For Immediate Release: March 7, 2017
Contact: Nina McLaughlin, firstname.lastname@example.org
AUGUSTA – Maine GOP Chairman Dr. Demitroula Kouzounas sent an open letter to Senator King this morning encouraging the Independent Senator to hold a listening session in Congressional District 2.
Dr. Kouzounas explains in her letter, "Senator King, your vote on this nomination may be the single most important vote you will cast during your term in the Senate. As an elected public servant who has chosen not to carry the flag of either of Maine's major political parties, we sincerely hope you will take this opportunity to work with us to hear from those more conservative Mainers in northern and central Maine who are often forgotten when issues of this magnitude are decided in Washington D.C."
Congressional District 2 is the home of New England's only Republican Electoral Vote and Republican Congressman, Bruce Poliquin.
Maine GOP hopes that Senator King listens to Chairman Kouzounas and considers her offers to assist.
Maine GOP Letter Below:
Dear Speaker Gideon,
In anticipation of potential litigation, we are sending you this letter to instruct you to preserve any and all records related to the FOAA requests filed by Maine GOP on February 22, 2017 in regard to the ongoing situation regarding Rep. Ryan Tipping and his acceptance of at least $9,000 from a Political Action Committee funded by the teachers' union while serving as a member of the Maine House of Representatives, serving on the Maine Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Education.
If you need to be refreshed, please also review the Secretary of State's policy regarding retention of public records, both paper and those that originate in electronic form. The authority from which this policy emanates can be found in the Maine Constitution, Article V, Part Second and 5 M.R.S. § 95(7).
We have received your notification that you expect to deny at least some part of our FOAA request. As such, we are informing you that denial of our request will be met with an immediate filing of appeal in Superior Court of Kennebec County, under M.R.S.A. Title 1, Chapter 13, §409. Every willful violation of the Maine Freedom of Access Act, including any modification or destruction of records subject to the Maine Freedom of Access Act, is subject to a forfeiture of $500 per violation under M.R.S.A. Title 1, Chapter 13, §410. These fines would be in addition to any fines that you or Rep. Tipping might face for violations of ethics law should the documents that you intend to withhold reveal violations of legislative ethics under governmental ethics laws.
Maine Republican Party
Friends, we are publishing below an op-ed from Representative Karl Ward that the Bangor Daily News has refused to publish.
Not only do the people of Maine have cause for grave concern that their State Legislature can be put up for sale to the highest bidder under the decisions of Speaker Sara Gideon and Rep. Ryan Tipping, but it now also appears that the Bangor Daily News, one of Maine's largest newspapers, is intent on quashing discussion of the matter as well.
Please share this valuable commentary that the Bangor Daily News doesn't want you to read.
Something stinks in Augusta and it represents the very reason why a vast number of Mainers don’t trust their government.
A few weeks ago, it was revealed in State House testimony that Democrat Representative Ryan Tipping of Orono had accepted nearly $10,000.00 in exchange for his support of Question 2 on last November's ballot.
Question 2 raised state income taxes on highly paid professionals and pass-through businesses by a whopping 42%. It was fueled by a $3 million ad blitz of out-of-state and teachers union money and passed by the thinnest of margins - 0.8%.
Rep. Tipping - the brother of the far-left Maine People's Alliance operative Mike Tipping - has "cashed in" while simultaneously declaring himself a so-called "Clean Elections" candidate, who is legally required to refuse PAC monies like those used to fuel the "Yes on Question 2" campaign. Rep. Tipping appeared as a guest on his brother’s podcast where he admitted that he was paid to “reach out to elected officials” and influence them regarding this new tax hike. Reaching out to elected officials is clearly a euphemism for lobbying.
Here's where this story takes an even more sinister turn. With a promised legislative debate over Question 2 in the Taxation Committee looming ahead, fellow Democrat and rookie House Speaker Sara Gideon then made a surprising move that raised a few Augusta eyebrows. She selected Rep. Tipping over several seasoned veterans to chair the Taxation Committee that would determine the fate of the Question 2 campaign – the same campaign that had just put thousands of dollars in the pocket of Rep. Gideon's new, hand-picked Taxation Chairman Tipping.
When suddenly confronted during recent State House public hearing, the chief lobbyist for the Maine Education Association (the teachers union) that had paid an entire year's legislative salary to Tipping refused to come clean and would not reveal the cash recipient's identity. By that time however, Tipping, sitting a mere 20 feet away, was squirming noticeably in his seat, begging the Appropriations committee chair with hand motions to please stop the line of questioning.
Now, Ryan Tipping expects us to believe that his payoff and sudden rise to the chairmanship of this powerful committee are not related and will not affect his vote on Question 2 legislation.
Did Speaker Gideon know about this payoff when she appointed Tipping as Taxation Committee chairman? So far Gideon is sticking with Tipping who is refusing to step down as Taxation chair.
Last week, House Republicans brought a House Order to the floor demanding that we convene the House Ethics Committee to launch an inquiry into these apparently connected events. Led by Speaker Gideon, the House Order was squashed by all House Democrats in a party line vote. Speaker Gideon clearly does not want to answer on the record whether or not she knew of Tipping's receipt of cash payments from the Question 2 PAC when she appointed him chairman of the Taxation Committee. If she knew, and intentionally made the appointment, she has severely damaged her credibility and should consider resigning as Speaker immediately.
The Maine Legislature has adopted an official Code of Ethics that reads, in part:
"No Maine Legislator will accept any employment that will impair their independence and integrity of judgment, nor will they exercise their position of trust to secure unwarranted privileges for themselves or for others."
We all took an oath to live up to this Code.
As a state legislator at this moment, I have several choices. I could just wash my hands and simply quit, refusing to be part of this mess. Or I could stay silent and allow this obvious breach of ethics and "business as usual in Augusta" to go unchallenged.
Instead, I and others are calling on Tipping to resign from his ill-begotten appointment as chairman of the Taxation Committee and recuse himself from voting on any bill related to Question 2. If he refuses, Speaker Gideon can remove him from the Taxation Committee and avoid any further appearance of a cover-up.
And finally, the Maine Ethics Commission guidelines must be strengthened to prevent legislators from playing hard and fast to circumvent the rules. I have already contacted them to begin looking at a new bill that will be vetted by the Attorney General's office and submitted before Legislative Council that will give MEC some real teeth. It will be called the "Tipping Point Bill".
America's trust in her government is at an all-time low. Because of events like the unfolding Tipping scandal, their lack of faith is justified.
By coming clean, accepting consequences for poor choices and actions and by fixing the laws, we can begin to do that. If you agree, please contact the Speaker's office at (207) 287-1300 or email@example.com and let her know. After all, we work for you.
Karl Ward is State Representative for Maine House District 131 (Otis, Dedham, Orland, Penobscot, Stockton Springs, Verona Island and Prospect), serving on the Joint Standing Committee on Taxation and is President and CEO of Brewer-based construction company, Nickerson and O'Day, Inc.
REP. DILLON BATES IN VIOLATION OF STATE LAW FOR NEARLY
IGNORED ETHICS COMMUNICATIONS REQUESTS, $2,600 “CLEAN ELECTIONS” CAMPAIGN FUNDS NOT RETURNED BY LEGAL DEADLINE
AUGUSTA – Document discovered by the Maine GOP reveals that Democrat State Representative Dillon Bates of Westbrook faces up to a $10,000 fine for failure to return taxpayer funds provided under the 'Maine Clean Elections' program for nearly 2 months after the legal deadline for candidates to return unused funds.
The Maine Ethics Commission document, (available by clicking this link) outlines how Rep. Bates was contacted 11 different times from December through February by the Maine Ethics Commission via mail, email and phone calls, as they attempted to collect the more than $2,600 owed by Rep. Bates.
The document also describes how the Maine Ethics Commission Staff even went so far as contact House Democrat campaign staff to try and bring Rep. Bates into compliance with the law and collect the unspent taxpayer funds.
From the document:
“Dear Rep. Bates,
This letter is to notify you that the staff of the Maine Ethics Commission intends to recommend the assessment of a civil penalty against you at the March 3, 2017 meeting of the Commission for failing to return unspent Maine Clean Election Act (MCEA) funds. Our records indicate that you owe $2,616.99 in public campaign funds to the state. The Commission has determined that an enforcement proceeding is necessary after requesting the funds 11 times without a successful result...
“...As a candidate in the 2016 general election, you were required to return these funds by December 20, 2016, which was the deadline for the report due forty-two days after the general election...
“...The duty to return unspent campaign funds is a common-sense requirement of participating in the MCEA program that is well-known to experienced program participants such as yourself...
“...The Commission may assess a penalty of up to $10,000 for a violation of the MCEA (21-A M.R.S.A. § 1127(1))
“Candidate Registrar Emma Burke and I have sent you directly 11 requests for the unspent funds by email, telephone and U.S. Mail (written contacts are attached).Most of these should have been unnecessary for you to fulfill a basic requirement of the MCEA program:
“...You have acknowledged the debt in a couple of communications to our office, including a February 15 phone call from you to Candidate Registrar Emma Burke. This was one day after I contacted the House Democratic campaign staff for assistance...”
Please note, the Maine GOP is providing you this information in the interest of accountability for the taxpayers and people of Maine, we will be monitoring this situation through the March 3 ethics hearing and until resolution.