A front group of the Portland-based Maine People’s Alliance (MPA) is back in the news over a report it released on Thursday urging Congress against cutting unsustainable entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
The so-called “Maine Small Business Coalition” (MSBC) released a study prepared by the national Main Street Alliance at a press event in Boothbay.
Although MSBC is a perfect example of astroturfing – that is, fake grassroots – this has not stopped the Associated Press and other news writers from regularly citing the coalition as a representative of Maine’s small businesses.
The group is frequently cited by the Portland Press Herald (here, here, here and here), Bangor Daily News (here, here and here) and Maine Public Broadcasting Network (here and here) as an authoritative representative of Maine’s small business community.
Television and newspaper reporters rarely disclose the true nature of the group, its political agenda, or its status as a registered front for MPA.
Now, The MAINE WIRE has acquired a list of individuals that MPA purports as belonging to the MSBC.
The member list, which includes the names and towns of alleged small business owners, was sent from Nate Libby, former MSBC director, to several Democratic lawmakers in May of 2011 when Republican lawmakers were pushing L.D. 1333, the health care reform which became P.L. 90.
Libby wrote, “Dear Members of the Maine House of Representatives, Please find below the names of 1,210 small business owners who have expressed their opposition to LD 1333 (the health insurance rollback bill) over the last two days.”
Analysis of this list shows that the MSBC’s idea of a small business owner is probably not something most Mainers share. And although an MPA employee has said the coalition is mostly for-profit companies, the lion’s share of the people on the list work in the non-profit sector.
In reality, the “coalition” is simply a list of names that have been entered into an online form. From a review of the list, it is clear that no one at the MPA has been vetting these small business “owners.”
Here are some of MSBC’s members whose job types could be discerned through minor Google searching:
Mary Schneckenburger of Litchfield – Mary is a senior level employee of Consumers for Affordable Health Care (CAHC) – a group dedicated singularly to bring about single-payer, government-run health care.
Lisa Katz of Damariscotta, Andy Parker of South Portland, and Rachel Bennet of Windsor are among the dozens of social workers who belong to the MSBC.
The MSBC also counts as members plenty of Democratic politicians, including former Hallowell Mayor David W. Bustin and Waterville Mayor Karen Heck.
Sophia Wilder of Bangor – Sophia is member of a committee for Dorthea Dix Psychiatric Center—and a former patient.
Gregory Dorr of Damiriscotta – Dorr was linked in 2012 to the Obama.com foreign political donation scandal via a website development firm, Wicked Global.
Cris Edward Johnson – Johnson is a top commenter at The MAINE WIRE, Lyme disease advocate and “Singer of Songs”.
Ramona du Houx of Solon – Du Houx is the publisher of the 501(c)4 non-profit newspaper Maine Insights and mother of former State Representative Alex Cornell du Houx (D-Brunswick).
Singer song-writer Matt Loosigian – Loosigian travels throughout New England singing songs about environmental stewardship.
The list also contains numerous individuals whose Facebook or LinkedIn profiles identify them as self-employed artists and musicians.
So, the next time MPBN uses the MSBC to report that Maine business owners want higher taxes, government-run health care and more regulations, take it with a grain of salt.