AUGUSTA, Maine — Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin's confidential agreement with a Republican national committee in exchange for financial support is now under fire from Maine Democratic leaders.
Poliquin has declined to release the details of the agreement and Democratic Party Chair Phil Bartlett says it's time for the 2nd District congressman to disclose that information. But Poliquin's spokesman says Democrats maintain similar agreements with their party committees.
Poliquin's political adviser, Brent Littlefield, isn't shedding much light on the agreement, which requires him to disclose his legislative agenda in exchange for GOP financial support.
In the agreement that was outlined in a story published by the Portland Press Herald, Littlefield told the paper that Poliquin's agenda is an "open book."
But Poliquin's level of involvement with the GOP committee's Patriot Program raises some red flags for Bartlett, who says about the only thing he likes about the program is its name.
"As a New England Patriots fan, I will never condemn the term 'patriot,'" he says.
But Bartlett is condemning Poliquin's decision to join the Patriot Program, which requires Poliquin and 22 other participants to let the National Republican Congressional Committee become directly involved in their campaigns if they fail to reach monthly fundraising goals and display a lack of effort and best practices.
"It raises serious questions about the level of coordination that's really unprecedented," Bartlett says. "It appears that he has to have all of his policy positions and his campaign fully vetted by the Republicans and give up a lot of control over aspects of his campaign and his policy proposals. We're calling on him to release the full set of policy positions that he had to submit in order to get their support. We also think the Federal Election Commission should be looking in to determine whether the level of coordination here is appropriate."
"It's really a bunch of who-hickey," Littlefield says.
He says there is nothing secretive about the congressman's interactions with the NRCC program. Instead, he says the program is similar to others that have long been used by both parties.
"Both political parties have put together kind of strategies for assisting their candidates at the U.S. Senate and the congressional level," Littlefield says. "This is common, it's gone on for decades and likely longer, I've known about it for decades and there's really nothing special or unique about any of the programs. The parties basically look for the ways that they can operate to assist their candidates and this is just one more way a party has determined it can assist its candidate."
Although the Patriot agreement suggests that Poliquin's campaign will have to use NRCC-sanctioned vendors for services such as polling, mail communications, fundraising and research, Littlefield says the congressman has run independent campaigns in the past and would continue to do so. And he also says 2nd District voters know exactly where Poliquin stands on the issues.
"The congressman determines the issues that he wants to advocate for and what he wants to fight for and those are an open book," Littlefield says. "He sends tremendous numbers of press releases, he sends out videos. He has detailed websites on the policies and issues that he's pursuing and he's never veered from that or changed course based on any outside influence or entity. He does what he thinks is best for the people of the 2nd District and he knows those are the people he works for."
At least two Democrats are interested in replacing Poliquin in Congress. Former Democratic state Sen. Emily Cain, who lost to the Republican last year, is reprising her bid and Bangor City Councilman Joe Baldacci are competing for the Democratic nomination.