ON MAINE POLITICS

August 15, 2011

'Stinger' wonders, where is media?

Kennebec Journal Staff

James O'Keefe is disappointed by journalists these days.

O'Keefe, 27, founded a nonprofit organization called Project Veritas and has engaged in undercover "sting" operations where he tries to expose "waste, fraud, abuse and dishonesty."

In an interview discussing his group's recent effort in Maine, O'Keefe lamented the need for Project Veritas.

"Where is the mainstream media? Why aren't the newspapers doing these types of reports and uncovering any types of misbehavior amongst these employees? Why did it take 23-year-old guys with a nonprofit to do this type of thing?" he asked.

But despite O'Keefe's promotion, most viewers argue the 49-minute tape recently released in Maine falls far short of "shocking" as it was billed by the Maine Heritage Policy Center and Americans For Prosperity of Maine.

O'Keefe said similar efforts in several states, aimed at depicting state workers who are complicit with those seeking to defraud the Medicaid system, have been taken seriously by law enforcement.

"But people don't do this type of good muckraking very often. There are some good journalists who do things, but for the most part ... I would say that it is pathetic that 22- and 23-year-old volunteers can launch multiple state attorney general investigations," he said.

O'Keefe also defended his work against claims that it is edited to deceive viewers or distort reality to serve a conservative end.

"Project Veritas rises to a new level of transparency and reporting accountability by releasing the full, uncut, unedited interactions of our dealings with these people," he said.

"I frankly call upon all reporters and journalists to release their full unedited reporter notebooks to accompany their selectively edited articles. Because I think we live in a better society if people did that."

LePage heads to Aroostook

The next Capitol for a Day event will be held in Presque Isle on Thursday, Aug. 25.

The town hall event -- free and public -- will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. at the University of Maine Presque Isle, 181 Main St.

This is the seventh county the governor has visited since he started the program in February. Although questions are submitted to a moderator during the event, the town-hall style program has led to interesting exchanges between the governor and the public -- both with those who support him and those who don't.

And the award goes to ...

A union group has created a website for people to vote on the dubious distinction of "Worst Governor Ever."

The Transport Workers of America also created a video that features actors portraying freshmen Republican Govs. Paul LePage, John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Scott of Florida and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, boasting why they should win the title. All four governors have invoked union ire for steps they've taken to cut costs and curb union bargaining power since getting elected.

The actor depicting LePage touts his tearing down of a mural deemed too "pro-labor," telling the NAACP to "kiss my butt" and claims to be attempting to roll back child labor laws. The actor also says he hired his 22-year-old daughter and pays her "three times" the salary of firefighters and police officers.

(In reality, LePage's daughter, Lauren, earns $41,000 as the assistant to the governor's chief of staff, which would mean firefighters and police only earn $13,666.)

The parody video can be seen at www.worstgovernorever.com.

Budget-saving website

The new streamlining task force made it clear last week that it wants the public to post cost-saving ideas on the state's website. (Go to maine.gov, scroll down the page three-quarters of the way and look under "Hot Topics.")

The task force, which is charged with finding at least $25 million in savings, doesn't want to get bogged down with public hearings. But it does want helpful suggestions from the public.

(Continued on page 2)

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