Maine “Little Beards” Gov LePage Hired Pro-BPA Lobbyists

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Earlier this week I blogged about Maine governor Paul LePage’s recent weird comments about the chemical BPA. “The only thing that I’ve heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen,” remarked LePage, scientifically. “So the worst case is some women may have little beards.” Uh-huh.

Tempting though it may be to blame a comment this embarrassing on temprorary insanity, a great piece in the Boston Phoenix suggests otherwise. Turns out LePage has hired some lobbyists for out-of-state drug and toy industry groups to help him form his opinions on environmental and kid-safety legislation.

Shortly after he was elected last year, LePage released a “wish-list” of environmental and health regulations he hoped to roll back. LePage said the ideas in the document came from small business owners in Maine. But it turns out that the wish list was actually the work of Ann Robinson, head of the corporate lobbying group Preti Flaherty Beliveau & Pachios. Robinson’s clients have included PhRMA and Merck. Also the Toy Industry Association of America, which fought Maine’s proposed BPA ban in baby bottles and sippy cups last year. Robinson served as co-chair of LePage’s transition team and is currently his head advisor on regulatory reform.

In addition to Robinson, LePage also hired Patricia Aho, a lobbyist with the law firm Pierce Atwood, as his deputy commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection.

Robinson and Aho are not exactly unbiased when it comes to regulations:

Lobbying disclosures on file with the state Ethics Commission show both PhRMA and Merck paid Robinson to defeat the KID-SAFE PRODUCTS ACT, a 2008 law that phased out toxic chemicals in toys, car seats, baby clothes, and other children’s products. The AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE and drug maker ASTRAZENECA paid Aho to do the same. The governor’s wish list calls for “revisions to prohibitions of chemicals and materials in products” saying that “if the state is going to regulate consumer products at all, it should only do so when clearly justified on risk-benefit or cost benefit basis.” 

Meanwhile, the Lewiston Sun-Journal reports on questions surrounding LePage’s recent dismissal of Dr. Dora Anne Mills, the former the head of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention who testified last year that BPA should be banned from kids’ products. A spokesman for LePage insists that her firing wasn’t because of her support for the BPA ban, but, understandably, some people are not convinced.

For more on LePage’s efforts to undo decades of environmental legislation (including his attempt at making sure corporations don’t have to go to the trouble of recycling) read the full pieces in the Boston Phoenix and the Lewiston Sun-Journal.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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