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The Coastal Packet

The longtime national journal, Progressive Review, has moved its headquarters from Washington DC to Freeport, Maine, where its editor, Sam Smith, has long ties. This is a local edition dealing with Maine news and progressive politics.

1/28/10

BUCKS FOR BALDACCI FOLLOWED BY SALES TAX EXEMPTION

Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting - Dozens of organizations and businesses pleaded for exemptions from tax increases in the tax reform bill that was approved last June.

Thanks to Gov. John Baldacci, only two got what they asked for: Realtors and the ski industry.

Realtors persuaded the governor to reverse a tax increase on the sale of luxury homes.

And the ski industry was slated to collect a sales tax on lift tickets - until the governor intervened.

A two-month investigation of the governor's decision, including a review of campaign finance reports, shows that the realtors and the ski areas have supported Baldacci politically and financially and have easy access to him to make their case.

Other groups, such as auto repair shops, had no strong connections in the State House and were not rescued from a new sales tax on their services.

. . . The ski areas are represented by lobbyist Severin Beliveau, a longtime political and financial supporter of the Democratic governor. Their case was also helped by a plea from another longtime Baldacci friend and supporter, Saddleback Maine's general manager, Warren Cook.

Beliveau said the governor's decision "was not a function of our relationship," adding that Baldacci has been opposed to taxing outdoor recreation since he was in the state legislature 25 years ago.

Cook said he spoke to the governor about exempting ski lift tickets and that when the Berry family bought Saddleback in 2003, "Bill Berry went to the governor and the governor pledged to him at the time that he wasn't going to support a tax on ski tickets."

When the proposal to tax lift tickets came up again last year, Cook said, "I just went in and said to the governor, we need your help in this area.". . .

Beliveau gave $1000 to the last two Baldacci gubernatorial campaigns and a total of $4500 to Baldacci congressional campaigns.

In the 2006 governor's race, lawyers in Beliveau's firm, Preti Flaherty, gave $25,000 to Baldacci's campaign. Twenty attorneys in the firm, where he is listed as a founding partner who "directs the firm's Legislative and regulatory practices in Augusta and Washington, D.C. , gave the maximum of $1000 each.

Baldacci's total campaign contributions in 2006 were $1.3 million.

Baldacci's Republican opponent in 2006 was Chandler Woodcock, whose campaign was publicly financed and who received only small contributions as seed money. None of those came from Beliveau or his law firm, according to state records.

In 2002, the records show Baldacci's GOP opponent, Peter Cianchette, received a total of $1,100 from three Preti Flaherty attorneys. In contrast, the same records list more than 20 lawyers from the firm giving Baldacci's campaign $14,000.

In 2009, Beliveau is listed as the registered lobbyist for 23 business and organizations, from Anheuser-Busch to Catholic Charities of Maine to FairPoint, the troubled communications company that the state approved to take over Verizon's phone business.

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