AUGUSTA – A Sangerville Republican has asked the Democratic chairs of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee to begin a State House-wide investigation of the partisan activities of nonpartisan staff.
“It is necessary for the integrity of our Legislature and the trust between parties and between elected members and staff to investigate the extent to which nonpartisan staff has engaged in partisan activity,” said Rep. Paul Davis (R-Sangerville), in a letter to GOC co-chairs Sens. Emily Cain (D-Penobscot) and Rep. Chuck Kruger (D-Thomaston).
“This kind of activity shakes the public’s confidence in our ability to maintain a wall of separation between politics and policymaking in key areas of state government,” he said.
Davis’ call for an investigation follows The Maine Wire’s exclusive investigation into the partisan activism of Jane Orbeton, the committee analyst on the Legislature’s Health and Human Service (HHS) Committee.
Orbeton, like other analysts working the in Office of Policy and Legal Analysis (OPLA), is required to work in a nonpartisan manner. However, The Maine Wire’s investigation uncovered evidence that Orbeton wrote pro-Medicaid expansion talking points for Sen. Margaret Craven (D-Androscoggin), co-chair of the HHS Committee. In another instance, Orbeton asked an employee of the progressive Maine Equal Justice Partners (MJEP) to erase an email. It is a Class D crime under Maine law to destroy a public record.
[RELATED: “Non-partisan” State House staff wrote Medicaid expansion talking points for Democrats…]
[RELATED: Advocate or Analyst: Emails raise questions about non-partisan staffer’s role on HHS Committee…]
State House sources say OPLA Director Marion Hylan Barr has removed Orbeton has from all matters pertaining to Medicaid expansion, though it is unclear whether she will face further disciplinary action.
The exposing of Orbeton as a partisan activist has led Davis to request a formal investigation of all nonpartisan OPLA staff, and Republican leaders are supporting the endeavor.
House and Senate Republican leadership welcomed Davis’s and encouraged the Cain and Kruger to follow through with it.
“The work of our nonpartisan legislative staff must be conducted with the full trust and confidence of each and every legislator, regardless of party affiliation,” said House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport).
“This is a serious matter that underscores why we need a Government Oversight Committee,” said Senate Minority Leader Michael Thibodeau (R-Waldo). “From the media accounts I have seen, this is at the very least a breach of the public’s trust in what is supposed to be a nonpartisan office. I find these e-mails offensive and I call on [GOC] to conduct a full investigation.”
Should Cain and Kruger grant Davis’ request, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) would conduct an investigation into written communications between nonpartisan legislative staff, lawmakers, outside organizations, and others.
The investigation could have major implications for the present debate over a proposal to expand Medicaid eligibility, as many have questioned whether partisan factors have influenced OPLA staffers responsible for crafting nonpartisan estimates of the bill’s cost.
Editor, Maine Wire
I certainly question Paul Davis’ past and at times question his positions, but on this he is right on. The time to confront subversive/illegal activity to promote an ideology is loo…ng overdue. If you (either party) can’t make the case for your position on its own merits then it should not stand.
This should be interesting. Will the ‘Government Oversight Committee’ respond in a non-partisan way and deal with the problem, or will it magnify the problem by doing nothing thereby approving of it and in reality be part of the problem?
This is just another example of the corruption that permeates the Democrat Party here in Maine. Having been caught in her own lies earlier this week I doubt Emily Cain will look into this matter as she’s to busy covering her own backside and fundraising. Krueger will more than likely pretend he knows nothing about it.
This is a result of investigative reporting. With a deaf, dumb and blind statewide media, thank you Steve Robinson for getting down to some of the violations by state employees. You get to play in a target rich environment!
you will love it
get it right here