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.


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


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.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Eleven Days

On January 3, Sen. Susan Collins spoke with WCSH6's Pat Callaghan:

CALLAGHAN: I think 1.3 million Americans lost their [unemployment] benefits at the end of the year. Millions more may if action is not taken. So your, your approach is, is what?

COLLINS: My approach is that we should extend the program for three months. That would help us find funds to pay for it.

Today Collins voted to filibuster a bill which would have extended the program for three months on the grounds that, um, well, er...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Quote of the Day

Shenna Bellows on marijuana legalization:

When we waste government resources in locking nonviolent offenders up and more resources on spying on ordinary Americans, then that is reducing resources available to really focus on those people who would do us real harm.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Bellows Q4 Totals

Impressive numbers from Shenna Bellows, and equally impressive is the breakdown:

Shenna Bellows, the Democratic candidate attempting to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, has only been fundraising for a few months, but her campaign will soon be touting more than $332,000 in donations.


According to the Bellows campaign, 81.7 percent of the 1,771 contributions were $100 or less, while over 80 percent of her donations came from Mainers.

"Our fundraising represents our values," she said in a statement. "The majority of our contributors are Mainers giving $100 or less. One of the biggest threats to our democracy is big money in politics, so it is refreshing to see that grassroots giving can triumph over special interests from out-of-state."

She added, "That is what a US Senate campaign should look like: local, grassroots-funded and representative of the entire state."

Puncturing The Bubble

Something strange and revealing happens at the tail end of Pat Callaghan's two-part, 18-minute Friday interview of Sen. Susan Collins. At 12:01 the following exchange unfolds:

CALLAGHAN: Some people get concerned about who's influencing Congress. Your husband is, runs a lobbying firm or is a partner in it. Is that...?



SENATOR COLLINS: It's, he is the COO [Chief Operating Officer] of a small consulting firm. He does no lobbying--


SENATOR COLLINS:--whatsoever.

CALLAGHAN: So he's not twisting your arm.

SENATOR COLLINS: Does no lobbying whatsoever.

CALLAGHAN: No conflict of interest here?


It all seems pretty straightforward: Collins, disabusing her interlocutor of a mistaken impression, corrects the record and Callaghan hustles the conversation onto another topic.

Except that Collins's denial that her husband Tom Daffron runs a lobbying firm is utterly--and blatantly--false.

Is Collins really in the dark about the fact that her spouse, who she's known since she first came to Washington DC in the 1970s, is a former registered lobbyist? That his K Street firm Jefferson Consulting Group has done plenty of lobbying over the years? That it lists "lobbying" as one of three practice areas on its corporate website? And that Daffron's COO responsibilities include "oversee[ing] Jefferson's administrative and financial functions as well as the day-to-day operations of the firm"?

In short, is she really unaware that, given the firm's profile and Daffron's role, Callaghan's formulation is perfectly accurate?

It seems implausible. And so the denial of easily verifiable facts comes across as reckless and even bizarre: How does a savvy, seasoned politician manage to blurt out such a transparently dishonest reply to such a basic question?

There's no simple answer. But the context of Collins's decades-long Washington journey from fresh face to veteran pol, taken together with the Maine media's extreme skittishness about scrutinizing the state's senior senator in general or the Collins-Daffron relationship in particular, probably sheds some light.

For starters, it's no accident that Collins's denial recalls in its terseness and peevishness former President George W. Bush's performance at 2004's first presidential debate or, more recently, Director of National intelligence James Clapper's testimony before Congress: Collins, after spending the better part of the last 40 years inside the bubble of power worship and status deference that is the Washington DC beltway, has clearly grown unaccustomed to being challenged directly on sensitive subjects.

It's within that same bubble that she's transitioned from squeaky clean freshman lawmaker--refusing to attend a 1997 fundraiser because donors were promised a chat with her--to ethically flexible beltway fixture, so inured to the amoral DC culture that she let corporate lobbyists throw her a birthday-bash-slash-fundraiser at a corporate-owned townhouse that stands as a monument, almost literally, to the abuse of campaign finance rules.

And it's inside the same corrosive power-and-privilege-fueled feedback loop that she "evolved" from pledging to serve no more than two terms to campaigning, unapologetically, for a fourth.

Put simply, when you're used to making up your own rules--and then revising them when they no longer serve your ends--it makes sense that you might bristle at a query about ethics and integrity from a lowly news anchor.

You might even feel justified blowing off his insolent question, facts be damned.

Of course, that Collins has become acclimated to the imperial treatment--and being insulated from anything that falls short of it--is no defense for dishonesty. Nor is the history of Maine press deference, which is to say silence, on the subject of her husband's career any excuse: You don't get to mislead viewers and deceive your constituents just because you've been asked a question you didn't see coming and would prefer not to answer.

If anything, Collins's uneasiness about the question underscores its importance, and the many legitimate concerns that stand behind it. Just for openers:

--Do any of Daffron's corporate clients have business before Congress in the coming term?

--How does Collins handle the potential confluence with and/or conflict between the oversight responsibility of the Intelligence Committee on which she sits and Daffron's firm's role as a consultant to the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI? Or between her role as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development and his firm's consulting work for the Department of Housing and Urban Development?

--What about Jefferson's work for CGI Federal, the company behind the botched rollout? Or Halliburton? Or Apple?

These are obvious, public interest-minded questions that constituents deserve a response to.

And while the curt and sweeping nature of Collins's brush-off strongly suggests that she has no intention of answering them, it hints as something else as well: That she hasn't actually thought through the implications of being married to someone who heads a firm that makes money from the government; from companies that want to do business with the government; and from still other companies that want to sway the government in one direction or another.

That's a problem because, contrary to Collins's flat denial, a close personal relationship between a sitting senator and the head of a firm in the "government relations" racket is a significant and inherent conflict.

That's not to say that the conflict can't be managed and mitigated. But you can't manage a conflict that you're trying to pretend doesn't exist.

If her performance with Callaghan is any guide, Collins simply isn't ready to face up that reality. It will be interesting to see in the coming weeks and months whether that's a tenable position.