2018-01-25 / Editorial

Speaking truth to power is threat to status quo

Beyond the Headlines
by Sen. Justin Chenette

The issue of money in politics is one that is a centerpiece of my legislative advocacy since I arrived in the Legislature at age 21. I believe it’s the barrier, that when addressed, would break the log jam of the long term substantive issues facing our state. We spend too much time debating and being consumed with each manufactured crisis that comes along depending on who writes the largest check, not what is necessarily in the best interest of our constituents. House and Senate leadership orbits around meetings with high-level donors and special interest groups. And senators in particular spend a great deal of time asking for political dollars via ‘call time’ while honest-to-good legislating gets sidelined.

Make no mistake about it, public policy decision making is a direct result of a web of dark money and unspoken pay  for play between lobbyists, multinational corporations and the political machine that the good ol’ boy system wants you and me to ignore and sweep under the rug.

Every session I work hand-in-hand with the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections to introduce a package of campaign finance reform legislation. At every turn like clockwork, my efforts have been voted down to: end the revolving door of former lawmakers becoming lobbyists, stop sitting lawmakers from operating political action committees, and prevent legislators from collecting political contributions from lobbyists.

Even now, Senate Republicans are currently blocking a bill of mine to ensure Political Action Committees (PACs) aren’t used as personal and business slush funds from even having a public hearing.

An alt-right political blog supported by the Maine Republican Party, whose author is unknown and whose authenticity has been questioned by legitimate news outlets, is trying to undermine my credibility on the issue of strengthening ethics and governmental accountability.

We are entering an era where facts are irrelevant and we throw the kitchen sink at someone to see what sticks.

It is becoming clearer by the day that the Maine Republican Party is most likely connected to this particular right-wing blog. Almost every article posted by this blog is then immediately shared out via the social media networks of the Maine GOP, and their staff. Coincidence? Not a chance. If the Republicans are secretly paying for or having a third party post these articles, the Maine Ethics Commission should investigate the connection. You cannot attempt to influence the outcome of an election without reporting that activity.

These attacks are a deflection, a distraction from the fact the Republican Assistant Senate Majority Leader has had to recently step down from his leadership role because the Maine Ethics Commission found him guilty of using his political action committee to loan his personal business thousands. Basically, a slush fund to personally benefit himself from special interest and lobbyist money as a sitting lawmaker. They don’t want me to talk about that or allow me to introduce legislation to make that unethical activity illegal. They don’t want me to talk about the hundreds of thousands of dollars they accept from the very corporations we are supposed to be regulating like Big Pharma, casinos and telecommunication companies.

Today, a Democrat is the target for a fake news article, but tomorrow it could be a Republican. If we don’t unite against this type of malicious and unfounded attack, this is what our politics will become. Both sides will employ these despicable tactics. It looks as if the powers that be are working to turn our political system into a three ring circus. They are trying to play Maine voters for fools. What’s wrong with wanting to have a government that works for the people, letting facts lead the way, not mudslinging, lies, and lawmakers being bought and sold to the largest checkbook?

During the 2016 campaign, the Republican Party attacked me for who I love. More specifically they attacked me for being gay. I’ve been bullied my whole life, especially growing up, so I didn’t let this bother me. But I can spot a bully, even if it’s of the political kind, from a mile away. Now it looks as if these same individuals are attacking me for simply having a job. Now it’s about my reputation.

Make no mistake, they are trying to silence my voice. The Republican establishment views me as a threat to its status quo operation. It is clear by this glorified blog post that they are fishing for dirt that simply doesn’t exist. I have a few choice words for the Republicans: I don’t scare easily. I’m not going anywhere. I will not be silenced.

I will continue to speak truth to power. The system needs cleaning up and I’m stepping up to the plate.

Justin Chenette is serving his first term as the youngest senator in the Maine Senate representing Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and Buxton. He previously served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. Outside the Legislature, he is the owner of Chenette Media LLC, a marketing & public relations firm, works as the marketing coordinator of Saco Sport & Fitness, and is the president of Saco Main Street. Sign up for legislative updates at www.justinchenette.com or www.Facebook/JustinChenette.

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