Setting the record straight on Free ME and MHPC

As the CEO of The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) and lead author of our Free ME initiative, I take strong exception to Colin Woodard’s Dec. 5 article in the Portland Press Herald, “Washington County residents wary of plan to eliminate taxes”.

Woodard’s story is fraught with misconceptions and amounts to a deceptive, politically-motivated attack on MHPC and our statewide tax reform proposal.

The record needs to be set straight.

First, the vast majority of MHPC’s support comes from right here in Maine. My specialty is tax policy. I have studied Maine’s tax system for more than eight years. Free ME was born from that experience. To imply otherwise is an affront to myself, my team and our hardworking supporters, who all firmly believe Free ME is the best way to make Maine prosperous.

Free ME

Second, Woodard fails to mention how his partners at The Guardian obtained the funding proposals on which he bases his attack. According to my sources, the private, proprietary documents were obtained under suspicious circumstances. It is disturbing that MaineToday Media would align itself with an organization that has made a habit of resorting to shady, perhaps criminal tactics.

Third, Woodard’s scurrilous accusations and casting of aspersions raise serious questions about his journalistic integrity and the integrity of MaineToday Media. In my interview with him, he failed to mention that his real intent was to use Free ME as a pretext for a hit piece based on stolen documents. As such, he failed to provide me the opportunity to respond to the absurd allegations and conspiracy theories he intended to promote. The Searle Freedom Trust grant process is competitive, just like the free market system we advocate. MHPC routinely seeks grant funding to support our research and educational mission.

Beyond the attacks, Woodard played fast-and-loose with the facts regarding Washington County’s embrace of Free ME. His original headline stated that Washington County residents are “wary” of Free ME. To suggest that Mainers are “wary” of a policy that lets them keep more of their money does not pass the straight face test.  That headline was quickly changed, so it would seem Woodard’s editor agrees. MHPC has now presented this plan to dozens of Washington County residents and has received an enthusiastic welcome. Furthermore, the Washington County Commissioners voted unanimously to endorse the Free ME concept, yet Woodard wrote just the opposite. This falsehood remains uncorrected.

Significantly, Woodard fails to disclose serious conflicts of interest arising from his sources and references to competing tax policies. He concludes with The Center for Media and Democracy’s attack on MHPC’s integrity, referring to them only as a “national group.” Woodard does not reveal that they are a well-known leftist attack group with strong ties to prominent leftist financier George Soros. That Woodard’s salary is paid for by the single largest donor to Democrats and leftist activists in Maine, S. Donald Sussman (husband to Democrat Congresswoman Chellie Pingree), is also worthy of disclosure. Especially considering his reference to the “Fair Share Now” tax hike proposal promulgated by some of the very leftist groups Sussman financially supports.

The omission of such disclosures further suggests that Woodard and MaineToday Media are interested not in facts-based journalism but in serving as a political attack dog for the Democrat Party and its leftist allies.

The most concerning part of Woodard’s attack, however, is that this “award-winning” journalist made a rather impoverished attempt to understand the idea about which he ostensibly was writing.

No mention is given to the economic benefits Free ME will bring to Maine, starting with Washington County. Under Free ME, working people in Washington County will immediately see a 13.45 percent increase in after-tax income. Businesses will save not only on individual income taxes (as a sole-proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or S-Corporation) and corporate income tax, but would also save on tax compliance costs. Over the long term, these benefits would extend to all 16 counties in Maine, restoring economic liberty across the Pine Tree State and giving Mainers the freedom to flourish.

It is a disservice to the people of Maine for the MaineToday Media to engage in ideologically motivated attacks on ideas and organizations which seek to improve the lives and livelihoods of the people of Maine. To be so dismissive of Free ME—a homegrown idea to lift hundreds of thousands out of economic distress—shows a perplexing close-mindedness and a stunning lack of care for the worst off in our communities. Maine deserves better.

For more information, I invite you to visit www.FreeME.us.