The Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel recently ran a mendacious, wrong-headed diatribe by Scott Strom (“Don’t put a muzzle on Canadian trade partners,” column, May 11). His column was unnecessarily personal, and he completely missed the mark as to why I introduced a bill this session to prohibit foreign governments from meddling in our citizen-initiated elections.
My bill, L.D. 194, is hardly an attempt to “muzzle” anyone. The bill simply says that, as a company owned by a foreign government, Hydro-Quebec should not be allowed to electioneer in this state. And to be clear, prohibiting electioneering is not the same thing as prohibiting speech. Even if my bill passes — and it absolutely should because we have a dangerous loophole in our law that Hydro-Quebec has exposed — it could still publish columns like this one, or even run ads about how powerful a single raindrop is in northern Quebec (supposedly). But Hydro-Quebec, nor any other foreign-state-owned entity, should be allowed to tell Mainers how to vote in an election that 80,000 Mainers initiated.
Canada may be a fellow NATO member and a friend, but there’s one thing they aren’t — American. Our elections are rightfully reserved for citizens of this country, just as Canadian elections are reserved for theirs.
Strom says that I’m trying to keep information from you, but in reality, he wants to give a foreign government-owned corporation a bullhorn to drown out the voices of those he used to represent. And Hydro-Quebec has abused its $10 million bullhorn.
While Strom claims that HQ has done everything “above board,” the Maine Ethics Commission begs to differ. Last year, it issued the company the second-largest fine ever for spending $100,000 to influence our election without bothering to report it. That is a major infraction.
The CMP Corridor is not about “Canadians offering to peacefully trade with us”; it’s about HQ securing an export contract with Massachusetts ratepayers worth $12.4 billion. Maine is nothing more than an unwilling extension cord in this scenario.
Contrary to Strom’s assumptions, I could care less about the priorities of oil and gas companies, Hydro-Quebec, or Avangrid (another oil and gas company, by the way). I’m elected to serve my constituents. It is their interest that compels me to stand up and act when I see a foreign government meddling in our affairs.
The “facts” scattered throughout Strom’s piece are suspect as well. Clearly, he’s been spoon-fed this information from the foreign-owned companies he so readily defends. I would suggest that he look deeper, as Mainers have done. The CMP Corridor may be a good deal for foreign-owned corporations, but it is a terrible deal for Maine.
This November, the people of Maine will choose once and for all. Hopefully, unlike Strom, they can make this choice free of undue foreign influence.
Richard A. Bennett is a Republican state senator from Oxford.