UPDATED: Maine People’s Alliance Descends on Augusta for Leftist Lobbyist Training Day

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By S.E. Robinson

Maine Wire Reporter

UPDATED: The State House echoed with “solidarity claps” and chants of “Keep Maine Healthy, Tax the Wealthy!” on Tuesday as amateur activists with the Maine People’s Alliance (MPA) descended on Augusta to lobby lawmakers.

The daylong tutorial began at 8:00 a.m. with a training session in Cross Office Building, where MPA personnel briefed rally-participants on a host of legislative initiatives, including revenue sharing with municipalities, toxic substances regulation and the expansion of MaineCare and Medicaid proposed under the federal Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

After getting caught up to speed on MPA’s platform and agenda, the amateur lobbyists flocked throughout the capital building in search of pre-assigned lawmakers to assail.

In one instance, several MPA activists ambushed Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough) with a paparazzi-style flurry of photographs and chased her into the House Minority offices. Three activists followed Volk into the offices and began lecturing her with raised voices, invoking the MPA talking points that had been handed out in folders earlier that morning.

Lobbyists from the Maine People's Alliance accost Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough) in the House Minority Offices.
Lobbyists from the Maine People’s Alliance accost Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough) in the House Minority Offices.

An exasperated Volk reached her wits end when she challenged one of the activist’s facts, to which the activist replied, “It’s not our job to know the facts.”

After scouring the capital for lawmakers opposed to MPA’s agenda, the roughly 75 to 100 activists headed to the Cross Office Building for lunch, courtesy of the MPA.

Maine People's Alliance activists wait in line for food at Cross Cafe in Augusta.
Maine People’s Alliance activists wait in line for food at Cross Cafe in Augusta.

Activists stood in a line that stretched out the doors of Cross Café, eventually paying for their lunches with MPA-provided meal tickets.

A hungry lobbyist-in-training pays for lunch with a meal ticket, courtesy of the Maine People's Alliance. MPA bought lunch for the roughly 75 to 100 amateur lobbyists who attended their Lobbyist Training rally in Augusta.
A hungry lobbyist-in-training pays for lunch with a meal ticket, courtesy of the Maine People’s Alliance. MPA bought lunch for the roughly 75 to 100 amateur lobbyists who attended their lobbyist training rally in Augusta.

At about 1:00PM, the activists assembled in the Hall of Flags where MPA organizers began the festivities by starting what one activist described as a “solidarity clap,” which was accompanied with boisterous chanting: “Keep Maine Healthy, Tax the Wealthy!”

“We love chanting,” said one MPA organizer.

MPA Mid-Coast Organizer Caroline Ginsberg began the afternoon presentation with a speech chastising Gov. Paul LePage for his proposed cuts to revenue sharing agreements between the State and its municipalities.

“When Governor LePage went after revenue sharing, he made a big mistake,” said Ginsberg.

“We’re here to fight back against wealthy corporations who don’t pay their far share,” she said. “The obvious solution is making the tax system fair.”

MPA Mid-Coast Organizer Caroline Ginsberg speaks to rally participants about making wealthy corporations pay their fair share.
MPA Mid-Coast Organizer Caroline Ginsberg speaks to rally participants about making wealthy corporations pay their fair share.

Ginsberg was followed by Hallowell Mayor Charlotte M. Warren, who decried her town’s loss of more than $500,000 in the proposed budget cuts.

“Everyone should be asked to pay their fair share,” said Warren, who also serves as Associate Director of the Maine Women’s Lobby and the Maine Women’s Policy Center. Warren is also a board member of Emerge Maine, a campaign training program for young Democrats.

Next up was Chris Korzen of Maine’s Majority who introduced the event’s surprise guest speaker—which turned out to be Gov. LePage vis-à-vis a 2009 recording of a Waterville town council meeting. As the footage showed the former Waterville Mayor speaking against curtailments of state funding allotted to his city, the crowd of leftist activists erupted in agreement with the governor.

The final speaker of the day was MPA Board Member Cheryl Lee of Portland, a former teacher at SAD 61 in Casco. Lee introduced “Fair Tax Towns,” an MPA initiative to push resolutions of disagreement through Maine’s towns and cities.

“The purpose of Fair Tax Towns is to oppose revenue sharing cuts, show a better way forward, and solve problems by making the tax code fair,” she said.

Lee also took advantage of the moment to recruit members of non-Fair Tax Towns to help push resolutions through their municipal governments.

“We’re going to make sure legislators hear from people all over the state,” said Lee, to which the crowd roared with approval.

Activist Jim Devine with Homeless Voices for Justice was in attendance and said his top interests are homelessness and global warming. Devine said expanding MaineCare with Obamacare funding would help improve homeless people’s access to health care.

“We’ve got to expand MaineCare with [Obamacare] and get all that federal money,” said Devine.

John Labbe of Auburn is an employee of the Pine Street Wellness and Recovery Center in Lewiston. He said today was his first experience lobbying on behalf of the MPA and that he was in Augusta to lobby against proposed cuts to Medicaid, MaineCare and Medicare.

“Old folks are having a tough time buying their meds,” said Labbe. “We need more federal money, not less,” he said.

Labbe said he provided transportation to the rally for several members of the 100 Pine Street social club where he works. “It was hard getting them to wake up early enough, but this is important,” he said. He said he considered driving members to the MPA rally “going above and beyond” his call of duty.

The social club where Labbe works, 100 Pine Street, is a project of Common Ties Mental Health Services, an assumed business title of the Area IV Mental Health Services Coalition, whose mission is improving quality of life for people with mental illness.

According to its 2011 Form 990 report, Common Ties welcomes approximately 300 members per year and brings in $1.4 million in yearly revenue, of which $1.2 million is paid out in salaries, other compensation, and employee benefits.

In 2011, according to the report, Common Ties took in $1,042,891 in MaineCare payments and an additional $293,148 in contracts with state agencies. Less than $50,000 of Common Ties’ budget came from gifts, grants, and contributions.

Students from Auburn Middle School skipped school to join the Maine People's Alliance to lobby lawmakers in Augusta.
Students from Auburn Middle School skipped school to join the Maine People’s Alliance to lobby lawmakers in Augusta.

While the vast majority of the activists were excited to be in Augusta, none were happier than a cohort of youngsters from Auburn Middle School who had taken the day off from classes to attend MPA’s lobbyist training. The students enjoyed talking with representatives on educational issues, but regretted having to take an unexcused absence to lobby for MPA.

“They’re still going to make us do our homework,” said one disappointed MPA lobbyist-in-training.

UPDATE: Auburn Middle School Principal Jim Hand has confirmed via an e-mail to a concerned citizen that five AMS students were in attendance at the Maine People’s Alliance lobby day in Augusta. Read the e-mail below:

Dear Ms. ******,

There were 5 AMS students that attended as volunteers of the School Based Health Center student advisory group. Each student in attendance went there with parent permission. This was not a field trip through AMS. They were there to learn about how to lobby for services through the School Based Health Center that they believed should be supported.

Thank you,

Jim

1 COMMENT

  1. Since the MaineWire couldn’t be bothered to provide a link to Common Ties I will:

    http://www.commonties.org/

    What efforts has the MaineWire or MHPC made to help their fellow Mainers to recover from substance abuse? Abuse touches on all aspects of society, and cannot be defined by socio-economic level, and yet this piece devolves to an attack on a group working to help addicts in the Lewiston-Auburn area. To what purpose?

    Ridicule is a sharp sword when used properly, but obviously S.E. Warren – whomever that is – needs more training.

  2. Okay, here is my thoughtful comment:

    I’m quite sure it is an oversight that the article fails to mention the inclusion of a 2009 clip of then Waterville Mayor Paul LePage ripping on the $1.1M revenue sharing cuts of Governor Baldacci for his city. Yet in 2013, Governor LePage has no problems with cutting $2.3M from his former digs! Here is a link to the video shared today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUskyy_TQ3I&feature=share.

    An understandable mistake, as you are yourself amateurs at the “news” thingy…

  3. I guess you did not read the article @Andi Parkinson. The video was mentioned. Instead of being thoughtful perhaps you could learn to be careful. Although as the group was quoted: you are not responsible for knowing the facts.

  4. Sometimes, Mr. Robinson, a free lunch is a good thing.

    It’s perplexing that the Government Transparency Policy Analyst of the Maine Heritage Policy Center would (not so subtly) criticize citizens for participating in the most fundamental of democratic activities: engaging their legislators in face-to-face discussions of vital issues that will be debated during the current legislative session.

    The spin here seems to be that because The Maine People’s Alliance hosted the a portion of event, somehow the participants had been hoodwinked into being part of a covert plan to foster un-American activities.

    The truth, of course, was much different.

    A lot of regular folks representing a wide variety of opinions on vastly different issues gathered at the Maine State House yesterday to engage their representatives in discussions about issues that really matter to them.

    Unlike Representative Amy Volk, most of the legislators I spoke with were pleased to speak with and listen to their constituents and found the facts and perspectives they had to offer helpful. What often goes unrecognized is that Maine Senators and Representatives are mostly just like the the rest of us… struggling to understand complex problems in areas of which they have no particular expertise.

    Professionals (like me), blue-collar workers (like my friend Bob) and any number of groups (like my new friends at Maine Mental Health Partners) were there because it was a day when we could air our concerns, share our knowledge and get direct answers to valid questions about elected legislators’ positions.

    As for the school children Mr. Robinson so glibly dismisses as playing hooky, my guess is that they learned more about government yesterday than they would have learned in class and came away with a deeper sense of their own ability to be participants in the political process not just silent observers.

    Kudos to the Maine People’s Alliance and every other organization that helped make it easier for citizens to be a part of the process of government in Maine.

  5. This article was edited to reflect that omission after I commented last night; a screen grab shows the original content made no mention of this whatsoever.

    This paragraph was NOT in the article last night:

    “Next up was Chris Korzen of Maine’s Majority who introduced the event’s surprise guest speaker—which turned out to be Gov. LePage vis-à-vis a 2009 recording of a Waterville town council meeting. As the footage showed the former Waterville Mayor speaking against curtailments of state funding allotted to his city, the crowd of leftist activists erupted in agreement with the governor.”

    Nice try. But thank you for replying with a thoughtful comment!

  6. There’s a difference between engaging legislators and trying to intimidate them. It appears to me these activists were doing the latter. Of course we see this happening with the liberal left all the time (ex., the Occupiers). I used to be a Democrat until their uncivil tactics turned my stomach. At this point I think way too many of them are a lost-cause, mostly emotionally driven, don’t-bother-me-with-the-facts type of confrontational losers. I’ll bet you some of these activists are the same ones who made a mountain out of a mole hill in an attempt to discredit the newly elected governor when a little known mural of little artistic value that very few people paid attention to, let alone care about, was ordered remove.

  7. As an advocate for education and environment, going to the State House the second time and meeting my town’s Representative for the first time to get her perspective on issues that concerned me were spun into “ambush” and “chasing”, I have to say, now I have much better understanding of the humor presented in Mark Twain’s “Running for governor”. Whew, I’m not running for governor! Thanks for letting me get off easily! 🙂 BTW, I was pointing at the only paparazzi who has ever stalked me. What an eye opening experience! Lesson learned, “Always smile at the camera! Not point at it.” LOL.

  8. Sigh… perhaps your reading comprehension isn’t what it could be as your “facts” seem to be your own and not reality based.

    Allow me to repeat my above statement, with a suggestion that you inquire of the article’s author as to why he edited his writing yet did not note the updated, additional material nor a correction for his readers.

    —————–

    This article was edited to reflect that omission after I commented last night; a screen grab shows the original content made no mention of this whatsoever.

    This paragraph was NOT in the article last night:

    “Next up was Chris Korzen of Maine’s Majority who introduced the event’s surprise guest speaker—which turned out to be Gov. LePage vis-à-vis a 2009 recording of a Waterville town council meeting. As the footage showed the former Waterville Mayor speaking against curtailments of state funding allotted to his city, the crowd of leftist activists erupted in agreement with the governor.”

    Nice try. But thank you for replying with a thoughtful comment!

  9. And I suspect, Joel, that you weren’t even there and really have no basis for your observations on the event. The author (Mr. Robinson) has related a convenient anecdote and from that you have extrapolated a conclusion the entire day’s activities.

    That was his purpose and you fell for it. Props to Robinson, I suppose.

    By the way, your evaluation of the Maine Labor Mural reveals a rather pedestrian understand of both art and the history of labor in Maine.

  10. Hey, I have an idea, how about putting on your panties, and aspire to something other than minimum wage or a voucher. Keep maine healthy, tax the wealthy they like to chant. I hope they move to Texas and New Hampshire in droves, then what will you do? Fascism has never worked( when the state confiscates 50 percent of your profit, that’s fascism) no matter what you may want to call it. But then, you aren’t paid to know the facts. For the love of God, close your legs. Working people need less of you.

  11. Amateur lobby = citizen lobby. Who put them there? Citizens. Who has a right to know what their ideas on legislation are? Citizens. And, Joe…there really isn’t any reason to insult liberals by telling them to “close their legs”. It shows an attitude of total disrespect for the process and women.

  12. @[1079593918:2048:Cris Edward Johnson] Joel’s post must have really meant something as he states facts of this event as in mostly emotionally driven, don’t-bother-me-with-the-facts type of confrontational losers. , your reply is as if you’re getting teeth drilled without novacain ,

  13. At some point, the people screaming to get their lunch vouchers and other peoples’ income into their pockets find either: 1. The former provider has left the country/state/municipality that keeps demanding more and more of their profits or 2. The “host” is dead (bankrupted, sold off, or litigated and taxed out of business) and can no longer provide for them. Far better to have taught the students to work toward self sufficiency than lobbying their state/local governments for more of their “fair” share.

    Lewiston – Auburn was reeling a few years ago from the very liberal (i.e., generous) social programs resulting in an influx of immigrants with no economic support network, then the town decried the necessary tax increases to accommodate the new public services requirements. It seems some lessons are quickly forgotten (or never learned, or worse yet, never taught).

    I love Maine and the landscape, but struggled when I lived there to resolve the disparity between a populace who embodies individualism and self reliance, and the hugely ‘progressive’ elected representation that seems to dominate the Maine political system. Maybe they are the ones with time on their hands to do all the politicking, while the down Easters are out working.

  14. The Maine Peoples Alliance turns out 75 to 100 real honest-to-goodness People. I remember Tea Party meetings with hundreds of participants, but those weren’t People. Those were just a bunch of persons. Liberals own all patent and copyrights on the People.

  15. I would rather see a group of young people trying to get their representatives ear rather then –Alec — arbitrarily writing laws for a bunch of phony legislators who would sell us all out for a Ham Sandwich!

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