Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Home Team

Sen. Susan Collins didn't just oppose the Vivek Murthy nomination this week. She also voted against confirming an Obama judicial nominee, a deputy secretary and an assistant secretary.

And that's in addition to a bunch of nominees she voted against earlier in the month, including a Consumer Product Safety Commission commissioner and the General Counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

All were confirmed.

It could be that all of the above nominees were unqualified or ideologically extreme--based on standards that Collins has applied consistently throughout her tenure in the Senate.

It could be, in other words, that Maine's senior senator, who boasted of her non-ideological approach throughout the her recent campaign, voted the merits without regard to party, her views of the President or her desire to thwart his administration.

But when you consider Collins's past willingness to back even the most extreme and least competent of President Bush's nominees...let's just say it seems unlikely.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mum on Murthy?

So far no statement from Sen. Susan Collins on her vote against the nomination of Vivek Murthy for Surgeon General.

Prior to announcing her decision, Collins spoke to Politico about Murthy, a Harvard and Yale-trained physician who had been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Cancer Society. But nothing since.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Collins Roll-Back Makes Budget Bill

Insurance Journal:

Congress is poised to roll back safety rules aimed at ensuring truck drivers get enough rest, ignoring the pleas of consumer activists and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The provision, added to budget legislation to fund the U.S. government through the fiscal year, would temporarily suspend rules that took effect last year while a study is conducted about the number of trucks driven on congested roads. Under the change, truckers would be able to work as many as 82 hours a week.

Streetsblog has a good roundup here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Quote of the Day

Joan Claybrook:

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is playing Santa Claus for the trucking industry this Christmas, but the American driving public will be paying the bill with lives forever lost and horrific injuries.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Smackdown Watch

Huffington Post:

Some senators didn't want to talk about the issue at all. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) stared blankly at HuffPost when asked if he wanted to keep filibuster reform, before slipping into an elevator and disappearing. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she had thoughts on the matter, but didn't want to share them.

"Who do you work for?" Collins asked, as this HuffPost reporter identified herself. "That's what I thought," she replied, turning and walking away.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Collins Has NSA's Back

Splitting with her colleague Angus King, Sen. Susan Collins voted yesterday to block a bill that would have ended the National Security Agency's indiscriminate, bulk collection of the phone records of Americans.

Collins's remarks begin at 20:50.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins:

Why would we weaken the ability of our intelligence community at a time when the threats against this country have never been greater?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Collins Wins. Again.

A fourth term for Sen. Susan Collins.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

More Debates

The second Bellows-Collins debate. The third debate. The fourth and fifth debates.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Quote of the Day

President of the League of Conservation Voters Gene Karpinski:

We're supporting Susan Collins in Maine because she's actually a champion on climate change, and she's a Republican. We want her to return to the Senate. Having said that, for Mitch McConnell to be running the Senate would be horrible for our issues.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Local Issues

In the first two debates of the race, Sen. Susan Collins has dodged or flat-out refused to answer several questions on the grounds that they cover state or local issues.

At times it's been uncomfortable to watch, even for a Collins critic: There's something wince-inducing about seeing a seasoned pol summon the mixture of presumption and smugness that it takes to reject out of hand a good faith inquiry from a neutral moderator. One wants to nudge Collins and whisper in her ear that she's making herself look standoffish and might want to tone it down.

But it's clearly a considered choice: Collins's implicit position is that she's running for federal office and so only national issues are germane.

Yet that's an awfully cramped view of what this--or any--Senate race is about, which is part of why the questions keep coming up. And it's frankly surprising that the senior senator has gotten away with this kind of dodge for as long as she has.

Because a US Senate election isn't just about a state sending off an emissary to legislate national issues. It's a statewide community's process for tapping one of its own as a representative in Washington.

By circumscribing a wide array of salient issues as beyond the purview of what she's willing to talk about, Collins sets herself apart from (and above?) that community and the political discussions it's having with itself. She paints herself as an outsider and a conundrum.

Mainers accepted those terms in her last election. But for whatever reason, it's proving more awkward this time around.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

First Debate

Video here.

Some interesting and surprisingly illuminating clashes on veterans issues, gay marriage, the minimum wage and equal pay. Bellows wins the first half handily while the second half is pretty much a draw.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

"Video Shows Allen Burning Flag" [sic]

From the archive: Al Diamon's February 2008 "Media Mutt" column from Downeast magazine:

If a newspaper had information that indicated a member of Congress had taken part in burning the U.S. flag to protest the war in Iraq, you'd think that would be big news. Front page. Above the fold. Giant headline.

But that's not the way things are done at the Morning Sentinel in Waterville. Somebody there apparently thought the paper had just such a story, but that it wasn't all that big a deal.

On Feb. 28, the Sentinel ran a piece by Blethen Maine Newspapers' Washington correspondent Jonathan Kaplan about a new fundraising video put out by Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, in which she attacks her Democratic rival in the November election, U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, for accepting large campaign donations through the liberal group MoveOn.org.

The third paragraph of Kaplan's story, "Collins camp launches video attacking Allen," begins with this sentence: "The video includes a grainy image of Allen and shots of Iraq war protesters burning American flags and holding a sign urging soldiers to kill their officers."

I doubt an average reader would think that meant Allen had taken part in a flag burning, nor does the actual video portray such an action. But a copy editor at the Sentinel managed to come up with that interpretation. He or she slapped a sub-headline on the piece that read, "Video shows Allen burning flag."

Then, that editor buried this scoop on the back page of the local section.

Asked about this curious mix of creating sensational (although false) news and then burying it, Sentinel editor Eric Conrad, reached by phone, said, "That sub-head was bad, and we'll correct it."

He refused further comment by hanging up. Which was probably the wisest thing anybody connected with this mess has done.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Up to the Edge

Last Wednesday, Portland Press Herald made a subtle post-publication revision to an opinion column that it had published the previous day. And while the change was pretty minor--involving only a few words--it speaks volumes about the peculiar, corrosive dynamics of the US Senate race in Maine.

Backing up for a moment: On September 27, PPH ran a piece by lefty activist and columnist Mike Tipping detailing Sen. Susan Collins's role in the lead-up to last year's federal government shutdown, puncturing the Collins campaign's carefully crafted narrative with vote citations, published quotes and a reference to a Politico article.

Along the way, he noted that the senior senator's failed "compromise plan" to end the shutdown was built around a tax cut for medical device manufacturers, adding:

Why did Collins target this particular provision? It's hard to say, but it may have something to do with the fact that the pharmaceutical and medical device industry has given heavily to Collins’ re-election campaign. Four months before she proposed the repeal, their top lobbyists had even hosted a high-dollar fundraising luncheon on her behalf.
Three days later, PPH ran a response from the Collins campaign which led with the claim that:
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows and her partisan left-wing allies...have resorted to false attack ads, misleading letters to the editor and, sadly, outright lies.

The most recent example is Mike Tipping’s Sept. 27 column.

But instead of taking on any of those supposed lies--or tackling the claims Tipping actually made--Collins's proxy took the conversation in a different direction, focusing on praise from Collins's colleagues that was entirely beside the point.

And after strongly implying that Collins's plan--and the medical device tax that was its centerpiece--passed into law (it did not), the senior senator's surrogate noted that her, "framework did include a repeal of the medical device tax, as Mr. Tipping pointed out while alleging some sort of illegal campaign kickback."

That summarization of Tipping's claims--that he was suggesting, let alone alleging, illegality--strikes me as just plain false. And it struck Tipping the same way. He was clearly speculating rather than concluding. And he was pointing to the tangled relationship between money and power inside the beltway rather than suggesting an explicit quid pro quo.

But instead of recapping this discussion neutrally--or even reframing it in a negative light--the Collins campaign had simply replaced the substance of his comment with a more nefarious conclusion that was easier to bat down.

And they had done so, remember, in the context of a piece attacking the credibility of Collins's foes and purporting to respond to "outright lies."

It's not unusual for political campaigns to caricature the arguments of their opponents or stretch the bounds of truth in service of political attacks. But taking shots at the credibility of your critics based on arguments they haven't actually made requires a certain amount of moxie. And it's the kind of cynical tactic that cries out for media exposure: Readers and voters need to understand that the person shouting "liar" may in fact be the one who's not telling the truth.

But what happened next is what's most illuminating.

Faced with a swirl of responsibilities to his readers, his writers and the integrity of the paper, Press Herald Opinion Editor Greg Kesich went back into the piece to remove the false claim about Tipping, essentially conceding that the Collins camp's credibility attack itself didn't stand up to scrutiny.

But he did so in the quietest way possible, appending a small "clarification" to the bottom of the article that omits any suggestion that the Collins camp had mischaracterized Tipping's words in the first place--even though the question of who's telling the truth was central to the piece and Kesich's intervention was a key data point in that debate.

In a phone interview, Kesich explained the step, telling me that the word "illegal" was "too strong" and noting that the Collins camp, "took the most extreme version" of what Tipping had written.

At the same time, he characterized the change as essentially small potatoes and really no big deal.

When I pressed him, pointing out that his decision to go back in to revise the piece after publication suggested that he must have been pretty uncomfortable with the language, he agreed, but noted that all the same, the Collins camp's claim was "pretty close to the edge."

And there you have the Collins campaign strategy in a nutshell: To make false claims about its opponents that are close enough to the edge so as not to draw the attention or raise the ire of the somnambulant, pliant Maine press.

So far, so good.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins on children caught entering the United States from Central America:

"It was a surprise to me that they were being taught American customs, American traditions ... the kind that I would expect to see in a naturalization process," said Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who led the late-July trip from Washington of a handful of senators.

"I thought that was troubling because I think it raises their expectations that they will be allowed to stay in this country," she said.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

DFA Ad Trips up Collins Camp

With the campaign of Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows circulating a poll that shows their candidate making a big dent in the lead of Sen. Susan Collins--the senior senator's advantage is down to 24% from 55% in June--Democracy For America (DFA) jumped into the fray on Wednesday with a $300,000 ad buy attacking Collins and supporting Bellows:

Collins reelection campaign spokesman Lance Dutson immediately took to Twitter to blast the above ad:

But then something funny happened: Dutson couldn't back up his rather bold charge. He couldn't come close.

Dutson began his dissection of the ad by attributing to it the claim that "Collins voted against Dodd-Frank."

The ad actually says that Collins voted "against a crackdown on Wall Street after the financial crisis" and references an April 26, 2010 vote to make its case.

This was indeed a vote on the Dodd-Frank financial reform package--but not the final, successful vote that made the bill into law. Rather, it was an earlier vote in which Collins lined up with Republicans to block the package. I'd forgotten that Collins had been on both sides of the Senate's financial reform bill, but clearly DFA didn't. (She was memorably quizzed about the filibuster by--of all people--Matt Lauer.)

In short, while it's indisputably true that Maine's three-term senator ultimately came around to backing Dodd-Frank, it's just as indisputable that Collins "voted against a crackdown" as the ad claims.

Spotlighting that fact might be considered uncharitable--after having voted against the bill, in the end Collins voted for it. In the context of a 60-second critique, the assertion could even (arguably) be called disingenuous. But all the caveats in the world don't change the fact that it's literally and verifiably true.

Meanwhile, Dutson's second attempt at exposing the ad's "falsehoods" came to even less:

As proof, Dutson cited Collins's vote for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act when it passed back in 2009. But as I tried to get across to him on Twitter, you can't refute the idea that someone is against doing "more" about something by citing a law she helped pass long ago: The whole point of using the word "more" is to signal a move beyond the present-tense status quo. (Try promising your kid more ice cream and then, when she asks for it, talking about the ice cream you bought her six weeks ago.)

This seems so basic as to be almost beyond explanation. But instead of trying again or recalibrating--instead of dialing back the charge that the ad is "riddled with falsehoods" Dutson simply dug in, citing "major factual errors".

Whether he had in mind other, unspecified errors or the errors he'd tried and failed to substantiate isn't clear.

Something tells me that further clarification won't be forthcoming.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Quote of the Day

Washington Times:

"Prior to the Tea Party movement, moderate members such as Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican, were only known back home. Today, they are household names and their telephone lines can be flooded at a moment’s notice with calls from activists--a move that can directly affect votes. It is akin to winning the war without firing a single shot, or spending a single dollar in those districts during an election year."

Friday, August 15, 2014

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins in a written statement:

"Increased foreign competition continues to present serious economic difficulties for the paper industry, which is why it’s absolutely essential that trade agreements be fair to American workers and open new markets for American products."

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Under the Radar

Even as Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows makes herself available for extended unscripted interactions with voters and the press during her much-publicized walk across Maine, incumbent Sen. Susan Collins has removed the "Events" tab from her campaign website.

Compare the versions here and here.

This is actually part of a steady erosion of the utility of the Collins campaign site over the years: As technology has expanded the scope of what's possible, the Collins campaign has slowly reduced the amount of useful information on offer--from a 2002 site that provided issue positions and a biography through a 2008 version that at least feigned to care about policy to the current incarnation, virtually devoid of issue substance.

The site's superficiality underscores the content-free nature of the Collins political persona and the opacity of her views on many of the pressing issues of the day; the elimination of the "Events" tab in particular is a reminder of the senior senator's lack of transparency with Maine voters--not just during election season but year in, year out.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Collins and Carbon: Anybody's Guess

As expected, League of Conservation Voters (LCV) endorsed Sen. Susan Collins last week despite her middling lifetime rating of 67% on LCV's own scorecard.

By way of comparison: Collins's 69% rating for 2013 put her 34th out of the 35 Senate and House members who represented New England during that year.

(I've written about LCV's peculiar fondness for Collins more than a few times in the past.)

The text of the endorsement is worth reading, if only because it includes a claim that is verifiably--and obviously--false:

"[Collins] is always fighting for the people of Maine by supporting commonsense policies that promote the state's outdoor heritage and help protect our air, water and public health."

To be sure, Collins has taken more than a few environmentally-friendly votes over the years. But since when does 67% get rounded up to "always"?

In short, rather than candidly explain the bargain the group has struck by standing with a pol who supported what LCV itself called the ""most anti-environment bill signed into law in recent memory", the organization has instead sidestepped the ickiness of the situation by simply lying about Collins's record.

What's more, while the endorsement claims that "Collins is committed to finding bipartisan solutions that will safeguard our environment and combat climate change," the senior senators words and actions tell a much more complicated story.

Specifically, after backing climate legislation back in the mid-2000s when it had no chance of passing, Collins balked once President Obama took office--lamely blaming the economy--and ultimately refused to get behind the bill with the best chance of passing, even as she voted to block the EPA from regulating emissions.

She also pushed an amendment that would have stalled the tightening of clean air standards--a move that National Resouces Defense Council says would have resulted in over 17,000 avoidable heart attacks.

And here she is flogging a Koch-friendly, environmentally-reckless "regulatory time-out" in the Republican weekly address:


If safeguarding the environment is high on the list of concerns of the pol speaking above, there's no evidence of it.

Yes, Collins's history when it comes to the environment isn't all bad news. But it's the very murkiness of her record and rhetoric that makes LCV's claim to know what she's "committed to" laughable.

To that point: A week after LCV announced its support, Collins remains the only member of the Maine delegation not to have staked out a position on whether the EPA's new draft carbon regulations should be welcomed or overturned.

Draw your own conclusions.

ALSO: Expect light tweeting--and even lighter blogging--from Collins Watch for the month of July. We'll see you in August.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

HRC for Collins. Again.

In a move that's unsurprising but nonetheless troubling, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) endorsed Sen. Susan Collins in her bid for a fourth term earlier today.

Collins has been a trailblazer on gay rights issues among congressional Republicans. But her record pales in comparison to those of many non-Republican actors on the political stage, including Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows, who was a leader in the 2012 Maine marriage referendum fight and a stalwart supporter of the LGBT community during her years at the ACLU of Maine.

HRC made waves during the 2008 campaign when it backed Collins over a Democratic challenger who had a better record on LGBT issues according to HRC's own scorecard.

At the time, HRC defended the move on "bipartisanship" grounds in an e-mail to this blog:

HRC is a bipartisan organization. This is not an empty principle or a meaningless nod to an ideal we do not follow. We are bipartisan because equality knows no party, and because we simply cannot achieve justice for the entire GLBT community by conceding that only Democrats should care about us.

Of course, as I noted in the same post, "the onus should be on Republicans to sign onto HRC's agenda--rather than on HRC to bend its standards to accommodate members of the GOP."

But this time around, HRC or Collins--or both--took that advice to heart. Because just a few hours after the endorsement hit, news arrived that Collins now supports same-sex marriage, albeit in a limited, qualified sense:

"A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalized same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision."

[...]

[Collins spokesman Lance Dutson] said the senator had been silent on the issue previously because she believes it is the voters of each state--not U.S. senators--who should make the decision on marriage equality.

"What she has consistently said is she doesn't want to get involved in state-level referendum issues. She's a U.S. senator, and she stays within the purview of her office," Dutson said. "But when asked [today] about her personal stance on this issue, she said she supports it."


So it's a personal view: Collins isn't supporting a federal marriage right; or updating her dodge about the impact of the Defense of Marriage Act; or even divulging how she voted in the 2012 state referendum.

She's just saying she's cool with same-sex marriage within the borders of Maine (something that's already on the books) from this day forward.

Not exactly crusading for the cause. But good enough for HRC apparently.

Still, the story is cringeworthy for a reason having nothing to do with the half-heartedness of the message or the fecklessness of HRC. Namely: Why did Collins decide to go out of her way to make her about-face on marriage appear to be a quid pro quo?

I can't think of a precedent for the kind of juxtaposition we saw today, and it's not hard to understand why: When you announce a change of heart on a profound issue of conscience just a few hours after receiving an endorsement from an organization that focuses on the issue in question, it can't help but read as a transactional, even mercenary move.

Surely, there's got to be some plausible reason for why Maine's senior senator chose to time things this way. But I can't seem to come up with any compelling theories.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Quote of the Day

Paul Krugman tells an inconvenient truth:

Given the state of U.S. politics today, climate action is entirely dependent on Democrats, With a Democrat in the White House, we got some movement through executive action; if Democrats eventually regain the House, there could be more. If [former Treasury Secretary Hank] Paulson believes that he can support Republicans while still pushing for climate action, he's just delusional.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Poll: Collins +55% (!)

Hard to reconcile the new Press Herald numbers with the previous Collins-Bellows poll: With no major news developments, did Maine's senior senator really gain 19 points on her Democratic challenger in eight weeks?

It seems unlikely, but it's a mostly academic question. Sen. Susan Collins is way out in front. It would take something dramatic to make this race competitive.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins:

"The question is whether air strikes can be targeted enough that they don't kill innocent people."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins on embattled Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS):

"I'm giving him another contribution, the maximum I can give him from my leadership PAC and I'll be going to the event for him tonight."

Monday, June 2, 2014

Quote of the Day

MPBN:

Both of Maine's Democratic House representatives welcomed the new [EPA rules regulating carbon dioxide], as did independent Sen. Angus King. Maine's other senator--Republican Susan Collins--issued a statement saying she was still carefully evaluating them.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Quote of the Day

NYT:

"We need to raise money to keep ourselves going," said Adam Brandon, the executive vice president of FreedomWorks. "Grass-roots activism is not cheap, and this stuff is not for free."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Quote of the Day

New York Times:

In the Senate, the Republican threesome of John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who often speak from the same playbook on foreign policy, are among those who talk about Benghazi the most, along with fellow Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Ted Cruz of Texas.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hurting and Helping

Friday on Ken and Mike's WGAN radio show, Sen. Susan Collins backed into a revealing explanation of her thinking about the minimum wage [7:06]:

I was so frustrated that those of us who want to see an increase in the minimum wage but believe that $10.10 would actually harm the very people we're trying to help were not given an opportunity to offer alternatives.(Emphasis added.)

During the interview, Collins never qualifies or expands on her view that boosting the minimum wage to $10.10 in three phases between now and 2016 would be, essentially, a self-defeating policy.

But that's a controversial stance--or ought to be.

Because while there are plausible (if mostly weak) arguments to be made about the downsides of a significant minimum wage increase, harm to the workers themselves isn't one of them.

After all, the very Congressional Budget Office study that Collins cites approvingly in the interview projects that a $10.10 minimum wage would lift 900,000 out of poverty and boost wages for 16 million Americans. It also estimates a loss of 500,000 jobs, but as center-right economics writer Josh Barro notes, that's a trade well-worth making:

For every person put out of work by the minimum wage increase, more than 30 will see rises in income, often on the order of several dollars an hour. Low--and moderate--income families will get an extra $17 billion a year in income, even after accounting for people who get put out of work; for reference, that's roughly equivalent to a 25% increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit.

In the context of those numbers, the only way to oppose a $10.10 minimum wage based on its impact on workers is to maintain that any job loss is unacceptable. But if that's the new standard, Washington should simply throw in the towel on policy-making altogether. Because all legislation--even something as benign as expanding access to the potato in federal nutrition programs--is bound to affect some workers negatively in an economy as large, complicated and interconnected as ours.

Which is why policies should be evaluated on the basis of their overall impact rather than a single cherry-picked statistic.

Collins knows this, of course. So when she talks about $10.10 harming "the very people we're trying to help" it seems safe to say that something other than a neutral cost-benefit analysis is at work.

Specifically, this looks an awful lot like a Washington veteran and a friend of the restaurant lobby straining to conflate the narrow legislative aims of a privileged constituency with the economic interests of Americans more broadly.

Granted, accepting that what's good for McDonald's is good for its workers requires a certain amount of tortured thinking. But when you spend decades ensconced in the beltway, giving disproportionate attention to the most powerful corporate voices at the expense of the regular people, it's the sort of argument that you can't help but find yourself spouting.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Quote of the Day

Allahpundit at Hot Air on Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY):

Backing [Sen. Susan] Collins so effusively when he could have demurred with a simple “I always support Republicans over Democrats” might have been the last straw, definitive proof that he’s "over-correcting."

Poll: Collins +36%

Sen. Susan Collins campaign staffer Lance Dutson points to a new poll on the Maine Senate race out from Republican-leaning pollster Rassmussen:

Collins (R) 60%

Bellows (D) 24%


This is a real shot in the arm for Collins and unwelcome news for the Bellows camp: After six months in the race--including some stunningly positive press coverage and surprisingly strong grassroots funding--Bellows and her team are bound to be discouraged to have narrowed their deficit by just three points since the race's only prior poll.

On the other hand, Rasmussen is a right-leaning outfit with a history of GOP-friendly bias, so it would be useful to have these numbers corroborated by another pollster with a better track record.

Either way, this result confirms that Collins isn't just ahead; she's well ahead. If the race stays on its current trajectory, she cruises to victory.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bellows Q1: $433K

Democratic Senate candidate Shenna Bellows showed some momentum in her second quarter of active campaigning, building on her impressive first quarter totals.

These aren't the kind of blowout figures we're seeing in Kentucky. And Bellows raised less than half as much as Sen. Susan Collins.

But Maine has 1/3 as many people as the Bluegrass State. And the kind of grassroots race Bellows seems intent on running just isn't that expensive in a small state. So as long as she can amass the funds necessary to build out her staff and continue to get the message out, her campaign remains on its chosen trajectory.

Whether such an approach is viable in Maine in 2014 is very much an open question. But it seems quite likely at this point that Bellows will have the funds necessary to test that premise.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Collins Q1: $877K

Not a bad haul for Maine's senior senator, but not a giant quarter either: She raised $963,000 in the comparable quarter last cycle. And of course there's always the question of where that money came from.

We'll know in a few weeks.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Pawn in a Larger Game

Regular readers know that there's a long and sordid history of left-leaning interest groups--and environmental organizations in particular--succumbing to a kind of willful blindness when it comes to Sen. Susan Collins and her record.

We saw it in 2008 with the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) endorsing Collins even though she had a significantly worse record than her Democratic opponent according to LCV's own scorecard.

We also saw it in the wake of Collins's support for the 2011 incarnation of the Ryan budget, with Maine's senior senator earning praise from a children's advocacy organization just two weeks after voting to gut Head Start and food stamps.

There are, alas, many other examples. (Equality Maine is one organization that has, at least at times, charted a different course.)

So it was galling but not surprising when it was announced that a TV ad supporting Collins was going to be running in Maine as part of a multi-organization, multi-state pro-environment (or was it pro-renewable energy?) advocacy campaign.

On the Collins ad in particular, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) was teaming up with something called Mom's Clean Air Force (MCAF) to pay for a spot in local TV markets touting a pair of Collins votes that the Maine-centric ad suggests--against a backdrop of buoys and lobster traps--have helped protect "our" way of life.

Forget that both organizations are based in Washington DC and that no one on the ground in Maine was consulted about or involved in the decision to run the ad, according to David DiMartino of strategic communications firm Blue Engine Media, who spearheaded the campaign.

Forget also that Collins, a Keystone XL pipeline supporter with a lifetime LCV score of 67% (and dropping), has sided with climate deniers and corporate polluters in vote after vote in recent years--at one point famously blaming the weak economy for her lack of urgency on climate change.

That record notwithstanding, EDF and MCAF apparently felt so strongly about touting Collins's supposed pro-environment bona fides--based on two votes out of literally dozens scored by LCV in the last few years--that they could think of no better use of their hard-won funds than to take to the airwaves to tell Mainers about their own senator.

In purely environmental advocacy terms, it was hard to make sense of. So I reached out to EDF for answers. (I was less persistent in my efforts to speak with MCAF, a group with a shorter track record and a smaller footprint.)

I was eventually put in touch with EDF's Keith Gaby and we had a spirited fifteen minute back-and-forth.

Unfortunately, Gaby wouldn't confirm EDF's relationship with MCAF; or the size of the ad buy; or EDF's contribution to the buy; or the channels the ad was placed with.

He also refused to shed any light on the process through which the decision to green-light the ad was reached; or why it was launched as part of a multi-state, multi-organization effort; or whether it was dishonest for two DC-based organizations with no apparent Maine presence to craft an ad that poses as a message to Mainers by Mainers.

But his answers to my question about why EDF chose to single out Collins were illuminating.

After I rattled off a series of high profile anti-environment votes by Maine's senior senator (including the 2005 Cheney energy bill which LCV called the "most anti-environment bill signed into law in recent memory"), Gaby stipulated that Collins has taken any number of actions that EDF disapproves of.

Still, he argued, Collins, as a Republican, had taken particular risk on the votes EDF was touting. It was an idea he circled back to repeatedly as he made his case for lavishing praise on the three-term incumbent.

When I questioned that premise--and the idea that she deserved special recognition on the basis of her party affiliation--Gaby seemed to think I was kidding or being cute. He was genuinely flummoxed.

He ventured, ultimately, that it's "self-evident that a member of a political party" faces pressures by virtue of that membership. (That Collins actually chooses to subject herself to those pressures by running as a Republican didn't seem to weigh into his calculus.)

He argued, further, that highlighting the votes of a fellow Republican might "encourage others" in the GOP to see the political upside of taking more environmentally-friendly stances.

The overarching idea seemed to be that support for Collins could be used as way to reward her for breaking with her GOP colleagues (however sporadically) and to incentive other Republicans to think about taking pro-environment positions. That seemed to be about the size of it.

There are, of course, any number of reasons to be skeptical of Gaby's argument. (I've dealt with some of them here and here.)

But I'll make three new points:

First, at least as it applies to Collins, the encouragement-via-praise approach has been tried and it's failed: Collins had a 68% lifetime rating with LCV when it endorsed her in 2006, presumably with hopes similar to those espoused by Gaby. Today her lifetime rating stands one tick lower at 67%. And she never got behind the only viable climate change proposal that surfaced in the Senate during that period.

Second, it's clear as day that EDF's agenda here has almost nothing to do with Collins or a couple of cherry-picked votes--let alone the interests of Mainers. Rather, it's about a larger game.

Whether the goal is actually to try to change the political dynamic around environmental issues or whether it's simply about appeasing wealthy right-leaning donors (or something else entirely) is impossible to say. But plainly, Collins is being used as a pawn. The fact that she's happy to be used in this way doesn't make the ad itself--or the calculation behind it--any less disingenuous.

Third, whatever their aims, groups like EDF would have more credibility in this kind of effort if they were willing to pair their praise of Collins with a commitment to call out her bad acts. After all, you can't advance the cause of environmental defense through happy talk alone; constituents deserve an accurate picture of the political challenges that stand in the way of success.

For mission-based organizations, the imperative to be straight with with members, donor and stakeholders requires candor. Or it ought to.

UPDATE: Jonathan Cohn alerts us to the fact that according to MCAF's own website, MCAF "is a special project of the Environmental Defense Fund, which provides the funding and staff support."

EDF's unwillingness to confirm this relationship is rather curious.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dealmaking and "Dealmaking"

Voices inside the beltway were buzzing again this past week about Sen. Susan Collins's role as an aisle-crossing beacon of bipartisan dealmaking, with the narrative crafted mostly around her comments and supposed efforts on the minimum wage issue.

We pay much less attention to this type of chatter than we used to and it's worth reiterating why: Particularly on the most salient topics of the day, there's often a large gap between Collins's words and actions--between what she professes to believe and what she's actually willing to do.

We've seen this on climate change, with Collins saying the right things and voting to advance a serious proposal right before the 2008 election when it had no chance of passing only to abandon ship once the prospects for reform become real.

And we saw it with the Obama health care proposal, when Collins told voters during the 2008 campaign that she thought his plan was "pretty good" and was open to supporting it--only to fight it tooth and nail once she won reelection.

Collins's willingness to talk out of both sides of her mouth on these issues and others makes the job of reporters harder; it forces them to peel back the rhetorical facade and to do the boring, difficult work of sifting through her actual record in office if they want to get at the truth.

For a mix of reasons including journalist time constraints, Collins's branding and the stake that the DC press corps has in sustaining the "moderate narrative" such digging rarely happpens. And so we get the kind of coverage we saw last week.

But on the minimum wage in particular, it's easier than usual to see that Collins is playacting rather than looking for actual solutions--that she's guilty of the very political point-scoring approach that she professes to be combating. All you have to do is look at her proposal.

Specifically, Collins is trying to tie even a modest minimum wage hike to an Obamacare "fix" that would add $140 billion to the federal debt over ten years, cost 1 million Americans their job-based health coverage and leave 500,000 fewer Americans insured.

It's pretty safe to say that such a proposal--completely unrelated to the minimum wage itself--counts as a poison pill in the current political context. And so it's not the sort of thing you'd try to tack onto a wage hike if you were truly animated by a concern for improving the lot of the working poor.

On the other hand, it's exactly the kind of plan you'd propose appending if you were facing a surprisingly vigorous challenge and your main concern was to make a show of attempting compromise in order to win praise from beltway pundits--without actually moving the ball forward.

On that score, Collins's efforts have been an unmitigated success.

Quote of the Day

David Friedlander:

At times, [Democratic Senate candidate Shenna] Bellows can sound like a spokesperson for the Ron Paul Army.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Collins and the McMahons

According to the filings at FEC.gov, one couple gave Sen. Susan Collins more than any other--the legal maximum of $10,400--during the most recent filing period. And there's a good chance you've heard of them: Linda and Vince McMahon, the duo behind World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

Let me say at the top: I'm not a huge fan of judging politicians by who supports them. It was unfair and offensive when, in 2008, Collins smeared Rep. Tom Allen as an ally of flag burners and other nefarious miscreants (including rich Jews) simply because MoveOn.org had encouraged supporters to donate to his campaign.

That the group endorsed Allen didn't mean he endorsed everything it had ever done. And it didn't mean that he ought to be held responsible for the political views of every one of his small dollar donors (let alone the Collins camp's ghoulish and hysterical caricature of those donors and their views.)

That distinction--between a candidate endorsing his donors and being endorsed by them--seems pretty elemental and easy to grasp. Unless, of course, you're committed to playing a political "gotcha" game.

That said, there are obviously limits to what a pol can fairly disassociate herself from: Some actions are so egregious--some actors on the world stage so odious--that we expect candidates to explicitly reject them.

Contributors who are under investigation for political bribery is one category that comes to mind. Notorious bigots is another--which is why I've been critical of Collins's decision to take $5000 from the PAC of strident homophobe Sen. Tom Coburn R-OK: When you say things like "The gay community has infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country...That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today" you put yourself outside the bounds of civilized discourse in a way that demands to be called out.

But Collins's relationship with the McMahons raises different questions: Specifically, in this case the usual dichotomy between endorsing and endorsed by doesn't apply. Why?

Because in this case the endorsing does actually go both ways:

Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski...were the featured speakers at a "Women for Linda" rally McMahon held Saturday afternoon at a Norwalk hotel...

Both Collins and Murkowski said McMahon would bring a woman's common sense touch to the dysfunction of Washington...

Collins said she and the 16 other women Senators gather for dinner every six weeks or so. One day, a male colleague asked what those dinners were all about. Collins said she smiled sweetly and responded that the women were planning a coup. "And I can't think of a better person to help us execute that coup than Linda McMahon," she said as the crowd cheered. (Emphasis added.)


At issue for Maine voters in the mutual support between Collins and the McMahons is (among other things) the WWE's history of virulent homophobia and misogyny: While Collins fancies herself a champion of civilty, McMahon has made her fortune trafficking in ugly sterotypes and sexually-tinged violence--up to an including a mock gay wedding played for laughs and storylines about (NSFW) sexually predatory lesbians.

To put it simply, something's got to give.

Either Collins is truly concerned about the coarsening of the culture or she's comfortable aligning herself with folks who have a history of feeding on--and fueling--bigotry.

Either she cares deeply about changing the tone of our politics or she can further entrench her relationship with the McMahons.

But it's time to abandon the pretense that she can do both simultaneously.

(WWE photo by Simon Q.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Quote of the Day

Democratic Senate candidate Shenna Bellows on Sen. Susan Collins's support for the Blunt Amendment:

You can't be pro-choice and vote to limit access to birth control.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Quote of the Day

Peg Dilley of Casco on her fear of tar sands oil being pumped through her neighborhood:

I have asked Susan Collins and I'm asking Angus King and I'm asking any of the other legislators to come and we will find you a horse and I would like to put you on a horse right here, bring you down the pipeline and let you see the smush and the trickle brooks because that's all this area is, is natural springs and trickle brooks that run.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

NRCM Pressing Collins on Tar Sands Oil


WLBZ2:
On Thursday afternoon, the Canadian National Energy Board ruled in favor of a project that will allow tar sands oil to flow east from Alberta Provence to Montreal, Quebec.

Environmental groups in Maine believe the decision paves the way for energy companies to seek to have tar sands oil flow from Canada to Casco Bay via the Portland Montreal Pipeline.

"Up until this point, the line that comes from Alberta down towards the New England border has not been able to carry tar sands," explained Lisa Pohlmann, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. "So it is literally now at our doorstep."

[...]

"We really need to take this latest move seriously," said Pohlmann.

She is urging Mainers to contact Senator Susan Collins, the only member of Maine's congressional delegation that has not called upon the State Department to do a full environmental review were the pipeline company [to] seek permits to move tar sands through Maine. (Emphasis added.)


The pressure from NRCM comes at a sensitive time for Collins, a Keystone pipeline supporter who was endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters in 2008 despite having a lower rating on the organization's own scorecard than her Democratic opponent.

With Sierra Club recently declining to back the 18-year incumbent, it remains an open question whether and to what extent left-leaning interest groups will again be willing--as they were during the 2008 campaign cycle--to greenwash the senior senator's record in exchange for a (momentary) bolstering of their bipartisan credentials.

(Photo by FeatheredTar.)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Copyright Violations At Collins Website

With the 2014 race picking up steam, Sen. Susan Collins's campaign recently unveiled a spiffy new version of their campaign website. Among the new features is a "Latest News" tab that, soon after launch, included unabridged reprints of articles from the Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News.

Asked whether Portland Press Herald had consented to have its work reprinted by the campaign, the writer of one of the pieces posted in full, Eric Russell, confirmed via e-mail that his article had been republished without permission. Which is a big no-no. Specifically, it's a violation of federal copyright law.

Earlier today Russell suggested that an editor would be reaching out to the Collins camp and--lo and behold--the page was changed within minutes.

According to FEC records, the campaign has paid $29,917 in "web consulting" and related fees to longtime Republican operative and As Maine Goes proprietor Lance Dutson since January 2013.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Revolving Door Watch

PPH's On The Move column:

Chris Philbrook, a senior account executive, was promoted to director of public affairs at Kemp Goldberg Partners.

Philbrook was previously a senior staff member with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and a special assistant to Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Henry Paulson.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Quote of the Day

BDN's Gordon Weil:

If senators like Collins try to survive the Tea Party threat by letting it set the agenda, traditional Republicans could turn out to be little more than foot soldiers in a right-wing army.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Sierra Club: We'll Pass

Sierra Club has decided not to endorse in the race between Sen. Susan Collins and challenger Shenna Bellows, according to Melissa Walsh Innes of the organization's Maine chapter.

Sierra Club declined to elaborate.

To an unknowledgeable observer, the move might seem a setback to Bellows, whose positions on the issues are more closely aligned with Sierra Club's than those of Collins. That Bellows has incorporated warnings about the urgency of addressing climate change into her campaign pitch while Collins has spent the last four years virtually ignoring the topic might seem to corroborate that view.

But such a conclusion ignores the relevant history and context.

Specifically, given Collins's sizable lead in the race's only published poll, Bellows's lack of voting record and the history of environmental organizations greenwashing the Maine Republican's record in a (desperate) attempt to burnish their bipartisan bona fides, Sierra Club's decision can more accurately be seen as one which raises questions about the eagerness of beltway-based left-leaning interest groups to go to bat for Collins in 2014 as they did last cycle.

When you factor in Sierra Club's unwillingness to endorse Collins challenger and stalwart environmental protection supporter Rep. Tom Allen in 2008, despite the vivid apples-to-apples contrast on the issues between Allen and Collins, the decision starts to seem like a win for Bellows.

(More on the peculiar reticence of left-leaning interest groups to tell the truth about Collins here and here.)

What nexus of considerations figured into Sierra Club's decision to buck Collins remains unclear. That Maine's senior senator has continued to side with her GOP colleagues on environmental issues with disappointing regularity is one likely factor--her lifetime score on the scorecard of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) remains stuck at 67% and she scored an astounding 0% as recently as 2010.

It also seems plausible that Bellows's long-standing membership in--and familiarity with--Maine's left-leaning activist community might have played a role: Her work at the ACLU would have almost certainly put her on the radar of the local affiliates of these organizations in a way that may have given her an opportunity to prove her credibility with their leaders.

It will be interesting to see what similarly-situated organizations such as LCV--which endorsed Collins last time--will do with a similar confluence of pressures. One notable difference on that front: Beth Ahearn of Maine Conservation Voters told me in a phone interview that at LCV, the local affiliate has no voice in endorsement decisions for federal officials.

Why Maine-based activist on the ground should have zero influence in decisions about who is best qualified to represent them in Washington she couldn't explain. But it is what it is.

Quote of the Day

Jim Antle, editor at the right-leaning Daily Caller News Foundation:

Not sure Shenna Bellows wouldn't be an upgrade from Susan Collins.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

On The Radar At Daily Kos

In a move that's that's hard to make sense of in strategic terms, National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Brad Dayspring has gone out of his way not only to attack Sen. Susan Collins's challenger Shenna Bellows, but to link her to the popular left-leaning online community Daily Kos:

"Susan Collins is a strong, independent woman, and an effective legislator who always puts Mainers first. If the Daily Kos declares statehood, Shenna Bellows would fit in well, but in Maine she's way too far outside the mainstream for independent minded voters," he said.

Predictably, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas is having none of it:

1) [...] The national GOP is way outside the Maine mainstream. Objectively so.

2) Shenna Bellows grew up without electricity in rural Maine. Her dad's a carpenter, her mom's a nurse. So try to paint her as an outsider at your own peril.

[...]

5) If Dayspring had been magnanimous, I wouldn't be writing about this race right now. The last thing Republicans want is for buzz to start building around this race. They want it to remain sleepy, out of people's minds. Instead of having people follow a link to Shenna Bellows' campaign website.

Why Collins's NRSC allies would want to boost the prominence of the Maine Senate race among the national left-leaning grassroots--and to do it in a way designed to tweak activist Democrats, implicitly linking it to the national battle between Republicans and Democrats--is hard to fathom. Espcially given the track record at Daily Kos for grassroots fundraising.

But every time Collins and her allies go after Bellows it seems more likely that they see her as a real threat.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Quotes of the Day

Sunday:

[Sen. Susan] Collins' campaign, meanwhile, said she is listening to arguments from both sides of the issue.
Sunday:
Collins’ office did not grant repeated requests for an interview with the senator.
Sunday:
Collins has not taken a clear stance on the issue. Her office said that the Republican continues to listen to Mainers and others as she weighs the implications.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Playing Politics On Torture

The Bangor Daily News, which has a history of using its coverage to advantage rather than challenge Sen. Susan Collins, for some reason makes an exception when it comes to one topic in particular: The paper has run not one, not two but three separate Op-Eds in the last four months prodding Maine's senior senator on torture.

And now the vote referenced in each of those pieces seems like it may finally be upon us:

Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins could provide the swing votes on whether to release a secret 6,000-page report that has been described as a scathing indictment of CIA interrogation techniques used against suspected terrorists.

[...]

Collins has not taken a clear stance on the issue...While she strongly opposes torture, Collins' primary goal with the Intelligence Committee report is to "ensure that the report remains a tool for meaningful oversight and that it does not become a political issue that can be used by either party," according to a staffer in her office. (Emphasis added.)

Collins's position makes a certain amount of sense...until you actually think about it.

Certainly it's laudable--and probably imperative--for an investigation on a topic as serious as torture to avoid any hint of partisan slant. But the report has already been written, so that's not the question in front of the committee and it's not what Collins's (weirdly anonymous) spokesman is talking about.

Rather, the point being made by the Collins camp in the second bolded clause is about the report's impact--specifically the worry that it will yield partisan advantage to one side or the other. That's what it means when you say your "primary goal" is not to let the report become "a political issue."

But letting the political implications of a report outweigh the public interest in transparency and accountability isn't rising above partisan concerns. It's the essence of playing politics.

It means letting considerations about who gains and loses politically dictate what should and shouldn't be revealed to the American people.

Such a politically-focused approach would allow the crassest of calculations to factor into Senate oversight decisions. It requires salient information to be suppressed simply because somebody--anybody--might reap political benefit from its publication.

That is, of course, an extremely cramped vision of legislative oversight. Once spelled out, it's hard to take seriously.

Whether this is merely a talking point being floated by Collins (whose record indicates a willingness to abide torture) or a true reflection of her philosophy (which would explain her timid approach to Iraq war oversight during the Bush administration) is impossible to know.

But it hardly matters.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins's prospective Republican primary challenger Erick Bennett:

Can you imagine if the media did it's [sic] job and asked Susan Collins the hard questions about her record like they ask me the hard questions about mine?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

First Attack Launched

In the wake of surprisingly strong fourth quarter fundraising numbers from Shenna Bellows--the first time candidate beat three-term incumbent Sen. Susan Collins in total funds raised; received almost eight times as many donations as Collins; and reported having raised 80% of her money from Maine compared to 32% for Collins this cycle (according to the most recently published figures)--the Collins camp has launched the first negative attack of the campaign.

Specifically, in a letter to the editor, on Twitter and in a subsequent Tumblr post too silly and egregious to link to, Maine GOP Executive Director Jason Savage worked to downplay the significance of Bellows's numbers, raise doubts about the strength of her grassroots momentum and, improbably, portray her as a tool of big money donors.

That his attacks were built on baseless allegations and (deliberately?) false premises is really beside the point. (Though it's hard not to wonder where this sort of misleading blitz fits into Collins's campaign to restore civility to American politics.)

The real news gleaned from Savage's attack is what it reveals about the Collins campaign.

Namely, Collins and her team clearly think Maine's senior senator is vulnerable to being seen as an out-of-touch beltway insider. And it's not hard to figure out why: When you try to ride a wave of high dollar contributions to your fourth term in office--amassing a $3 million war chest from lobbyist-hosted DC fundraisers, corporate PACs and other influence-seekers--it becomes somewhat tricky to make the case that you're a Woman of the People.

Particularly if you recoiled at the idea of participating in the money-for-access merry-go-round when you first went to Washington.

In the absence of a politically defensible explanation for that kind of evolution, the Collins camp is responding by working to tear Bellows down, to neutralize whatever political advantages her strong grassroots showing provides.

It's an understandable political calculation--you might even call it predictable given Collins's history of brass knuckle politics. But it's not an especially ennobling one.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Quote of the Day

Allahpundit:

I'm really surprised [Sen. Susan] Collins et al. wouldn't give McConnell and Cornyn a pass on the vote, either. DrewM is right that this is ultimately Ted Cruz’s victory in having forced a cloture vote in the first place--it ended up being a gift to Matt Bevin, McConnell’s challenger in Kentucky--but credit the RINO caucus with an assist in demanding that McConnell and Cornyn jump off the cliff with them.

For all the squawking centrists do about how the caucus has grown more "extreme," making McConnell bite the bullet on this one improved the odds that he’ll be replaced with a more conservative senator.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Teamwork

Yesterday:

Given that the entire 55-member Democratic caucus is expected to support the clean debt ceiling bill, that means five Republicans would need to join with Democrats to advance the bill to passage. Centrist-minded [sic] Republicans like Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Susan Collins of Maine all said they were undecided on how they will vote.

Today:

Sen. Ted Cruz and the GOP rank and file ultimately backed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Whip John Cornyn into a corner on the debt ceiling increase.

The leaders had wanted to allow the toxic measure to pass with just 51 votes so all 45 Republicans could vote against it. But Cruz, the Texas tea party freshman, demanded approval by a 60-vote threshold.

So McConnell and Cornyn tried to persuade more than five Republicans in safe seats to support the plan, but they were met with stiff resistance. No Republican wanted to be vote No. 60 on a bill to raise the debt ceiling without spending cuts, forcing the GOP leaders to secure a comfortable margin of victory or risk being blamed for a historic debt default.

Miffed that they have long been asked to take tough votes when the GOP leaders voted 'no,' Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski, privately pressured McConnell and Cornyn to vote to break the filibuster, sources said. Murkowski resisted voting for the measure without the support of her leadership...

The vote proved to be anything but quick and easy...

That internal debate spilled into open view on the Senate floor. A grim-faced McConnell stood next to the white-haired Cornyn, who quietly discussed a way forward with Murkowski, Collins, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and a handful of other senators. Tension filled the room as the vote was kept open for more than an hour. The clerks were informed not to announce the names of the senators who had voted, allowing the leaders to urge senators to switch their votes.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Quote of the Day

David Weigel on political stories about "what will matter" come election season:

Journalists, in real time, are not the best arbiters of what people will come to believe months later. The fact that one party is spinning an incorrect story does not mean voters will buy that story...The journalist--any journalist--is better equipped to find the truth than he is to explain how someone might lie about it, and how the lie might work.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bellows Catches On

It was a surprisingly active week in the Collins-Bellows race. It started late Friday with the news that Shenna Bellows had managed to outraise Sen. Susan Collins in the 4th quarter of 2013.

That development, taken together with Tuesday's endorsement of Bellows by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), spurred a flurry of Bellows coverage in the national press, culminating in a National Journal piece that called the former American Civil Liberties Union of Maine executive director, "nothing short of a progressive's dream candidate."

(Coverage from local outlets Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News exhibited the usual pathologies, with PPH privileging the senior senator's point of view and BDN waiting four days to deliver a slanted piece built on bizarre assumptions.)

It's striking how quickly Bellows has been able to move from nationally-unknown long shot to progressive standard bearer. This is a function of the ever-accelerating pace of the news cycle, enabled by social media and in particular Twitter--which was not a factor in the 2008 Maine Senate race. But it's also a function of the growth of left-of-center media infrastructure.

Bellows has adeptly leveraged TV, radio and webcast to get her message out. And link by link, retweet by retweet, her candidacy has edged onto the radar of literally tens of thousands of activists, political junkies and potential donors.

Of course, even with PCCC calling her the "Elizabeth Warren of civil liberties" it's far from certain that Bellows and her campaign will emerge as a key progressive focus in 2014. But the odds are exponentially better than they were just seven days ago.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

PCCC Endorses Bellows

From their statement:

Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) is endorsing Shenna Bellows for the U.S. Senate in a key Senate upset race against Republican incumbent Susan Collins...

"We call Shenna Bellows the 'Elizabeth Warren of civil liberties' because she's campaigning boldly on constitutional freedom and economic populism," said PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor. "Like Elizabeth Warren's challenge to former Sen. Scott Brown, many insiders thought Susan Collins was unbeatable. Until now."

Monday, February 3, 2014

Quote of the Day

Robert Naiman:

By claiming to support a two-state solution while helping to bolster the occupation, Scarlett Johansson is acting as a Susan Collins for the occupation, pretending to be moderate, while acting to bolster extremists.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins:

I think if we can get women to look at [Republican] economic policies, they will find them very attractive.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Collins: Exec Orders Violate Constitution

Is there any other way to interpret this?

The President's decision to issue Executive Orders, to make recess appointments, or to suspend enforcement of certain laws is inconsistent with our Constitutional system of checks and balances.

Of course, every president except for William Henry Harrison--who served about a month in office--has issued executive orders. That includes Collins's beloved George W. Bush, who'd issued far more than Obama by this point in his presidency.

Does Collins think the actions of all of these presidents were "inconsistent with our Constitutional system"? Where was Collins's outrage during the last administration?

Or could it be that Collins, in a bid to woo a skeptical Maine GOP base, is parroting a right wing talk radio narrative that lacks any factual or historical foundation?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bellows Hits Collins on Marriage

Bellows [9:15]:

Susan Collins refuses to say whether or not she supports the freedom to marry.

Now, the [Mainers United for Marriage] coalition very much wanted her support during the campaign. We reached out multiple times to ask her to come out in favor of the freedom to marry. She did not do so then. She still has not done so, even though the voters of Maine have spoken.

And I think that this shows a lack of courage because presumably in 2012 she either voted yes or no. Presumably she didn't leave the question blank.

Interesting.

I would just point out that--at least as far as I can recollect--there's been no public suggestion by Collins or her team that the senior senator did actually vote one way or the other on the referendum.

I'm also not aware of any Maine reporter having asked Collins the kind of direct question that would have teased out that information.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Elision

Why do I almost feel like Sen. Susan Collins is forgetting something?

Unemployment insurance is critical to those who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are diligently searching for work but are unable to find it. That is why I recently voted to proceed to debate a bill that would extend federal emergency unemployment compensation benefits for three months, as the president requested.

When it became clear that this proposal would not have enough support, I worked, in good faith, with a group of colleagues on a proposal that could pass both the Senate and the House with bipartisan support.

Oh, right. It's that she voted against the very policy she's working overtime to insinuate that she supported.

It's not the first time Collins has tried to occupy both sides of the fence simultaneously. (Or the second. Or the third.) But it's another glaring example of the kind of duplicity that's bound to crop up when a powerful pol operates without any real accountability.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fixing and "Fixing"

Commentary worth reading on the Forty Hours is Full Time Act, which Sen. Susan Collins has proposed as a partial Obamacare "fix":

The kicker is the Collins-Donnelly proposal would put millions more workers at risk. Overall, we estimate that 6.5 million employees would be immediately vulnerable to hour reductions under their proposal, nearly three times the number under current law. That's because the cost of cutting hours from 40 to 39 hours a week would be negligible for the vast majority of employers and many more employees work 40 hours a week or more compared to those who work close to 30.

By effectively eliminating the employer penalty, this proposal would also result in more people losing job-based coverage. In July, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the one-year delay in the employer penalty would mean one million fewer Americans with job-based coverage. Half would shift into subsidized coverage through a state or federal marketplace or onto Medicaid. The other half would become uninsured.

The Collins-Donnelly plan also has important implications for the federal budget. The CBO estimates that the employer penalty will bring in $140 billion in revenue between 2014 and 2023. Little if any of this revenue will be collected if the 40-hour change is made. Meanwhile, the additional federal cost of health care for those workers suddenly without coverage through their job would add to the fiscal pain.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins:

The President’s decision that the metadata collection should continue but that the data should not be held by the government requires considerable scrutiny. Having the telephone companies or other non-governmental entities responsible for holding this information might well make it far less private and secure than it is currently.