AUGUSTA – Rep. James J. Campbell, Sr. (U-Newfield) was called out of order several times Monday morning as he vehemently defended the same unions that funded his 2012 campaign.
Sen. John Patrick (D-Rumford), Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development (LCRED), struggled to contain Campbell as the committee heard testimony concerning L.D. 786 and L.D. 831 – a pair of bills that would reform Maine’s public and private sector union laws.
Both bills were introduced by Rep. Lawrence E. Lockman (R-Amherst). L.D. 786 would prevent unions from coercively collecting dues and fees from public sector employees while L.D. 831 would make Maine a so-called “Right-to-Work” state.
While the proposals are entirely distinct, Democrats on LCRED voted against a Republican minority to combine the hearings.
Throughout the morning’s hearings, an ornery Campbell launched verbal attacks against fellow LCRED members, supporters of L.D. 786 and L.D. 831, and just about anyone else who disagreed with him.
“We wouldn’t need these unions if it wasn’t for people who voted against [minimum wage increases],” Campbell said during his questioning of Lockman. “You voted against that too, didn’t yeah?” said Campbell. “You people would love to bring that back – 75 cents an hour – don’t you agree with me?” he said.
Later in the hearing, Rep. Joshua Plante (D-Berwick) testified against both bills. When Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough) asked Plante if he had received contributions from unions, Campbell raised a point of order.
“This has nothing to do with who gave who what,” said Campbell.
However, when it came to people with whom he disagrees, Campbell decided funding sources were quite relevant.
Campbell challenged National Right to Work Committee Vice President Greg Mourad following his testimony in favor of both bills.
“Whose paying you?” asked Campbell.
“Our members pay dues – voluntary dues,” said Mourad.
While Campbell had strong, albeit shifting, opinions on whether a witness’s funding affects their ability to testify for legislation, he did not disclose that his 2012 candidacy was funded by the same unions he was defending.
According to Maine’s campaign finance records, the largest donor to Campbell’s 2012 election bid were labor unions, including the Maine State Employees Association (MSEA), which gave Campbell $500, and the Maine Education Association (MEA), also known as the teachers’ union, which gave him $250.
Campbell also accepted donations from the UA Local Plumbers and Pipefitters PAC and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), according to Maine’s campaign finance data.
Campbell was called on the carpet for this obvious conflict of interest by Eric Brakey, treasurer of Defense of Liberty PAC, who pointed out that Campbell’s most recent campaign was funded largely by unions.
“It can be very difficult to face down special interests,” said Brakey. “I would point to individuals even on this committee who have received tons of money from unions,” he said.
“I would point to Representative Campbell who has received more than 30 percent of his campaign donations from unions,” said Brakey.
Campbell objected to Brakey’s comments.
“When people start making accusations, I’m not going to listen to a minute of it, buster,” said Campbell.
Sen. John Cleveland (D-Androscoggin) jumped to Campbell’s defense, asking Brakey whether he has fully complied with Maine’s lobbying regulations, a question Cleveland did not ask of any of the dozens of other witnesses. Cleveland then offered a veiled threat. “Look at those regulations carefully for your own benefit,” he said.
Like Campbell, Cleveland did not disclose to the hearings’ attendees that he, too, was elected to the Legislature with financial support from union and pro-union sources.
According to Maine’s campaign finance records, Cleveland accepted donations from the National Association of Social Workers, several state workers, the Maine Education Association, and the Western Maine Central Labor Council.
Cleveland also accepted more than $1,000 from Chellie Pingree and her husband S. Donald Sussman and $350 from Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Cumberland).
Following Monday’s LCRED hearing, The MAINE WIRE asked Campbell whether the donations he took from labor unions affected his conduct.
Watch the video here:
By S.E. Robinson
Maine Wire Reporter