Two weeks ago, the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee held public hearings on three bills aimed at closing the loophole Hydro-Quebec has been exploiting to funnel millions of dollars into Maine’s referendum elections. As a corporation owned solely by a foreign government, HQ’s spending is rightfully illegal in other elections, but as it stands right now, the law is silent when it comes to referendum elections. As reported last week, the Committee heard from many of our activists in support of the measures before them and Hydro-Quebec’s President and CEO, Sophie Brochu, testified in opposition.
In a strange turn of events, CMP’s David Flanagan opted to communicate with the committee, not through the public hearing process where lawmakers have the opportunity to ask questions and engage with in an open conversation, but rather through a column placed in the Lewiston Sun Journal the next day.
In his column, Flanagan said that lawmakers’ efforts to close this dangerous loophole are fueled by the desire to “win by cheating Mainers out of hearing what may very well be the truth,” and he went on to say that if the Legislature acts now to enact a law protecting Mainer voters from foreign government interference in our elections, it would be “discriminatory”, even though they are already prohibited in engaging with the voters of this country in literally every other form of election. Flanagan ends by saying, “Voting down these bills will help guarantee that the future of Maine remains bright, clear and boundless.”
So, to recap, after suing the State of Maine last year to strip away our right to vote on its unpopular NECEC Corridor, CMP now implores lawmakers (after the public hearing, in a one-sided conversation) to keep the floodgates wide open for their partner in this for-profit venture, a foreign government, to continue to drown out the voices of their own customers from now until November.
Sam May of Portland and Senator Rick Bennett swiftly hit back at Flanagan with their column, Flanagan Speaks for Spain, not Maine. In their rebuttal, they say, “We do not discriminate - we simply demand our right to petition by referendum to decide complex issues without undue influence from foreign corporations...we want a level playing field where voices of Mainers aren’t muzzled by well-funded megaphones in Montreal and elsewhere.”
We would like to thank Sam and Senator Bennett for their powerful, and swift rebuttal of Mr. Flanagan, and we’d also like to thank Senator Bennett for his column that was published in the Portland Press Herald this week as well.
Over the last 16 months, something rotten has happened: A foreign corporation owned 100 percent by a foreign government funneled a record-smashing amount – $10 million – into a political action committee to influence the outcome of an election here in Maine. This affront to our freedom occurred in plain sight, and it needs to stop. That’s why, last week, I presented to the Maine Legislature my bill to prohibit foreign government-owned entities from meddling in our elections.
Many Mainers turned out to testify in support of my bill, but there were two groups of note who testified in opposition – Hydro-Quebec and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. While they didn’t directly testify, Central Maine Power followed up closely by making known their opposition to my bill. Their strong opposition is undoubtedly fueled by their desire to make $3 billion off the Central Maine Power corridor, a deeply unpopular project unlikely to survive a statewide vote, particularly without vast campaign cash from beyond our borders.
Hydro-Quebec’s participation in the public hearing was especially ironic, given that they refused to appear before any of our regulatory bodies to testify under oath about the CMP corridor project, from which they stand to make $12.4 billion. If this project goes through, it would be Hydro-Quebec’s largest export contract to date, and it would help this government-owned utility reach its goal of doubling profits by 2030.
During questioning, Sophie Brochu, CEO of Hydro-Quebec, defended their involvement in our referendum process, despite the fact that foreign interference is illegal in their own elections. She said, “When we have a referendum in Quebec, or in Canada, it’s really a big thing, politically loaded, very heavy and the impact can have politically wise in the country.” But, by her logic, since our referenda are initiated by the people, they carry less weight and shouldn’t be afforded the same protections as Canadian referendums.
The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee has held two work sessions since the public hearing, and they’re continuing to work on these important bills.
This week, the Legislature is expected to meet for two days in Augusta to pass a biennial budget, then adjourn sine die, meaning "without date" for return. While this maneuver is unusual at this point in the session, we've been assured that our bills and the referendum will be carried over into a special session, and the Legislature is expected to be called back to work relatively quickly. There is one bill of interest, LD 1075 An Act To Protect Public Lands, scheduled for a public hearing before the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee on Thursday at 9:00 AM. Unlike Senator Russell Black's bill, which applies the Constitutional requirement for a 2/3 vote on public lands leases that include transmission line projects, Senator Bennett's bill establishes a uniform set of rules for all public land leases and sales moving forward.
Please consider submitting testimony in advance of this scheduled hearing, and/or presenting your testimony live. *If this hearing is postponed, we will be sure to let you know.*
What: Public hearing on LD 1075, An Act To Protect Public Lands
When: Thursday, April 1 at 9:00 AM
Where: Before the ACF Committee via Zoom (if you're testifying live) or on Youtube.
- In 1993, 72% of Mainers voted to protect Maine's public lands by amending the Maine Constitution to require a vote of 2/3 of the Legislature for sales or leases that substantially reduce or alter the value of land held in public trust.
- As highlighted by the NECEC project, the Bureau of Public Lands currently doesn't have a process or rules in place to determine if a project meets the "substantially altered" criteria, which is how two administrations in a row issued leases to CMP without the constitutionally-required Legislative vote.
- Recently, Justice Murphy found that the Bureau did not properly identify if NECEC would substantially reduce or alter the value of public lands before issuing leases to CMP.
- In order to ensure openness and transparency in the future, it's important to pass LD 1075.
- Establishing rules will ensure that the Maine Constitution is upheld, and that the same standards are applied to leases or sales involving our public lands, regardless of who is in power.
Featured Letter of the Week
We are so pleased to announce that our star Cumberland County Volunteer Coordinator from the signature gathering phase has rejoined our campaign as Queen of Volunteers! From now until November, Cara will work closely with our grassroots members to distribute signs, plan events and help coordinate our ground game. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of working with Cara yet, you are truly in for a treat. She is passionate, positive, driven, and is a fierce advocate for our cause. Welcome back, Cara!
Featured Testimonial of the Week
You can watch the full video of Linda Wood's testimony here.
The Cummings family: (L-R top row - Charli, Maryellen, and Bob; Stephen and Brenda bottom row)
This week, we would like to recognize the Cummings family for their decades of work to protect Maine’s public lands and wilderness. The Cummings have helped us tremendously during the referendum campaign, and they have provided heartfelt and instrumental testimony before the Legislature and Maine’s regulatory bodies. Here’s an excerpt from Brenda Cumming’s testimony in support of the public lands bill last year:
My father died 3 years ago today at the age of 87. I have been working to sort out and archive his articles, notes, resources and all the other detritus of a long life well lived since his death. I hope to one day preserve his journalism work and notes for future researchers. The handful of articles my sister and I have shared with you are a small portion of his writings on the public lots of Maine; they are the ones that seemed most likely to give you some perspective and history on the public lots in Maine, and on the financial and moral implications of the leasing of our public lands to private interests. When the saga of the public lots was finally resolved – by the Supreme Court’s decision in 1981 and the land settlements later in the 1980s – Bob wrote about Sen. Harrison (Harry) Richardson, who chaired a special committee on public lands, crafted legislation to return the public lots to the people of Maine, and who stood up to paper companies who insisted they owned these land. Although Bob was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1975 for his series of stories on the public lots of Maine, it was the gift given him by Harry Richardson that he was most proud of. It is a piece of lake-front driftwood with a small brass plaque thanking him for “Showing the people of Maine the way to the public lots.” The restoration of the public lots to the people of Maine – the protection of Deboullie, Mahoosuc, and Bigelow as well as small treasures like the fishing in Wilson Hill Ponds located on the public lots to be crossed by the CMP transmission corridor -- was one of the defining threads of my father’s life. After he died, my sister Charli placed a small amount of his ashes on Bigelow, and I have pledged to visit as many of the other public lots as I can to do the same. It is where he would want to be – at home in all the wild and special places he sought to restore to the people of Maine. My sister and I are here today to share Bob’s stories, because they are Maine’s story. My father wrote a paragraph in his very first public lot story that he quoted again in his 1981 article on the Court’s decision. It is applicable today: “It may be one of the ironies of history that these lots set up to ensure eventual civilization may become a major tool in preserving one of the rarest commodities of the final decades of the 20th century – natural areas and wildness.”
Thank you to Brenda and Charli for your dedication to carrying your father’s legacy forward today in our fight against the CMP Corridor.
Action Items of the Week
This week, we’re asking our grassroots activists to help us spread the word on social media by:
1) Adding the Vote Yes to Reject the CMP Corridor banner to your Facebook profile picture and by
2) Signing up to join our Echo Chamber by texting ECHO to 474747. We periodically send items of interest out to our Echo Chamber list to enlist your help in spreading the word on social media.
This week, we’re again offering five No CMP Corridor bumper stickers for a suggested donation of $20. Donate now to get your stickers!
Donate by mail: Check made payable to No CMP Corridor sent to PO Box 471 Farmington, ME 04398
Secure online: Donate at www.NoCMPCorridor.com/donate
Thanks for your continued support! Together, WE WILL STOP THE CMP CORRIDOR!