Two Years After This Article and How is Maine Doing?

What else still needs to be done?

F’ in national study means Maine ‘ripe’ for corruption

By NAOMI SCHALIT, LANCE TAPLEY AND JOHN CHRISTIE
March 19, 2012 © Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

Maine has earned an “F” from a national organization’s first-in-the-nation assessment of accountability and transparency across the 50 states.

Maine ranked 46th in the “State Integrity Investigation” by three nonpartisan, national and international journalism and good government groups.

The score was based on research into 330 indicators on both the laws and practices in 14 categories, from procurement to campaign disclosure to lobbying.

No state got an A, leading the groups to conclude “statehouses remain ripe for self dealing and corruption.”

A leader of the study said a low score means Maine lacks the laws, regulation and enforcement to ensure residents are “getting the performance they hoped to see” from state government.

“For a state that ranks towards the bottom like Maine, these numbers matter a lot because they may help explain why budgets are not flush, why roads aren’t repaired, why there are tax loopholes,” said Nathaniel Heller, executive director of Global Integrity, which collaborated with the Center for Public Integrity and Public Radio International on the investigation.

In Maine, the research was done by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, based in Augusta. The Center’s research was then analyzed by the three sponsoring groups, which came up with the scores.

Major funding for the State Integrity Investigation is provided by Omidyar Network and theRita Allen Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Rockefeller Family Fund.

No states received an “A” from the investigation and only five got a grade of “B.” Maine was one of eight states to get a failing grade. The others are North Dakota, Michigan, South Carolina, Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota and Georgia.

While those states are not generally known for high-profile corruption cases, some states that are notorious received some of the best grades. New Jersey, for example, got the highest score, a B+.

A statement from the survey groups CPI explained the apparent contradiction:

The study “does not rely on a simple tally of scandals. Rather, it measures the strength of laws and practices that encourage openness and deter corruption. … States with well-known scandals often have the tough laws and enforcement that bring them to light. ‘Quiet’ states may be at a higher risk, with few means to surface corrupt practices.”

Maine got an F in nine of the 14 categories, including executive accountability. A problem that contributed to that score was that fact that no agency oversees the ethics of top-level state officials, from the governor to department heads, from the attorney general to the state auditor.

It also got F’s in public access to information, civil service management, pension fund management, the insurance commission, legislative accountability, lobbying disclosure, ethics enforcement and redistricting.

The state got a D+ in judicial accountability and political financing and a C- in the budget process and procurement. It got one A: in internal auditing.

Other highlights in the report include:

 

• While the state collects financial disclosure statements from executive branch employees, the ethics commission has never mounted investigations of those disclosures, according to Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

2009 report by the commission states: “Maine is one of 11 states which do not have an independent agency that regulates the professional ethics of the executive branch of government.”

Wayne said, “We barely have any jurisdiction. We’re limited to legislative ethics.”

That means problems, including possible conflicts of interest, can fall through the cracks.

 

• Maine has no “revolving door” law covering top state officials moving into the private industries they had regulated.

A case study occurred in 2007-2008 when Maine’s chief utilities regulator, Kurt Adams, negotiated for and ultimately accepted a job offer and “equity units”or shares

from a prominent wind power developer while still head of his agency – and when the developer had business before the agency.

Adams left his job as the head of the state’s Public Utilities Commission in May, 2008 to work for First Wind. Later, Adams and company officials said that despite statements First Wind had made in federal filings about when it had granted him the shares, the company had made a mistake and had granted the securities only after Adams had left the PUC in mid-May.

A subsequent investigation by the state’s attorney general found that Adams had violated no state laws – an illustration of the fact that Maine has no meaningful revolving door regulations, said Maine League of Women Voters former chairman Ann Luther.

“I think there’s a hole there, no restriction at all,” Luther said. “There’s nothing there, nothing!”

 

Continue reading the rest of the article here.

Also carried in:

Portland Press Herald

http://www.pressherald.com/news/Maine-falls-short-on-accountability...

Bangor Daily News

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/03/19/news/state/poor-marks-continu...

Sun Journal

http://www.sunjournal.com/comment/96353

Kennebec Journal

http://www.kjonline.com/news/Watchdogs-fault-state-for-lax-ethical-...

The Forecaster

http://www.theforecaster.net/news/print/2012/03/19/study-suggests-m...

 

Barbara Walsh, Mary Helen Miller and Jeff Clark contributed to this report. The Maine Center for Public Interest reporting is on the web at pinetreewatchdog.org. Email: mainecenter@gmail.com


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http://pinetreewatchdog.org/f-in-national-study-means-maine-ripe-fo...

 

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Comment by Long Islander on March 15, 2014 at 10:50am

Conflicts of interest run rampant in state legislatures

http://pinetreewatchdog.org/conflicts-of-interest-run-rampant-in-st...

Comment by Mike DiCenso on March 14, 2014 at 9:07pm
Business as usual in Augusta. Maybe things are turning around with the court system.
Comment by arthur qwenk on March 14, 2014 at 3:38pm

Maine, Corrupt as Hell, and going nowhere fast.

A state that loves to spend everyone else's money, because it has no of its own.

The welfare state that makes Mississippi look good.

Boston North on steroids, and a legislature (with some exceptions) "nummah than a hake" on energy issues.

Sorry, its the truth!

LePage has a tough job ahead after he wins this November.

Comment by Long Islander on March 19, 2012 at 1:24pm

Governor LePage is trying to clean up the mess.

Comment by Donna Amrita Davidge on March 19, 2012 at 1:22pm

well we know baldacci and king corrupted the law..and kept it under the radar to further their agenda

and even the environmental organizations like audobon and NRCM are corrupt- politics and $ run deep. I don't know much about LePage but I would say it started before him..

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT (excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010  http://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/From Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?"  http://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-swept-task-force-set-the-rules/From Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.” http://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/flaws-in-bill-like-skating-with-dull-skates/

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