Confidential administration dossiers show Governor Paul LePage crafted significant portions of his regulatory reform agenda by literally copying and pasting passages from the memos his staff received from corporate lobbyists and their clients, turning swaths of it into little more than a set of giveaways to favored companies. The dossiers also reveal the governor's wish list for labor, employment, tax, and banking reform, and his plans for executive action and rules changes in these and other sectors — major changes to longstanding Maine practices that he can achieve without the approval of the legislature.
Augusta-watchers will remember that earlier this year, we revealed that LePage had outsourced the crafting of his environmental and product safety reforms to corporate lobbyists (see "LePage's Secret Puppeteers," by Colin Woodard, February 11). Top attorneys from the state's most powerful law firms — Pierce Atwood managing partner Gloria Pinza and, especially, Ann Robinson, head of lobbying at Preti Flaherty — were placed in the enviable position of being able to oversee the drafting of the governor's policies on behalf of the corporate clients they are paid to represent.
That Phase I agenda, unveiled in January, shocked many of his supporters, and was remarkable for its lack of populist Tea Party content (and, rather, its heavy dose of handouts to Big Business that do little for his base).
Now we can offer a more detailed portrait of how the LePage administration crafts its policies and whom they serve. Simply put, LePage makes policy by letting corporate interests do it for him, and he often endorses their formulations over even his own. This coziness raises serious questions about both the governor's level of engagement in policy and the limited circle of interests he seeks to represent.
Thanks to Maine's Freedom of Access Act, we've obtained the confidential dossiers Robinson compiled for the governor while serving as the co-chair of his transition team. These reveal the original authors of the various proposals the governor adopted as his own and, in some cases, passed on to Republican legislators, as well as elements of the administration's to do list going forward.
Cutting and pasting from lobbyists
These documents confirm the central role of Preti Flaherty and Pierce Atwood, whose proposals on behalf of their clients were often literally cut and pasted into the governor's infamous "Phase I" regulatory reform agenda. The two Portland-based firms wrote at least 28 of the 50 environmental rollbacks the governor's office submitted to the legislature in January, some of which have since been enacted into law. (Four other rollbacks were borrowed from a white paper created by a transition subcommittee chaired by Pinza.)
The documents also show that Robinson and LePage gave special consideration to two other lobbyists representing discrete interests: Ted Johnston (representing the sand and gravel industry and a Wells hotel built atop a sand dune) and Roderick Carr of Doyle & Nelson, whose clients were behind all five proposed changes to the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC).
In most cases, language from the industry and lobbyist's memos was copied word-for-word into LePage's reform proposal, suggesting the governor and his staff made little effort to analyze or shape policies themselves.