here's the transcript, according to the Allen camp:

[Man's Voice]

"Since 2001, one group has been involved in embezzlement and racketeering, and been the target of more than 2000 criminal investigations, and 600 indictments. Now the same group is planning to expand its power base. Who has this record of corruption and embezzlement? Organized Crime? No. It's organized labor."

[Woman's voice]

Today labor bosses have a new scheme to target you and your money. They want to change the law to make it easier to pressure you into joining their union. Under their plan, you will lose your right to a private vote. Instead of being able to make your choice about joining a union using a private ballot, union bosses can come to your home to pressure you to make a binding decision to pay dues.

Incredibly, they say this is a better process than a private vote.

Tell Tom Allen to stop supporting union schemes to take away private votes at

Paid for by the Employee Freedom action committee.
So all unions are "one group"? And Rep. Allen wants to allow "union bosses [to] come to your home to pressure you?"

Do they really think Mainers are this dumb?

And do they really think it makes sense to tar all unions as worse than the mafia?

Anyway, here's the Allen camp's response:

We believe this ad has no place in this campaign, and we denounce it. To accuse hard-working Mainers of being aligned with organized crime and to suggest Congressman Allen is protective of organized crime is not only false and negative, but personally destructive...

Today we once again ask Susan Collins to join us in denouncing radio and tv ads by third parties such as Employee Freedom and its affiliates who name or reference either candidate in negative communications.
It would also be interesting to know if Collins shares the group's view that, as a rule, unions are basically criminal enterprises...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Astroturf--With Video

As we've noted, Sheldon Adelson--the third richest man in America--thinks card check for labor unions is one of the top two threats to civilization.

So it's no wonder that out-of-state, anti-union front groups fueled by anonymous donations are spending money to defeat union-friendly candidates in Maine.

And with the fate of civilization riding on the rejection of card check legislation, it's not surprising that those groups would be willing to distort the issues involved.

But congratulations to Chellie Pingree, who handles a card check ambush deftly--in this case, from the misnamed Employee Freedom Action Committee:

More deception-riddled videos here.

Meanwhile, Sen. Collins pledged to shun support from outside attack groups back in May. And yet there's still no word from her about the push poll, the robocalls or the YouTube ambushes...

Send It In

A couple of strong letters in yesterday's papers.

If we haven't been clear enough: The reason we spend so much time documenting pro-Collins astroturf efforts is that published letters--particularly well-researched, fact-based letters--can be very effective means of persuasion.

So if you live in Maine and want to help puncture some of the myths that have cropped up about Sen. Collins, one valuable thing you can do is drop your local paper a line.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Portrait of a Tycoon

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had this investigative profile of Sheldon Adelson, the high roller behind Freedom's Watch.

You'll remember that the loosely-regulated, third-party group was recently lobbing pro-Collins robocalls into Maine--and may still be. (Collins still hasn't repudiated the tactic.)

But would it surprise you to learn that Adelson has also dropped $28,500 on the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is already spending money to get Collins re-elected?

Didn't think so.

And would you believe that Adelson has declared card check for labor unions, "one of the two fundamental threats to society"--the other one being radical Islam--at the same time that anti-union astroturf groups are flooding the Maine airwaves with pro-Collins, anti-union ads?

Talk about coincidences...

UPDATE: Lefty bloggers hit back?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Centrism Watch

This is pretty funny.

In their quest to canonize Sen. Collins as a "moderate" the reporters of this piece reach all the way back to a single vote in 2003--against banning "partial birth" abortion--to justify the characterization.

Of course, Collins voted for the nomination of Samuel Alito. And he cast the deciding vote to uphold the ban, which the Court had previously struck down.

But the article's authors didn't see fit to include that minor detail.

MEA Endorses Allen

Rep. Allen has won the backing of the 25,000 member Maine Education Association, which represents teachers, college professors and other education staffers.

The endorsement would have been a real plum for Sen. Collins. And the junior senator seems to have campaigned for the MEA's nod. But it was not to be:

"It is time for a change in policy toward our public schools, and Tom Allen is best suited to work for that change in the United States Senate representing Maine," said MEA President Chris Galgay.

"His views are closest to the hearts of educators and his record of support for our issues is outstanding. He is committed to giving teachers the respect they deserve and the time and resources they need to do their job well," Galgay added.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Questions From Away


Looks like Sen. Collins has time to talk to The New York Times about inside-the-beltway politics. And just last week she fit in a panel discussion at a Washington think tank.

But she seems not to have taken unscreened questions from adult Mainers in an open forum for well over a year.

Of course, she is a bipartisan across-the-aisle moderate centrist. So maybe that makes it okay.

Collins Q2: $1.1 Million

From PolitickerME:

Total raised last quarter: $1,056,469

Total raised: $6.5 million

Cash on hand: $5.1 million
That's just slightly more than Rep. Allen raised for the quarter.

As the Collins camp notes, the junior senator retains a $2 million cash-on-hand advantage.

But with these latest figures, it's as clear as ever that this race will be decided by something other than dollars.

Calling it Both Ways

Ben Goodman of Kennebunk has a letter in today's PPH critiquing Sen. Collins. Is this the same Ben Goodman who's on the Maine State Democratic Committee? The same one PPH wrote about a few weeks ago?

Would it be so hard for Maine newspaper editors to fire up the Google every now and then, and to include affiliations of party leaders with their letters?

It's worth noting that this is the first under-identified letter from a member of the Democratic party apparatus I've spotted this entire cycle. And Goodman's comments are issues-driven in a way few of the Collins-friendly missives have been.

But come on, folks.

Allen Q2: $1.0 Million

From the Allen camp:

The Allen campaign reported a second quarter total of $1,000,874.84 with cash on hand at $3,128.080.99. Individual contributors accounted for 75 percent of the quarter's total while PAC contributions were less than 25 percent.

Of Allen's 4,587 contributions for the quarter more than half, or 2,586 came from new contributors. The most common contribution was $100, closely followed by $25.
That's more than the $700,000 Rep. Allen raised last quarter.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sen. Collins' 4th of July

From the Collins camp:

Friday, July 11, 2008

Centrism Watch

NECN parrots Sen. Collins' "moderate" talking point; allows an "expert" to parrot it; and then sits down with the junior senator so viewers can hear it straight from the horse's mouth.

Naturally, nowhere in the report is the characterization backed up with facts. At no time does correspondent Marnie Maclean explain how a senator who has backed literally every single one of President Bush's major priorities can be characterized as "a moderate voice."

And to those who would defend the piece by noting that Rep. Allen is given a chance to question Collins' moderate credentials, we'd note that three-against-one isn't exactly fair and balanced.

Especially when the outnumbered party has the facts on his side.

UPDATE: Gerald has more.

Quote of the Day

From Village Soup:

"Today, Sens. Collins and [Olympia] Snowe voted to eliminate the Fourth Amendment right to privacy for Americans' telephone and Internet communications," said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. "We are deeply disappointed that our two Senators voted to cover up past surveillance abuses and give a blank check to the president for future spying."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dead Fish Deserve Better

BDN runs an op-Ed so vacuous it's beyond parody.

Seriously, folks: There are plenty of elementary schools that publish newspapers with more incisive content than this. (And Sen. Collins has visited most of them.)

Maine, Year Zero

Sen. Collins has an op-Ed today in Foster's (her second this week?) with all the usual talking points on energy independence.

We've written before about the junior senator's timid approach to the energy crisis, one that won't come anywhere near solving the core problems.

But this piece gets our attention for a different reason: Reading it, you could be forgiven for concluding that the energy debate had no recent history; it's hard to get to the end without wondering what Collins, a member of the Senate majority for most of the last eight years, has been doing to tackle the issues.

And if you didn't know better, you'd be surprised to learn that the junior senator backed the Cheney energy bill, which lathered on subsidies for oil and gas companies while increasing mandates for ethanol use.

If Collins was working to reform US energy policy before her re-election campaign began, she sure was quiet about it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Gerald is hearing about pro-Collins robocalls being made by a group founded to help defend the Bush administration's Iraq policies.

If you know something, drop us a line.

A GOP Favorite

Notable but not surprising that Sen. Collins is the top recipient of funds from the campaigns and PACs of other elected officials.

She is, after all, a Republican team player. And she's got GOP friends in high places.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More on the Pan Atlantic Poll

Looking through the data, a couple of things jump out immediately.

First, the poll produced a downright eccentric result in the presidential match-up: Sen. Obama (D-IL) over Sen. McCain (R-AZ) by 46% to 32% including leaners. There aren't many other statewide independent polls that have found such a large chunk of the electorate unwilling to commit to Obama or McCain.

Also of note: While the poll was released today, some of the data is as much as one month old. And even the newest data is three weeks old.

Neither of these factors invalidates the poll in any way, or suggests its results should be shrugged off.

But it certainly seems that Pan Atlantic has their own way of doing things.

New Poll: 25 Points (?)

Via PPH, we get wind of a new poll from Portland-based Pan Atlantic SMS Group:

Rep. Tom Allen (D): 31

Sen. Susan Collins (R): 56

(Via e-mail, Patrick Murphy, president of Pan Atlantic confirms that the poll is "strictly independent.")

Hard to reconcile this result with Rasmussen's seven point spread. But most of the discrepancy seems traceable to Collins' substantial support from the left in the poll: 39% of Dems versus 24% according to Rasmussen.

If Collins is really favored by 39% of Democrats, as the poll suggests, Allen is obviously toast. But that number seems a bit far-fetched to me.

Alito: Sheridan v. DuPont

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

When we last encountered Samuel Alito, he'd just become Deputy Assistant to Attorney General Edwin Meese after having written a job application memo characterizing his opposition to Warren Court precedents and Roe v. Wade as touchstones of his legal philosophy.

In 1987, Alito left the Attorney General's office to become a United States Attorney in New Jersey, and in 1990 he was nominated by President Bush to a seat on the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

He remained on the Third Circuit for 16 years, writing hundreds of opinions along the way. And, needless to say, his tenure on the court provides ample evidence of his legal approach.

When Alito was nominated to the Supreme Court, many of these cases should have been--and were--red flags to senators evaluating his record. And perhaps a dozen of his opinions received significant media scrutiny.

We'll look at just three of his most important and salient opinions, on the assumption that these three would surely have made it onto the radar of Sen. Collins and her staff in the weeks leading up to the Alito vote.

Here we'll tackle Sheridan v. DuPont. We'll look at two other cases in later posts.

Sheridan v. DuPont [link]

The background: Barbara Sheridan, an employee of the Hotel DuPont, accused the company of sex discrimination for failing to promote her; and for then making her life miserable and demoting her because of her complaints.

The question: One issue in the case was how much proof of employer misconduct a plaintiff should be required to produce to avoid having her case thrown out.

Should it be enough, for example, for a plaintiff to cast doubt on a defendant's story? Or should an accuser need explicit evidence of discrimination in order for the case to be heard?

As Yale Law professor Robert Gordon explains:

This sounds like a technical quarrel, but it's not. Employees can rarely prove intentional discrimination directly, because companies don't keep records with smoking guns in them. Courts have to infer discrimination--and giving fake evidence about why someone is fired, under traditional law, is enough to get the case past dismissal.
The decision: Ten of the court's eleven members--including eight Republican appointees--embraced what Gordon calls the "traditional law" conception, citing a Supreme Court precedent which noted that, "there will seldom be 'eyewitness' testimony as to the employer's mental processes." They found that when doubt about a defendant's story has been raised, the case should go to trial.

But not Alito. In a lonely 7248 word dissent that argued for a more complicated standard than the one adopted by the court, he rejected the "doubt" threshold as too low in some instances. He maintained, instead, that just because an employer has made up a story doesn't mean a plaintiff should get a day in court.

In short, his argument seemed designed to give lying employers a second, fallback path to a quick legal victory; the other ten judges were making it too easy for discrimination claims to be heard.

The reaction: A post-nomination Alito profile from Knight Ridder noted that, "Alito's interpretation [in Sheridan v. Dupont] would have led to a fundamental change in the way sex discrimination claims are handled and would have conflicted with what Congress intended when it enacted anti-discrimination laws."

Business Insurance, an insurance industry trade publication opened its analysis of the Alito nomination by forecasting:

If what's past is prologue, US Appeals Court Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s elevation to the Supreme Court could be good news indeed for employers.
The article quoted experts on both sides of the Alito nomination agreeing that, in the context of Sheridan v. Dupont and other cases, "employers likely face a more sympathetic ear given Judge Alito's generally pro-government, pro-business views."

The Alliance for Justice complained about Alito's "cramped" reading of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. NOW concluded that Sheridan made it clear Alito, "would add difficult evidentiary hurdles for women who sue for sex discrimination."

The AFL-CIO cited the case as key evidence in concluding that, "Alito has consistently sided against working Americans."

And so forth.

If Sen. Collins has ever weighed in on Alito's Sheridan v. Dupont dissent, we're not aware of it.

UPDATE: Worth noting that, ultimately, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected Alito's position--and embraced the "traditional law" conception--in Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products in 2000.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Maine on Their Minds

Gerald discovers a mysterious confluence, and asks a pertinent question.

Worth adding that the answer could be simple: All 26 people may have attended a fundraiser together, for example.

That would be easy enough for a reporter to determine.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Quote of the Day

Sen. John Ensign (R-NV):

If you have an R in front of your name, you better run scared.
He runs the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Question Time

After flagging a fresh piece of Collins-friendly astroturf, Gerald wants to know how many pro-Collins letters published in Maine papers over the last couple years were written by unidentified or under-identified members of the Maine GOP apparatus.

Having now looked back through our archives, the answer appears to be no fewer than eleven:

One and two.











Collins Two-Term Pledge Video

We've long known there was audio of Sen. Collins making her two-term pledge. But until a couple minutes ago, we weren't sure that any video existed:

The language here, it's worth adding, is about as categorical as you can get.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

We're Number Four?

Mike Lux, a prominent, well-connected progressive blogger (we first encountered him here) thinks Allen-Collins is the fourth most important non-presidential race in the country.

Is this the consensus view inside the beltway? (You wouldn't think so from reading here.) Is this why Sen. Collins is complaining that Mainers are too poor to bankroll her campaign?

In the coming months, can we expect to see the uptick in national party, campaign committee and outsider activity that you'd expect in such a critical race?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tax Dollars at Work?

It's late and we'll be traveling tomorrow, so it'll be a while before we have a chance to get more details. But--trust us--check this out:

Then read about the people behind it here and here.

A few questions that come to mind:

--These guys seem like a lot of fun (and straight out of a Wes Anderson movie). But do they have any track record building battlefield equipment?

--On what basis does the $3 million grant to the Howe brothers make sense as a taxpayer investment?

--What account did the Collins-funneled $3 million grant come out of?

--If the "Rip Saw" (elsewhere spelled "ripsaw") is a really a battlefield prototype--let alone a candidate for use by special operations--does it make sense to publicize it on television and publish detailed photos of it on the web?

--Does Sen. Collins' embrace of the Rip Saw say anything about her commitment to rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in military contracting?


Centrism Watch

Jessica Benton Cooney writes the following over at Congressional Quarterly:

Supporters of two-term Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican moderate, say she is in a good position to rebuff the serious challenge she is receiving this year from six-term Democratic Rep. Tom Allen...

Collins, like senior Maine Republican Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, fits the mold of the kind of centrist Republican who can still draw strong support from state voters.
The article goes on for 1309 words.

But does it ever justify the use of the "moderate" label? Does it marshal any evidence to support the view that Collins is a "centrist" or that her record is pretty much the same as Sen. Snowe?

Cooney doesn't see the need to. Because everyone just knows that Collins is a different kind of Republican. It's not up for debate--it's just part of the fabric of things.

Of course, a reporter interested in the facts might discover that the case for characterizing Collins as a moderate is exceedingly thin.

Such a journalist would quickly learn that the junior senator has voted for every single one of President Bush's top priorities over the last seven-plus years, even as Snowe has repeatedly crossed Bush.

But digging out these facts would require the boring, difficult work of analysis and research. It would require checking one's preconceptions and letting the chips fall where they may.

And it would require ignoring the posturing and pronouncements and focusing on substance.

I always thought that was what reporters like Cooney were hired to do. But when I started writing about this race, I thought a lot of things that I'm not convinced of anymore.

"Olympia Snowe Republicans"

University of Maine Professor Mark Brewer coins a new term in the fresh issue of York Weekly. And he's onto something.

Don't get us wrong: In this blog's first post, we argued that Sen. Snowe has done more than her share of Bush-enabling over the years. And we still believe that.

But Maine's senior senator has carved out a niche as that rare Republican who is willing--at least occasionally--to buck the Bush administration when it counts.

Listening to the Maine media (or what's left of it) you'd assume that Sen. Collins is a prime, even quintessential, example of Olympia Snowe Republicanism. But the facts tell a different story:

--Only one of Maine's senators has opposed setting an Iraq withdrawal timeline.

--Only one Maine senator supported President Bush's irresponsible 2003 tax cut package for the rich.

--Only one Maine senator voted for the habeas-shredding Military Commissions Act of 2006 and then against reinstating habeas corpus in a later bill.

--And only one Maine senators opposed an airline passengers bill of rights, $200 billion in food stamps and extending tax breaks for alternative energy.

These were all critical votes on matters of pressing importance. On the line were core national priorities, fundamental legal protections and American lives. And a few of them were at the very top of President Bush's agenda.

Snowe found a way to side with the interests of Maine and the nation even though it meant standing up to the leader of her party.

Collins chose a different path.

Of course, the junior senator might argue that--far from voting to enable a radical, dangerous President--it just so happened that on each of these votes she agreed with George W. Bush on the merits. That's an argument I'd be eager to hear.

In the meantime, don't let anyone tell you that Maine's two senators are two peas in a pod.

It just ain't true.