David Flanagan’s plea for free speech rights for foreign, government-owned entities comes from a man making millions for himself and certain shareholders by facilitating profit pathways from Maine to Spain, and on to Calgary, Quebec, and Qatar. (See “Free speech fundamental to state’s economic growth,” March 17.)
Let’s get to some specifics. First, Flanagan claims these bills would go against the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and the right to petition. Well-funded and powerfully-connected foreign corporations that seek to flood our media with messages intended to promote their interests is not what the founding fathers had in mind. We, the people, are whom they had in mind. We have the right to petition and that means conducting referenda without undue influence “from away.”
The issue at hand is not free speech — it’s about bought speech.
Mr. Flanagan also worries Maine will not be an attractive place for international investment if we don’t let foreign corporations flood us with lobbying funds and TV advertisements. We welcome foreign investment, but we insist they participate by playing by our rules and working for our benefit, not just theirs. When it comes to a regulated utility like CMP, the state has the absolute right and responsibility to protect its citizens’ interests.
Of course, Mr. Flanagan had to remind us that “any attempt to pass laws that discriminate against overseas investors will compromise Maine’s opportunity for job growth.” We do not discriminate — we simply demand our right to petition by referendum and to decide complex issues without undue interference from foreign corporations.
Preventing foreign interests from influencing Mainers’ decisions regarding energy policy is exactly what we should do. We have a citizen Legislature with term limits, which materially helps maintain a relative parity between the vested interests of powerful corporations and the health and welfare of citizens. We have the Maine Clean Elections Act that allows candidates to fund their campaigns with small-dollar donations only from their voters. Our elections are clean and effective.
Mr. Flanagan wants everyone to get along. Fair enough. He then plays the victim card and says Mainers won’t possess full information if they don’t let foreign entities meddle in our elections. Next thing you know he will be calling attempts to curtail foreign media interference in our national elections a violation of free speech.
David Flanagan is worried about the truth and Mainers’ access to accurate information. He claims the other side “want(s) to win by cheating Mainers out of hearing … the truth”.
No, we want a level playing field where the voices of Mainers aren’t muzzled by well-funded megaphones in Montreal and elsewhere.
Sen. Rick Bennett (R-Oxford) has extensive experience leading Maine businesses and investigating corporate governance issues. Sam May is a former Wall Street analyst with significant experience in both Silicon Valley and Hong Kong; he lives in Portland and is co-founder of Maine Harvest Federal Credit Union.